The Houston Astros defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in Friday night's Game 6 of the American League Championship Series by a 7-4 score, staving off elimination for a third consecutive day and forcing a decisive Game 7 on Saturday. The winner will take the pennant and will advance to the World Series, where they'll meet the Atlanta Braves or the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Game 6's pivotal frame proved to be the fifth. Rays ace Blake Snell entered hoping to preserve a 1-0 lead, but was lifted after allowing a walk and a single to begin the inning. Snell was visibly unhappy with manager Kevin Cash's decision to remove him from the game in favor of reliever Diego Castillo. He ostensibly grew less happy as Castillo then gave up the lead.
By the time the fifth inning moved to the bottom portion, the Astros were up by a 4-1 margin thanks to a timely bunt by Martin Maldonado and big hits from George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa. You can read more about Snell's reaction and the fifth inning here.
Here are three other things to know about Game 6.
1. Astros join 2004 Red Sox in history books
Historically speaking, falling behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series all but guarantees that the team will lose the series. The exception -- singular -- in baseball history has been the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who overcame a 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees to win the pennant. Every other team to find themselves in Boston's cleats -- all 37 of them -- lost the series.
What's more is that all 37 of those teams fell without forcing a Game 7. The Astros, then, by virtue of reaching Game 7 have joined a select class of teams.
It's to be seen whether the Astros can advance to the World Series on Saturday, but perhaps it's encouraging to them that those Red Sox went on to win the championship.
2. Valdez is nails, again
The Astros wouldn't be in this position without left-hander Framber Valdez, who turned in another good outing.
Valdez entered the night having appeared three times this postseason. In those outings, he had thrown 18 innings and held opponents to four runs on 11 hits and seven walks. He'd struck out 17 of the 67 batters he had faced.
On Friday, Valdez added to his October statline by holding the Rays to a run on three hits and three walks over six innings. He struck out nine of the 23 batters he faced, and he even overcame an odd scene late in his appearance.
In the sixth, Rays first baseman Yandy Diaz caused a ruckus after being walked, seemingly in response to Valdez throwing his curveball instead of challenging him with a fastball. Astros shortstop Carlos Correa then delivered an impassioned pep talk to Valdez, who then coerced an inning-ending double play.
3. Rays bullpen breaks
The Rays have asked their relievers for a lot this postseason as part of a strategy that has them averse to the third-time-through penalty. Their relievers have, in turn, delivered almost every night.
That changed on Friday, with Castillo becoming the first Rays reliever to allow an inherited runner to score. Previously, they had stranded all 21, according to The Athletic's Jayson Stark.
Rookie Shane McClanahan, who entered in relief of Castillo, then allowed the Astros to gain further separation. McClanahan gave up three runs on five hits over 1 2/3 innings.
The Rays will have to hope their bullpen is back to form on Saturday. Otherwise, they'll become known as the second team to ever blow a 3-0 lead in baseball history.