What to expect from the Rangers-Astros ALCS series
It’s all about Texas in this year’s ALCS. The Rangers enter this series at 5-0, but they will face an Astros team that has historically looked unstoppable in the playoffs.
Jordan Montgomery stopped Yordan Alvarez right in his tracks, and the Texas Rangers earned their first win in the American League Championship Series, thanks to an unlikely playoff rookie and a base error from the playoff legend.
Montgomery recorded his second scoreless outing in three playoff appearances, including a complete chokeout for the previously unstoppable Houston Astros. And the Rangers showed the undeniable advantage they have in this series — hitters at the bottom of the order — to score Winning 2-0 in the first match of the ALCS on Sunday night at Minute Maid Park.
The Rangers are perfect in the postseason — 6-0, five of the wins coming on the road — and they have put the Astros in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable place. The defending World Series champions have won the past two AL pennants, also capturing Game 1 of the ALCS both times.
Now, in their seventh straight ALCS, they’ll have to play up.
Their best chance to get back into the game was squandered in the eighth inning, when Jose Altuve drew a leadoff lead and Aroldis Chapman — who had been bullied twice by the Astros in the ALCS as a Yankee — was called up to face Alex Bregman. Bregman nearly got behind Chapman again, flying a fly to left, but rookie Evan Carter made a jumper to the wall.
Altuve clearly did the right thing — he ran to second and waited to see if the ball was caught — but he failed to touch second base after going right past the bag. Called for replay review – devastating double play.
But the real damage was done by Montgomery. He allowed just five singles in his six scoreless innings, striking out six and walking just one. He held the Astros’ top five in their order to two singles in 15 at-bats.
More importantly, he shut down Alvarez.
The 2021 World Series champion and one of the game’s most prominent players came on hot, homering four times in four games in the Astros’ 3-1 AL Division Series sweep of Minnesota.
But he was no match for Montgomery’s deceptive fastball and elite ball. He fanned three outs against Montgomery, and hit that curveball to bat in his last at-bat.
Acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals at the trade deadline — and waived by the New York Yankees a year ago when they discovered he didn’t fit into their postseason plans — Montgomery hit two outs in Game 1 for the Texans in dominant fashion.
His seven innings against Tampa Bay steadied the Rangers after a shaky final week of the regular season that relegated them to the wild-card series — and forced Montgomery to start Game 1.
Now, after a no-decision against Baltimore in the ALDS and Sunday’s effort, he has a postseason resume: a 2.08 ERA in 17 innings, 13 strikeouts and just one walk.
Monday’s second game pits two veteran playoff heroes: Astros left-hander Framber Valdez and Rangers right-hander Nate Eovaldi. But it’s the Astros who should view this as a must-win.
– Gaby Lakis
Here’s how Sunday’s first game went:
After Josh Spurs walked off baseman Jose Altuve in the eighth, Rangers manager Bruce Bochy called on reliever Aroldis Chapman, who famously surrendered Altuve’s home run at Minute Maid Park that sent the Astros to the World Series.
Alex Bregman hit a deep home run to left, but rookie outfielder Evan Carter made a jumper against the high wall. Altuve had stepped to second base and failed to retouch the bag on his way back to first base, and was called on a 7-6-4 double play.
Jordan Montgomery exited the game with one out in the 7th inning, finishing with 6 hits in 6 scoreless innings as the Rangers took a 2-0 lead into the 8th inning. Josh Spurs relieved Montgomery to get the final two hits of the seventh inning.
Astros starter Justin Verlander finished with five hits and two earned runs in 6 innings.
After No. 6 Jonah Heim drove in the first run of Game 1 ALCS off Justin Verlander, No. 9 hitter Leody Taveras hit a solo home run off Verlander in the top of the fifth inning, giving the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
If there’s an advantage the Rangers have over the Western Conference champion Astros, it’s at the No. 6-9 spots in the lineup. However, the Astros nearly tied the game with singles by Chas McCormick, Mauricio Dupont and Jeremy Peña to load the bases in the fourth. But No. 9 hitter Martin Maldonado struck out, stranding three.
However, the Astros are close to entering the Rangers’ questionable bullpen.
– Gaby Lakis
In the top of the second, Rangers catcher Jonah Heim delivered an RBI single to score rookie Evan Carter after a two-out single against Justin Verlander.
Verlander loaded the bases with two outs — a single by Josh Jung and a walk by Lyody Taveras — but got Marcus Semien to lead off on the seventh pitch of the bat to escape the jam.
Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer meet again — on opposite sides of the ALCS
Two shooters, two identical injuries, six months apart.
Suddenly, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer are reunited, albeit on opposite sides, in the American League Championship Series.
The Rangers announced Sunday that Scherzer, 39, will be activated for the ALCS and is expected to start Game 3 or 4 when the series moves from Houston to Arlington. This will be his first game since suffering a major shoulder strain during his last start on September 13.
Scherzer and Verlander, who each made $43.3 million this season, were supposed to be the backbone of the New York Mets — the most expensive team ever — but that started to go away when Verlander, 40, suffered a major muscle strain just before Opening Day. . That, combined with teammate Jose Quintana’s rib injury that sidelined him in the first inning, was just part of the reason the Mets faltered.
Verlander was shipped back to Houston in July, and Scherzer to the Rangers just days later. And now the longtime Detroit Tigers teammates will face each other in a huge series again — just as they did in the 2019 World Series, when Scherzer started and won Game 1 and also started Game 7 for the victorious Washington Nationals. Verlander started and lost Games 2 and 6; Manager Bruce Bochy told reporters in Houston on Sunday that Scherzer would be available in the event of an extra inning for Game 1
On Sunday, Verlander got the nod for Game 1 for the Astros, and is expected to start Game 5 in Arlington as well. Depending on how he comes off his start, Scherzer’s numbers will be there if the series extends to Games 6 or 7 in Houston.
His return comes at the right time. The Rangers beat Baltimore in three games in the ALDS thanks to a successful “piggyback” game involving Andrew Henne and Dane Dunning. Now, in a best-of-seven format, they hope Scherzer can lengthen their rotation and, along with John Gray, who was activated after a forearm strain, and, Bochy says, hopefully start one of the two or three games in Arlington.
Whenever and however Scherzer throws the ball, both clubs have the Mets to thank for fortifying them.
– Gaby Lakis
Game 1 of the American League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers is scheduled to begin at 8:15 p.m., and air on Fox.
Astros manager Dusty Baker was asked before the first game if he and Rangers captain Bruce Bochy were elder statesmen:
“The thing I remember talking to him about was when he retired: ‘How many bottles of booze did he get and how many rocking chairs did he get,’” Baker said.
“I just told him, ‘I’m glad you’re back, and I hope you go to another division,’ both him and (pitching coach Mike Maddox.) That’s some respect I have for him.”
LHP Jordan Montgomery: 10-11 3.20 ERA in regular season – 3.27 ERA in 11 innings in 2023 postseason
- Marcus Semien (R) 2B
- Corey Seager (L) SS
- Mitch Garver (R) DH
- Adulis Garcia (R) RF
- Evan Carter (left) LF
- Jonah Heim (S) c
- Nathaniel Lowe (left) 1b
- Josh Jung (right) 3b
- Leodi Taveras (S) CF
RHP Justin Verlander: 13-8, 3.22 ERA in regular season – 1-0, 6 IP, 0 ER in 2023 postseason
- Jose Altuve (R) 2B
- Alex Bregman (R) 3B
- Yordan Alvarez (left) Dr
- Jose Abreu (right) 1b
- Kyle Tucker (L) RF
- Chas McCormick (R) LF
- Mauricio Dupont (R) CF
- Jeremy Pena (R) SS
- Martin Maldonado (R) C
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