Rangers keep unbeaten run going, take 2-0 ALCS lead on Astros

League: MLB

Posted on: 17 Oct, 2023 at 01:10 AM

Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON -- Texas Rangers starter Nathan Eovaldi heard teammates in the visiting dugout comment on the crowd noise at Minute Maid Park, but his focus not only shielded him from the raucous throng, it also enabled him to zero in and execute when the moment was most dire.

Adolis Garcia, Mitch Garver and Nathaniel Lowe recorded RBI singles in a four-run first inning before Eovaldi escaped a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the fifth, and Texas held on for a 5-4 win over the Houston Astros in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Monday.

The Rangers took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 3 set for Wednesday in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers are unbeaten this postseason, having won six of their seven games on the road.

"It's huge," Eovaldi said of the series lead. "The momentum is in our favor, but can't let the guard down. The Astros are an incredible team, and they have the lineup from top to bottom. They have good pitching. And we've got to keep doing what we've been doing, and we bring this momentum back home to Arlington."

The Rangers survived a home run barrage from the Astros, with designated hitter Yordan Alvarez slugging solo homers in the second and eighth innings. His second blast of the game and sixth of this postseason came off Rangers left-hander Aroldis Chapman with two outs and pulled the Astros to within a run.

Texas closer Jose Leclerc preserved that margin despite issuing back-to-back walks to Jose Abreu and Michael Brantley in the eighth. He retired the Astros in order in the ninth.

Texas ambushed Astros left-hander Framber Valdez (0-2) with five singles in the top of the first, and Valdez complicated matters by committing two errors on a grounder back to the mound by Robbie Grossman. That misplay enabled Marcus Semien to score from second base and opened the floodgates as Garcia, Garver and Lowe delivered hits to extend the lead to 4-0.

"Like they put some balls in there, only a couple of them hit hard," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "No, I don't think he (Valdez) lost his composure. His pitch count got real high in a hurry."

Valdez never settled in following his 27-pitch first inning. Rangers catcher Jonah Heim smacked a leadoff homer in the third, his first career postseason home run, that extended the lead to 5-1 and his postseason hitting streak to seven games.

Valdez departed with two outs in that frame, having allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits and one walk with six strikeouts.

Eovaldi (3-0) surrendered the first homer to Alvarez in addition to a leadoff blast to left from Alex Bregman in the fourth, and his escape act in the fifth proved seismic.

He allowed singles to Brantley and Chas McCormick before Jeremy Pena reached on a fielding error by third baseman Josh Jung. Eovaldi responded by recording strikeouts of pinch hitter Yainer Diaz and Jose Altuve, and Bregman rolled a grounder that Jung plucked at third before capping the inning with a throw to first.

"That was the turning point in the game," Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. "Found a way to get through it. And terrific job by him. He had good stuff (Monday). He pitched very well. And that's six solid innings, last two were a little stressful, and that's why I went ahead and made a change."

Eovaldi allowed three runs on five hits and one walk with nine strikeouts over six innings.

The Astros' woes at Minute Maid Park continued unabated. After finishing 39-42 at home during the regular season, the Astros have dropped three of four games in Houston this postseason.

--MK Bower, Field Level Media