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MLB Playoff Roundup: Astros club Scherzer in Max’s return

It feels like the Astros just woke up.

Championship Series - Houston Astros v Texas Rangers - Game Three Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Max Scherzer pitched for the first time since September 12, as the veteran right-hander was added to the Rangers ALCS roster after missing a month with a shoulder problem. His first inning, in front of a raucous home crowd against the top of the Astros order, went well, as he retired the side in order. After that first inning though, it was all downhill as Scherzer gave up five runs over the next three frames, digging the Rangers a hole they couldn’t quite get out of.

ALCS Game 3

Houston Astros 8, Texas Rangers 5

(Texas leads series 2-1)

Scherzer took the “jam Yordan Alvarez as far inside as possible” a bit literally in the bottom of the second, hitting the slugger and setting himself up for trouble. Max actually got two out in the frame before his own wild pitch brought Yordan home and put two other Astros in scoring position, and light-hitting Martin Maldonado rewarded the Astros’ everlasting patience with him:

José Altuve clubbed a solo shot in the top of the third, while Astros starter Cristian Javier continued the stellar start to his postseason career by setting down the first eight Rangers he faced. Houston ended up pushing five runs against Scherzer, whose night was done after four innings as Rangers fans no doubt sighed with relief at the efforts they got from Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi.

The silver lining on the night for Texas was third baseman Josh Jung, who provided almost all of his team’s thump:

Jung’s first home run would be the last batter for Javier on the night, as the 26-year-old has continued to rebound from a so-so regular season. He’s now allowed just two runs in 10.2 innings across the ALDS and ALCS, building off three previous playoff runs that have seen him notch a 1.91 ERA across more than 40 innings to open a career. Javier may never be the ace of a staff over 162, but he’s starting to carve out a nice little niche for himself as something like a right-handed Andy Pettitte — penciled into the rotation every season, and a leader once the calendar turns to October.

With Yordan leading off the sixth inning, it looked like Darth Vader had tattooed another ball toward the seats, but Leody Taveras had other ideas.

The catch energized both the ballpark and the club, but the Rangers failed to capitalize in the bottom half, stranding Evan Carter at second base. Alvarez got his hit back in the top of the seventh, driving in two with a single to make the game 7-2. Jung’s second dinger got the Rangers just a bit closer, but Jeremy Peña responded the next time the Astros came to the plate with an RBI single to give Houston their eighth run of the game.

The Rangers are still in the driver’s seat in this series, and getting another start out of each of their two top arms should be encouraging if you’re hoping for them to advance to the World Series. It kinda felt like tonight might be the awakening of the sleeping Astros giant, who have looked just a little bit off in the first two games at home. If that’s the case, Yankee fans know all too well how scary this team can be when they feel like there’s something to play for.