2023 American League Championship Series

From BR Bullpen

2023 American League Championship Series
Texas Rangers logo
2023 American League Championship Series logo
Houston Astros logo
Texas Rangers
90 - 72 in the AL
4 - 3
Series Summary
Houston Astros
90 - 72 in the AL

Overview[edit]

The 2023 American League Championship Series attracted immediate attention because it was the first time that the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers met in a postseason series, and the first time such a series was entirely contained within the state of Texas. Moreover the two teams had finished tied atop the AL West and Houston had only been awarded the division title through a tiebreaker after a late-season cold spell by the Rangers, who wasted numerous change to clinch the title in the season's final days. And if this wasn't enough, the two managers, Dusty Baker and Bruce Bochy, were both in the all-time top 10 in terms of games managed and postseason games managed.

In a repeat of the 2019 World Series, in which the Astros were also participants, the visiting team won every game as the series went to the limit. Sine the Astros held home field advantage, as had been the case four years earlier, the Rangers came out on top. The ALCS MVP Award went to Adolis Garcia, who hit five homers and drove in an amazing 15 runs in the seven games.

The Teams[edit]

Astros

Rangers

Umpires[edit]

Mark Ripperger was the reserve umpire for Game 1, then joined the umpires' rotation as home plate umpire in Game 2

Series results[edit]

Game Score Date Starters Time (ET)
1 Texas Rangers 2 Houston Astros 0 October 15 Jordan Montgomery (1-0) Justin Verlander (0-1) 8:15 pm
2 Texas Rangers 5 Houston Astros 4 October 16 Nathan Eovaldi (1-0) Framber Valdez (0-1) 4:30 pm
3 Houston Astros 8 Texas Rangers 5 October 18 Cristian Javier (1-0) Max Scherzer (0-1) 8:05 pm
4 Houston Astros 10 Texas Rangers 3 October 19 Jose Urquidy (0-0) Andrew Heaney (0-0) 8:05 pm
5 Houston Astros 5 Texas Rangers 4 October 20 Justin Verlander (0-1) Jordan Montgomery (1-0) 5:07 pm
6 Texas Rangers 9 Houston Astros 2 October 22 Nathan Eovaldi (2-0) Framber Valdez (0-2) 8:03 pm
7 Texas Rangers 11 Houston Astros 4 October 23 Max Scherzer (0-1) Cristian Javier (1-1) 8:03 pm

Results[edit]

Game 1 @ Minute Maid Park[edit]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Rangers 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 6 0
Astros 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0
WP: Jordan Montgomery (1-0); LP: Justin Verlander (0-1); SV: José Leclerc (1)
Home Runs: TEX - Leody Taveras (1)
  • Attendance: 42,872

Game 1 turned out to a pitchers' duel, as could for once have been expected given the match-up of all-time great Justin Verlander for Houston and Jordan Montgomery, who had been excellent all year and especially during his previous two postseason starts, for Texas. For the first time this postseason, both starting pitchers completed six innings and runs were at a premium. Both managers used the starting line-ups that had gotten them this far.

After a quick 1st inning on both sides, highlighted by Montgomery striking out the red hot Yordan Alvarez for the first of three times on the evening, things got started in earnest in the 2nd. Rookie Evan Carter continued his excellent play with a hustle double with one out, and Jonah Heim immediately followed with a single to drive him in. After a second out, Josh Jung singled and Leody Taveras drew a walk, loading the bases for Marcus Semien. There was a tense seven-pitch battle between him and Verlander, that included a foul ball hitting the roof at Minute Maid Park - a very rare occurrence - before Semien popped out to second to end the inning. In the bottom of the inning, José Abreu led off with Houston's first hit, a single, but the next three batters all made outs. Alvarez's second strikeout in the 3rd inning stranded two more runners on base, then with two outs in the 4th, Chas McCormick, Mauricio Dubon and Jeremy Pena all hit singles, but the latter two were fielded so quickly by LF Carter that the runners could only advance 90 feet each time. That brought up C Martin Maldonado with the bases loaded, but Montgomery struck him out on a fastball to end the inning. Thus, after four innings, it was still 1-0.

Taveras doubled the Rangers' lead when he hit a homer to left field with one out in the 5th, but the Rangers couldn't add anything else: Dubon made a great diving catch in centerfield on a liner by Semien to deprive him of a potential double and Corey Seager struck out. But Houston wasn't getting much against Montgomery, going down in order in both the 5th and 6th innings. Both pitchers left during the 7th. Verlander issued a lead-off walk to Heim, but retired the next two batters, before allowing a single to Taveras. He had now reached 100 pitches, and gave way to Hector Neris, who got Semien to pop out. In the bottom of the inning, Montgomery got the first out - Dubon - before giving way to Josh Sborz, who got the next two, including Yainer Diaz pinch-hitting for Maldonado. The Astros had made ten consecutive outs at that point, but José Altuve broke that skid with a lead-off walk in the 8th. Aroldis Chapman came in to face Alex Bregman, and in the play of the game, Bregman hit a fly ball to the wall in left field, which Carter caught. carter then threw the ball back to the infield, and while Altuve appeared to return safely to first base, he had made it past second base before the ball was caught, and the Rangers appealed successfully that he had failed to re-touch the bag, which was confirmed by a video review. Credit had to go to 2B Semien for noticing this, as he was compensating for some of his struggles with the bat with some heads-up defensive work. After the double play was confirmed, Alvarez finally put a ball in play, but it was a soft grounder to 1B Nathaniel Lowe for the third out. José Leclerc came out for the 9th and retired Abreu, Kyle Tucker and McCormick in order to complete the shutout and make it six wins in a row for Texas.

Game 2 @ Minute Maid Park[edit]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Rangers 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 8 1
Astros 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 4 6 2
WP: Nathan Eovaldi (1-0); LP: Framber Valdez (0-1); SV: José Leclerc (2)
Home Runs: HOU - Yordan Alvarez 2 (2), Alex Bregman (1); TEX - Jonah Heim (1)
  • Attendance: 42,879

The Rangers stunned the Astros once again in Game 2, this time with a big 1st inning that saw them score three runs before a single out was recorded and four in the inning. While the Astros' bullpen did great work in keeping the Rangers from adding to their lead, with five relievers combining to toss 5 1/3 scoreless innings, they could never come back from that early hole. Both Rangers starter Nathan Eovaldi and closer José Leclerc got huge outs in tough situations to thwart a possible Astros comeback, and were credited respectively with the win and the save in the 5-4 win. With lefty Framber Valdez on the mound for Houston, Bruce Bochy modified his starting line-up, putting Robbie Grossman in left field in place of rookie Evan Carter, while Dusty Baker put in veteran Michael Brantley in left, with Mauricio Dubon the odd man out.

It was important for fans not to miss the first few pitches of the game, as Marcus Semien opened with a single on Valdez's first offering, and on his second pitch, Corey Seager also singled. Neither hit was particularly hard, and neither was the tapper towards third base hit by Grossman that followed. Valdez fielded it, but his throw to first base was off-line and got past 1B José Abreu, allowing everyone to advance two bases for a 1-0 lead. Adolis Garcia followed with another hit, to make it 2-0, and so did Mitch Garver to make it 3-0. At that point, there had been five batters, and the result had been four singles and one error. Valdez did strike out Jonah Heim for the first out, but Nathaniel Lowe hit yet another single to make it 4-0. Valdez retired the next two batters, but he had put his team in a deep hole. The contrast with Eovaldi could not have been more stark, as he retired the three Astros batters he faced in order. In the 2nd, Valdez again gave up a lead-off single to Semien on his first pitch, then hit Garcia with a pitch with two outs, Garcia turning a spectacular cartwheel in front of home plate in his effort to get out of the way. However, two more runners were left on base when Garver struck out. Yordan Alvarez then led off the bottom of the 2nd with a homer, a nice contrast from his nightmarish evening the night before, but the Rangers got that run back immediately when Heim took Valdez deep to lead off the top of the 3rd. Valdez walked Leody Taveras with two outs, and that was the end for him. Rafael Montero was the first reliever for Houston, and all of them did well, keeping the Rangers from adding to their run total after that.

In the next phase of the game, the Astros managed to score a run every other inning - in the 4th, 6th and 8th, but only one at a time. In the 4th, Alex Bregman hit a long ball off the left foul pole, and in the 6th Alvarez walked and scored on a double by Brantley. However, the key inning was the 5th, as this was when the Astros could have done some serious damage. It began with a single by Brantley and another by Chas McCormick. Jeremy Pena hit a ground ball towards 3B Josh Jung, whose defense had been outstanding all postseason, but in charging the bouncer, he let it pass under his glove for an error and the bases were loaded. That's when Eovaldi put on a pitching masterclass, striking out pinch-hitter Yainer Diaz, then striking out José Altuve as well, and then getting Bregman to ground out to Jung. It was a truly outstanding performance. He left after six innings with a 5-3 lead, and the Rangers' first reliever, Josh Sborz followed with a perfect 7th.

The Rangers' only serious scoring opportunity after Heim's homer came in the top of the 6th against J.P. France when Taveras hit a triple with one out. Semien then ripped a liner down the third base line, but it was caught by Bregman, who then touched the bag for an unassisted double play. In the 8th, Aroldis Chapman replaced Sborz and he got two outs before Alvarez took him deep for his second homer of the game and sixth of the postseason. But like his previous one and Bregman's, it was a solo shot, so Texas was still ahead, 5-4. Bochy immediately brought in his closer, Leclerc, to record the final four outs. The first one was the toughest, as he struggled with his control, walking Abreu and Brantley, before he managed to get McCormick to hit a grounder to third, from where Jung threw him out. In the 9th, both Pena and Altuve hit long fly balls, but both stayed in the yard, being caught by Garcia and Taveras respectively; in between, Diaz grounded out to who else but Jung, and the game was over. Texas was heading home with a 2-0 lead, and seven consecutive wins - all but one of them on the road - since the start of the postseason.

Game 3 @ Globe Life Field[edit]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Astros 0 3 1 1 0 0 2 1 0 8 12 0
Rangers 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 1 0 5 6 0
WP: Cristian Javier (1-0); LP: Max Scherzer (0-1); SV: Ryan Pressly (1)
Home Runs: HOU - José Altuve (1); TEX - Josh Jung 2 (2)
  • Attendance: 42,368

The big story before Game 3 was the return of Max Scherzer, who had not pitched in a month, for the Rangers. Many thought that his season was over, and the question was how sharp he would be in the circumstances. The answer came quickly as Houston scored three times in the 2nd inning, taking the lead in a game for the first time in the series, and then kept adding runs after that. Cristian Javier had another excellent postseason start, keeping the Rangers hitless until the 5th inning, but they managed to claw back into the game, forcing Dusty Baker to use his closer, Ryan Pressly, to nail down the win. Baker shuffled his line-up for the game, going on a hunch about who was ready to break out after two disappointing games from everyone not named Yordan Alvarez, and it worked as Michael Brantley and Mauricio Dubon both made important contributions.

Scherzer was solid in the 1st inning, even if two balls were hit deep to the outfield, by José Altuve and Alex Bregman, but both were caught. Javier was also perfect in his half of the inning, but in the 2nd, Scherzer plunked Alvarez on the back foot while trying to get him to chase an inside pitch on a two-strike count. That set off a problematic inning. After striking out José Abreu, Scherzer walked Kyle Tucker to put a second runner on base and Dubon singled to load the bases. He got Jeremy Pena to pop up on an infield fly for the second out, which brought up weak-hitting catcher Martin Maldonado as a potential escape hatch. However, one of his pitches bounced away from C Jonah Heim, allowing Alvarez to score the first run and the two other runners to advance 90 feet, and Maldonado then hit a single to left to drive both runners in. Maldonado was caught stretching at second base, but the damage was done as Houston had a 3-0 lead. Then, the first batter in the 3rd, Altuve, hit a long ball to center field and it was 4-0. In the 4th, Abreu led off with a double and scored on a single by Dubon. It's not that Scherzer was awful, but he made some uncharacteristic mistakes in his four innings, resulting in five runs. Meanwhile, Javier was mowin' em down, only issuing a walk to Leody Taveras through the first four innings.

In the 5th, Cody Bradford took over for Scherzer and retired the Astros in order, then in the bottom of the inning, Nathaniel Lowe broke Javier's no-hit bid with a two-out single. Josh Jung followed immediately with a homer to left, and suddenly the lead was cut to 5-2. The nicest defensive play of the game took place when Alvarez led off the 6th and almost hit what would have been his seventh homer since the start of the postseason, only to be the victim of a case of highway robbery by Taveras in centerfield, as Taveras timed his jump perfectly and brought back the ball when it was already over the fence. The crowd was now truly energized, but the Rangers would never manage to get closer than three runs. In the bottom of the inning, a double by Evan Carter chased Javier with two outs, and Adolis Garcia followed with a drive to deep left off Hector Neris, but in the second outstanding defensive play of the game, Brantley caught it at a full run, then tumbled to the ground, made a couple of barrel rolls, but still managed to hold on to the ball to end the inning. Needless to say, Carter would have scored easily had Brantley failed to make the catch.

In the 7th, Maldonado hit his second single of the game and Altuve followed with another single, to chase Chris Stratton, who was replaced by lefty Will Smith, with two of the next three men due up being lefthanded. He got Brantley to line out to center for the second out, but walked Bregman to load the bases and with two strikes, Alvarez somehow managed to get the barrel of the bat on an inside pitch and deposit it in center, scoring two more runs to make it 7-2. These turned out to be very important runs, as in the bottom of the inning, the scenario from the 5th inning repeated exactly, with Lowe hitting a single with two outs, and Jung following with a homer to left, this time off Neris. But the Astros weren't done either: with Jon Gray now pitching, like Scherzer in his first appearance since a late-season injury, Kyle Tucker drew a lead-off walk, Dubon singled - his third hit of the game - to move him to third and Pena singled as well to make the score 8-4. After a strikeout of Maldonado, it was SS Corey Seager's turn to make a great defensive play as he ranged well to his right to snag a ground ball from Bregman, and threw to Jung at third base to force Dubon, avoiding a possible big inning. Another pitcher coming back from injury, Martin Perez, then took over and got Brantley for the final out. Once again, the Rangers replied, but could not put up enough runs to seriously rattle the Astros. Against Bryan Abreu, who had not given up a run since mid-July, Marcus Semien drew a leadoff walk and made it to second with two outs; Garcia drove him in with a single, but that was it. Alvarez was then thrown out at home while trying to score on a single by Tucker to end the top of the 9th, and with the score still 8-5, it meant that it was a save situation, and Baker had to use Pressly to close out the win. He made things interesting by issuing a walk to the first batter, Mitch Garver, who gave way to speedy pinch-runner Travis Jankowski, but after a strikeout of Lowe, Jung grounded into a double play to end the game.

Game 4 @ Globe Life Field[edit]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Astros 3 0 0 4 0 0 2 1 0 10 11 0
Rangers 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 8 0
WP: Ryne Stanek (1-0); LP: Dane Dunning (0-1)
Home Runs: TEX - Adolis Garcia (1), Corey Seager (1); HOU - José Abreu (1), Chas McCormick (1)
  • Attendance: 42,060

For the second straight game, the Astros jumped on the Rangers' starter to take an early lead, this time getting Andrew Heaney out of the game after just two outs by scoring three runs in the top of the 1st inning. Texas managed to stop the hemorrhage at first and to even the score by the end of the 3rd, also chasing the Astros' starter, Jose Urquidy, early, but after putting up four runs in the top of the 4th, there was no looking back for Houston who easily evened the series at two games apiece with a 10-3 win. Given the quality of both teams' offenses, a high-scoring game was not a surprise in what was the match-up of their fourth starters, but the big difference was that the Astros' bullpen held the Rangers scoreless after Urquidy's departure, while the Rangers' relievers could not contain the Astros' big bats, with two homers with men on base, by José Abreu and Chas McCormick, causing the bulk of the damage.

The Astros jumped on Heaney as if they had decided to mug him in a dark alley, with José Altuve hitting a lead-off double, Mauricio Dubon, batting second after his excellent game the night before, hitting a single, and Alex Bregman driving them both in with a triple. Yordan Alvarez followed with a single and the Astros were ahead, 3-0, before a single out had been recorded, in a scenario similar to Game 2 - except it was now the other team delivering the beating. Texas managed to keep Houston from running away with the game there and then when Abreu and Kyle Tucker both hit weak ground balls, but after a walk to McCormick, Bruce Bochy decided he had seen enough of Heaney and summoned Dane Dunning from the bullpen. Now, Dunning had been expecting to pitch in this game, but probably not in the 1st inning. He allowed a single to Jeremy Pena that loaded the bases, but Martin Maldonado, one the heroes of Game 3, did not deliver the blow that could have put Texas right out of the game as he struck out to end the inning. Urquidy then retired the first three batters he faced in order. Down for the count, the Rangers managed to dust themselves up and get back into the fight, scoring three runs in the next two innings to even the score, while keeping Houston from adding to its lead. Not that they weren't trying, as they stranded two runners in the 2nd. In the bottom of that inning, Adolis Garcia led off with a homer to left. Mitch Garver then drew a walk and one out later Nathaniel Lowe hit a double to move him to third base. Josh Jung followed with a sacrifice fly and the lead was down to 3-2. In the 3rd, Corey Seager homered with one out, tying the score, and Evan Carter and Garcia followed with back-to-back singles. That marked the end for Urquidy, who was not fooling anyone with his pitches. In came Ryne Stanek who made one pitch, that was grounded to third base by Garver, and Bregman started an inning-ending double play. That one pitch would earn Stanek the win.

In the top of the 4th, Dunning made a capital mistake as he walked lead-off man Maldonado, and then compounded it by walking Altuve as well. Dubon followed with a single and the bases were loaded with Dunning in a deep hole as he faced Bregman. He managed to strike him out, then gave way to lefty Cody Bradford to face Alvarez, although that would have been unlikely to bother the big slugger since he had homered off Bradford in Game 2. After a long battle, Alvarez just missed getting all of a pitch, driving the ball to the fence in center field where it was caught by Leody Taveras; even the very slow-footed Maldonado could score easily on the fly ball, and Houston was back in the lead. But there were two outs, and the Rangers could have escaped with only minimal damage; however, Abreu decided otherwise. After another long battle with Bradford, he absolutely crushed a pitch, depositing it into the upper deck in left field, some 438 feet away, for a three-run homer. There was not going to be a second comeback for the Rangers, who now trailed 7-3. Hunter Brown made sure of that with a solid performance as Houston's third pitcher, giving manager Dusty Baker three scoreless innings of work. There was one unusual play in that stretch, in the 5th, after Taveras and Marcus Semien opened the inning with back-to-back singles. Seager followed by scorching a line drive to first base that had double written all over it. However, Abreu snagged it, and Semien appeared to be able to dive under his glove to return safely to first base before the ball. The Astros appealed though, and the replay showed that the tip of Abreu's glove had barely grazed the batting gloves flapping out of Semien's back pocket, so it was a double play. Brown then got Carter to line out to center, and the Rangers' last uprising was over with nothing to show for it. Then, to put a final nail in the coffin, McCormick hit a two-run homer off Will Smith in the top of the 7th, to make the score 9-3. A final run came against Martin Perez in the 8th: Altuve initially appeared to hit a lead-off homer to left, but it was overturned upon review and called a double; he scored on a two-out single by Alvarez, who continued to rack up the ribbies. Not that this tenth run had any other practical impact: the Astros had tied the series and now clearly held the psychological edge heading into Game 5 the following afternoon.

Game 5 @ Globe Life Field[edit]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Astros 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 3 5 8 0
Rangers 0 0 0 0 1 3 0 0 0 4 8 1
WP: Ryan Pressly (1-0); LP: José Leclerc (0-1)
Home Runs: HOU - Alex Bregman (2), José Altuve (2); TEX - Nathaniel Lowe (1), Adolis Garcia (2)
  • Attendance: 41,519

After a few one-sided games that were decided early on, Game 5 was a classic, featuring the first two lead changes of the series and some dramatic hits. It was both a reprise of the pitching duel of Game 1 between Jordan Montgomery and Justin Verlander and also a game marked by two three-run homers that both turned the game around. And if that wasn't enough, there were two other off-setting long balls hit, three ejections, and some clutch relief pitching performances. But in the end, it was Houston that prevailed, 5-4, as the visiting team had now won each of the five games in a scenario reminiscent of the 2019 World Series.

It took two pitches for Montgomery to record the first two outs of the game, but the next batter, Alex Bregman, then took him deep for a 1-0 Astros lead. Yordan Alvarez followed with a single, but just when one could think that another big 1st inning was in the offing, Montgomery got José Abreu to hit a ball off his leg, deflecting it straight to SS Corey Seager who then flipped it to 2B Marcus Semien to end the inning. And after that, the two starting pitchers dominated until the 5th inning, as the Rangers kept popping up the ball against Verlander. In the top of the 5th, Kyle Tucker led off with a single for Houston then after one out, Jeremy Pena hit what looked like an easy double play grounder to Seager, but Semien dropped the relay at second and no one was out. Martin Maldonado then flied out, allowing Tucker to advance to third and José Altuve tried to surprise the Rangers with a bunt, but the ball took a strange bounce after hitting a few feet in front of home plate, going backwards directly to C Jonah Heim who easily threw out Altuve at 1st base. The Rangers then finally got a solid hit when Nathaniel Lowe homered with one out, tying the score. The Astros then took the lead again in the top of the 6th, when Montgomery issued a one-out walk to Bregman, who moved to third on a single by Alvarez. Abreu then hit a ball that went through Seager for a single, scoring Bregman, and Tucker drew a walk to load the bases. That was it for Montgomery, who was replaced by Josh Sborz, who got Chas McCormick to line out to shallow right and Pena to ground out, with Semien making a beautiful diving stop at second. Houston led, 2-1, but had wasted a big opportunity to take a substantial lead.

The Rangers made them pay immediately when Seager doubled with one out and Evan Carter followed with a single, setting the table for Adolis Garcia to crush a homer to left field, rubbing it in by circling the bases slowly. It was the first time in the series that the home team had taken the lead, and the first time there had been an actual lead change in the five games. Surprisingly, that 4-2 lead held for the next few innings, as Sborz, Aroldis Chapman, and José Leclerc, who came in with two outs in the 8th, kept the Astros from coming back. In the bottom of the 8th, Bryan Abreu walked the first batter he faced, Carter, then hit Garcia on the shoulder with a pitch. Garcia was convinced Abreu had deliberately thrown at him, probably in retaliation for his reaction to his 6th-inning homer, and started jawing with catcher Maldonado. Both benches quickly emptied, and by the time order was restored, the umpires decided to eject Abreu for throwing at Garcia, Garcia for starting the fracas, and Dusty Baker for protesting that there was no way he would have ordered his pitcher to throw at a batter in such a situation. It took ten minutes until the game could re-start, with Ryan Pressly now on the mound in a tight situation, with two on and no one out. With the Astros expecting a bunt, Leody Taveras hit a sharp grounder straight at Abreu at first base, who managed to field it while tumbling down, then from his back threw a strike to second base to retire Travis Jankowski, pinch-running for Garcia. But Carter had made it to third and there was still just one out. Pressly took care of that by striking out Josh Jung and Lowe to end the inning.

Garcia's temper tantrum had had the unfortunate consequence of forcing Leclerc to sit down for a long time, and his control was not sharp when he came out to try to close out the win. He allowed a single to Yainer Diaz, pinch-hitting for Pena, then walked Jon Singleton, pinch-hitting for Maldonado, who had not yet come to bat all postseason, on a full count. In fact Singleton did not swing at any of the six pitches thrown by Leclerc. That brought up Altuve, and he did what he does best, wrap around a low inside pitch and pull it over the left-field fence for a three-run homer. Leclerc then retired the next three batters, but the damage had been done, as Houston held a 5-4 lead. Pressly came out for a second inning of work, and it was his turn to court trouble. Garver and Heim both singled, and both were replaced by pinch-runners, but Semien was robbed by Grae Kessinger, who had pinch-run for Singleton and stayed in the game at shortstop, who leapt to snag his line drive. Seager then hit a ball to deep center field, but it stayed in the ballpark, being caught by Dubon at the warning track. For some reason, Josh Smith, the pinch-runner at second, did not advance to third base even though he represented the tying run. So it was up to the rookie Carter to save the day, but Pressly struck him out, ending the game. Houston was one win away from the World Series. To note, following the game, Bryan Abreu was handed a two-game suspension for throwing at Garcia, in addition to being assessed a fine, although he appealed the suspension; Baker was also issued a fine for not leaving the field immediately after his ejection.

Game 6 @ Minute Maid Park[edit]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Rangers 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 1 5 9 10 0
Astros 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 6 1
WP: Nathan Eovaldi (2-0); LP: Framber Valdez (0-2)
Home Runs: TEX - Mitch Garver (1), Jonah Heim (2), Adolis Garcia (3)
  • Attendance: 42,368

The Rangers forced the series to go to the limit thanks to another top-notch start by Nathan Eovaldi at Minute Maid Park, backed by three homers, the first two off Framber Valdez who was saddled with his second loss of the series. With this win, the visitors continued to dominate the series, having won every single game on hostile soil. The Rangers managed to bounce back from what could have been a devastating loss two days earlier, and Adolis Garcia, who was the most hated man in Texas due to his role in the scuffle that marked the 8th inning of Game 5, got his revenge by hitting a 9th-inning grand slam to put the game away. Had he hit it off Bryan Abreu, who appeared in the game in spite of his two-game suspension for his role in the affair, being saved by a pending appeal, it would have been a perfect movie ending, but still, doing so against Ryne Stanek certainly must have felt like redemption.

Valdez was shaky at the start of the game as he walked Marcus Semien on four straight pitches, then missed with his first pitch to Corey Seager before the Rangers' best hitter during the regular season gave him the big break he needed by swinging at a pitch that was visibly high and inside and hitting an inoffensive pop-up to third base. Valdez found his groove after that, striking out Robbie Grossman and Garcia in turn to strand Semien at first base. The Astros then went to work on Eovaldi as Game 5 hero José Altuve led off with a single and immediately stole second base. Eovaldi then issued a walk to Michael Brantley but got Alex Bregman to fly out to center. That brought up his nemesis, Yordan Alvarez, whose career numbers against him were off the chart (we are talking about a .650 batting average with power). Alvarez singled to center and Altuve crossed the plate with the first run of the game. However, Eovaldi got José Abreu to line out and Kyle Tucker to strike out, limiting the damage in what could have been a big inning. And that slim lead was short-lived, as Mitch Garver opened the bottom of the 2nd with a solo homer on Valdez's first pitch.

Things calmed down for a while after those early fireworks, with Josh Jung grounding into a double play to end the 2nd (Nathaniel Lowe had just reached on a single), and Eovaldi retiring the Astros in order in the 2nd. In the 3rd, he walked Brantley with one out then after striking out Bregman, temporarily solved his Alvarez problem by giving him an intentional pass to face Abreu who once again failed to produce with two men on by grounding out to short. Valdez then made a couple of costly mistakes in the 4th with a two-out single by Garver followed by a second long ball, this one by Jonah Heim, to the opposite field as Garver's had been. It was now 3-1 for Texas, and given a lead, Eovaldi began to pitch like an ace, getting the Astros in order in the 4th, and then getting three straight outs after hitting the first batter in the 5th, Martin Maldonado, with a pitch. The Rangers stranded a couple of baserunners in the 5th then went down in order against Phil Maton in the top of the 6th after Garcia missed homering near the right field foul pole by maybe ten feet. It's after that that the Astros got their best chance of tying the game, as Alvarez and Abreu led off the bottom of the inning with back-to-back singles. Tucker followed with a ground ball to 1B Lowe, whose only play was to cut down Abreu at second base, and Alvarez advanced to third base, from which he scored on a sacrifice fly by Mauricio Dubon. Eovaldi then got Jeremy Pena to hit a ground ball to end the inning, but the score was now 3-2 and things could not have been more tense.

Hector Neris came on to pitch the 7th and placed two men on courtesy of a walk to Jung and a single by Semien, but Seager grounded out to José Abreu to end the inning. In the bottom of the inning, Altuve singled with one out, which brought out Bruce Bochy who replaced Eovaldi with Josh Sborz. Sborz continued his great work this postseason as he got Brantley to ground into a double play, ending the inning. Bryan Abreu now came out to pitch, having been given a reprieve by appealing his suspension for having, in the umpires' judgment, thrown at Garcia in the 8th inning of the previous game, but he wasn't his usual unhittable self as Evan Carter led off by beating a grounder to short for a single (it took a video review to determine he was safe). Carter then stole second base after which, in a replay of their now infamous confrontation, Abreu struck out Garcia. But the Rangers had the last laugh when Garver followed with a double, increasing the lead to 4-2. Bregman led off the bottom of the 8th with a walk, but Sborz showed that Alvarez was not kryptonite for him, as he struck him out. However, he allowed a single to Jose Abreu, prompting Bochy to once again bring his closer, José Leclerc, in the 8th inning. He walked Tucker to load the bases but then got Dubon to line out to Seager for the second out. Jon Singleton came out as a pinch-hitter for Pena, also reproducing a key confrontation from Game 5, and it was a nail-biter: the count was full after five pitches, then Singleton fouled off a couple of strikes, before whiffing on a cutter to end the inning.

Doubtless that the Rangers did not want to relive such tense moments again, and they went to work on Houston's next reliever, Rafael Montero. Jung drew a lead-off walk and Leody Taveras reached on an error by 2B Altuve to immediately place Montero in hot water. Semien singled to load the bases, and Ryne Stanek replaced Montero with still no one out. He hit Seager with his second pitch to force in a run, then, after Carter struck out, Garcia sealed the outcome of the game by taking him deep to left field for a grand slam. At 9-2, it was time to close the books on this one. Leclerc could sit down as Andrew Heaney, who had been beaten around like a rag doll in his Game 4 start, found a measure of atonement by getting three ground ball outs in the bottom of the 9th, needing just four pitches, as the Astros were no longer trying. There would be a Game 7 and one whose outcome was completely uncertain.

Game 7 @ Minute Maid Park[edit]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Rangers 3 0 1 4 0 2 0 1 0 11 15 0
Astros 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 4 12 0
WP: Jordan Montgomery (2-0); LP: Cristian Javier (1-1)
Home Runs: TEX - Corey Seager (2), Adolis Garcia 2 (5), Nathaniel Lowe (2); Alex Bregman (3), José Altuve (3)
  • Attendance: 42,814

While there may not have been any chainsaws involved, Game 7 was a Texas Massacre. The Rangers came out like gangbusters against Astros starter Cristian Javier, chasing him before the end of the 1st inning, and by the middle of the 4th, it was 8-2 in their favor, with Dusty Baker having already used five pitchers, and all that was left to do was to count down the innings remaining until the Rangers' presence in the 2023 World Series was confirmed. The lopsided 11-4 win was achieved even though, for the second time, Max Scherzer, had a less-than-stellar start, but Bruce Bochy made a bold decision, one that he had made before in earlier postseasons when he was managing the San Francisco Giants, bringing out his best available pitcher, in this case Jordan Montgomery, to give him some crucial innings. As a result, Montgomery was credited with the win, his second of the series, but the big story was Adolis García, who had yet another monster game, homering twice and driving in five runs, to give him a total of five homers and 15 RBIs for the series, making him the undisputed winner of the ALCS MVP Award. For Baker, it was possibly his final game as a manager, having secured his place in the Hall of Fame already - an honor that was also almost certain to be bestowed on Bochy, who was now undefeated in five participations in the League Championship Series between the two leagues, and who would now lead his third different team to the big dance.

Javier started the game by getting Marcus Semien to ground out to short. That was just about the last positive thing that could be said about his performance. The next hitter, Corey Seager, absolutely crushed an inside fastball, sending it 440 feet to the upper deck at Minute Maid Park for a 1-0 lead. And then things went from bad to worse for Javier and the Astros as Evan Carter drew a walk and stole second, then scored on a single by Gacia, who stole second base as well. Next up was Mitch Garver who hit a ball that bounced off a diving Michael Brantley's shoulder in left field, sending Garcia home with the third run and putting Garver on second. Javier was not fooling anyone and there was action in the bullpen already. Javier's short outing ended when he gave up another hit to Jonah Heim, advancing Garver to third. Phil Maton replaced him and cleaned up the mess, striking out Nathaniel Lowe and Josh Jung, although Heim stole second base in the interim, the Rangers' third theft of the inning. Houston's hope at that point was that Scherzer had not been sharp in Game 3 and unlikely to pitch deep in this game either, giving them a chance to come back. Indeed, José Altuve led off the bottom of the 1st by banging a double against the left field wall on a ball that was hit so hard that it broke a panel in the manual scoreboard with an audible clang. However, Alex Bregman grounded to short and Yordan Alvarez was issued an intentional walk to set up a potential double play. Next up was José Abreu who singled off 3B Josh Jung's glove, advancing the two runners 180 feet and cutting the lead to 3-1. Houston was back in the game - except Brantley threw a cold shower on the hometown crowd by hitting into a double play grounder at the worst possible moment, stranding a runner on third base.

After that eventful 1st inning, things quieted down in the 2nd with Hunter Brown, normally a starter but now used as a long man, taking over for Maton. He gave up a double to Seager, but it came with two outs and Carter then followed with a grounder to third. Scherzer also put a runner in scoring position with a one-out walk to Chas McCormick followed by a stolen base, but Scherzer struck out Jeremy Pena and Martin Maldonado to end the inning. Then in the 3rd, Garcia led off the inning with his fourth homer of the series, a solo shot down the first base line that made it 4-1. However, the Astros got that run back immediately when Bregman hit a solo homer off Scherzer with one out. Alvarez followed with a triple to left, but couldn't score when Abreu hit a grounder at Jung at third base. That was the end for Scherzer, who once again did not seem to have his usual command. The choice of relievers was a bit of a surprise, as Montgomery was the one who came out, but it was par for the course for Bochy, who had been known for his bold decision to use his ace, Madison Bumgarner, in a similar relief role to win Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. And Montgomery made him once again appear a genius when he got Brantley to line out to end the inning, stranding Alvarez on third base, then followed that with two scoreless innings. By the time Montgomery left the game, the Rangers had taken a choke-hold grip on it, thanks to a huge 4th inning against another starting pitcher used in long relief, this time J.P. France. It began with a routine single by Jung, and after a strikeout, Semien drew a walk. Seager followed with a hard grounder to first, on which Abreu made a nice diving stop, but deflected the ball into no-man's land between first and second as all three batters were safe. It was the 21-year-old Carter who delivered the hit that broke the Astros' figurative backs, a bloop that landed just fair down the first base line for a two-run double. That brought up García, the RBI machine, who singled to left to drive in two more runs, making it 8-2. France did not complete the inning, giving way to Hector Neris, already the fifth pitcher for Houston, who recorded the final out with the bases loaded.

It was now only a question of counting down the remaining innings. Montgomery continued his brilliant relief outing with two scoreless frames in the 4th and 5th, giving up three hits, but all singles, and not walking anyone. Bryan Abreu, whose suspension had been confirmed before the game but moved to the beginning of the next season, came out for the top of the 6th and started out by retiring his nemesis, García, but then plunked Garver with a pitch. Ironically it was his second hit batsman of the series after hitting only three all season, and Garver came around to score when Lowe homered with two outs, his second long ball in three games. That made the score 10-2, and with an extended rest in the offing after this game, Bochy did not hesitate to bring out his best relievers, even with a huge lead, as Josh Sborz was delegated to pitch the bottom of the 6th. He made such quick work of it that he would start the 7th as well. Meanwhile, Baker asked yet another starter to come to the mound in Jose Urquidy, who had been chased early in Game 4, but he was effective in the 7th. The Astros got one run in the bottom of that inning, on a two-out double by Bregman off Sborz followed by a single by Alvarez against Aroldis Chapman. It was better than nothing, but they were still trailing, 10-3, and Texas immediately got another run in the 8th when Garcia hit his second long ball of the game off Urquidy, this one to left field. He had probably clinched being named the series' MVP, but that was the cherry on top. Chapman allowed a couple of baserunners in the 8th and closer José Leclerc gave up a solo homer to Altuve in the 9th, but it would have taken a complete and utter meltdown to reverse the game's trend. The final score of 11-4 reflected how the game had gone, and marked the elimination of the Astros, who failed in their bid to be the first repeat champions in MLB since the 1998-2000 New York Yankees. For the Rangers, it was a first trip to the World Series since 2011 and their win also repeated the bizarre pattern seen in the 2019 World Series, when the visiting team had also won every single contest.

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "Rangers-Astros position-by-position breakdown", mlb.com, October 15, 2023. [1]
  • Theo DeRosa: "Astros, Rangers latest intrastate rivals to face off in postseason", mlb.com, October 12, 2023. [2]
  • Matt Kelly: "Rangers clinch home field in World Series", mlb.com, October 23, 2023. [3]
  • Julia Kreuz: "3 under-the-radar Rangers who can impact the ALCS", mlb.com, October 14, 2023. [4]
  • Julia Kreuz: "Adolis’s record-setting ALCS earns him MVP honors: García follows Game 6 grand slam with pair of homers in Game 7 vs. Houston", mlb.com, October 24, 2023. [5]
  • Kennedi Landry: "Rangers boot Astros in Game 7 to reach 1st World Series since '11: García homers twice with five RBIs to snag ALCS MVP; Bochy taking 3rd club to WS", mlb.com, October 24, 2023. [6]
  • Sarah Langs: "4,276 wins, four WS titles: An ALCS managerial matchup for the ages: 10 facts and figures behind Dusty Baker and Bruce Bochy's postseason meeting", mlb.com, October 13, 2023. [7]
  • Brian McTaggart and Kennedi Landry: "Who has the upper hand in the ALCS? Here are 4 keys for each team", mlb.com, October 13, 2023. [8]

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