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Choi Ji-man homers, reaches base 4 times in ALCS loss

Sports 10:10 October 16, 2020

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 16 (Yonhap) -- Choi Ji-man delivered a key home run for the Tampa Bay Rays in a postseason losing cause, as the American League Championship Series (ALCS) got extended by another game.

Choi belted a game-tying solo home run in the top eighth against the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the best-of-seven series at Petco Park in San Diego on Thursday (local time), only to see the Astros walk it off for a 4-3 victory in the bottom ninth on Carlos Correa's solo shot.

In this Getty Images photo, Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays tosses his bat after hitting a solo home run against the Houston Astros during the top of the eighth inning of Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Petco Park in San Diego on Oct. 15, 2020. (Yonhap)

Choi went 2-for-2 with two walks, but the Rays have dropped two straight games after winning the first three of the series.

They'll attempt to close out the Astros again in Game 6 at 3:07 p.m. Friday local time, or 7:07 a.m. Saturday in South Korea.

With right-hander Luis Garcia starting for the Astros, Choi batted fifth for the first time this series, after hitting cleanup in his two earlier appearances.

In this EPA photo, Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays (L) celebrates with teammate Willy Adames after hitting a solo home run against the Houston Astros during the top of the eighth inning of Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Petco Park in San Diego on Oct. 15, 2020. (Yonhap)

Choi drew a one-out walk in his first plate appearance in the top of the second inning. He reached as far as third base after a hit-by-pitch and another walk, before getting stranded there on Mike Zunino's inning-ending flyout.

Choi got another free pass leading off the top fourth, this time facing reliever Enoli Paredes. But Choi didn't come home, as Paredes, who walked another batter in the inning, wiggled out of the jam with three strikeouts.

In the top fifth, Choi stepped in with two outs and a runner on against new pitcher, Andre Scrubb, and the Rays were down 3-2. Choi singled up the middle to extend the inning, but the Rays once again failed to capitalize, as Manuel Margot hit a groundball to third for the final out.

In this EPA photo, Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays blasts a solo home run against the Houston Astros during the top of the eighth inning of Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Petco Park in San Diego on Oct. 15, 2020. (Yonhap)

With the Rays still trailing 3-2, Choi led off the eighth inning against reliever Josh James. After taking a curve for a ball, Choi took a fastball for a strike and another four-seamer for a ball.

James came back with another fastball, and Choi clobbered the inside pitch, clocked at 96.6 miles per hour, and sent it deep into right field seats.

The ball traveled 447 feet with an exit velocity of 108.9 mph.

In this USA TODAY Sports photo via Reuters, the Tampa Bay Rays' first baseman Choi Ji-man (R) tags out Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros on a pickoff throw from Tampa Bay pitcher John Curtiss during the bottom of the first inning of Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Petco Park in San Diego on Oct. 15, 2020. (Yonhap)

The blast gave the Rays a new life, but they couldn't cash in with a man on second base in the top of the ninth. The Astros made them pay thanks to Correa's game-winning homer in the bottom ninth.

The Rays were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position in this game and left nine men on base.

In this USA TODAY Sports photo via Reuters, Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a single against the Houston Astros during the top of the fifth inning of Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Petco Park in San Diego on Oct. 15, 2020. (Yonhap)
In this USA TODAY Sports photo via Reuters, Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays (L) reaches for the hand of his first base coach Ozzie Timmons after drawing a walk against the Houston Astros during the bottom of the second inning of Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Petco Park in San Diego on Oct. 15, 2020. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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