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MLB Playoff Roundup: Rangers punch ticket to World Series

Adolis García had the game of his life leading the Rangers over the Astros in the decisive Game 7.

Championship Series - Texas Rangers v Houston Astros - Game Six Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Texas Rangers have advanced to their first World Series since 2011, and will host Game 1 of the Fall Classic on Friday night. Whether they face the Phillies or Diamondbacks has yet to be determined, as Peter will discuss in a little bit. After a bitter, seven-game ALCS where the home team was unable to hold serve at all, the Rangers jumped all over Astros starter Cristian Javier, then pulled away against the bullpen to win the deciding Game 7 11-4.

ALCS Game 7

Texas Rangers 11, Houston Astros 4

(Rangers win series 4-3; MVP: Adolis García)

Before last night, Javier had thrown 22 innings in the postseason, surrendering just two earned runs while leading the no-hit effort in World Series Game 4 last year in Philadelphia. He’s only 26 but had already begun to carve out a reputation as something of a postseason stopper, the kind of pitcher who elevates his game when the lights are brightest.

And then in Game 7 of the 2023 ALCS, Javier recorded one measly out while the Rangers pushed across three runs in the first inning. Marcus Semien missed out on the early fun, bouncing into a groundout to open the frame, but Corey Seager picked up his double play partner and cast a pall over Minute Maid Park:

Adolis García, in so many ways the main character of this entire series, chipped in with an RBI single and came around to score himself on Mitch Garver’s base hit. The Rangers were up 3-0, the Astros were into their bullpen ... but it really didn’t feel like that was going to be enough.

Sure enough, Houston responded right away in the bottom of the first, with Jose Altuve clubbing a double off the left-field wall and scoring on José Abreu’s single three batters later. Max Scherzer managed to strand two other runners, but he never really looked like he had his best stuff in his second start since early September. Indeed, the future Hall of Famer only lasted 2.2 innings, letting the Astros push across another run in the third on Alex Bregman’s solo shot, and allowing a triple (!) to Yordan Alvarez.

And then, García drove in three runs over two innings, helping push the Rangers to an 8-2 lead. The first four innings of this contest took two hours to play through, but by the end of it Texas was up by six, the Astros were running low on relievers, and Jordan Montgomery was on one.

Entering in relief of Scherzer, Monty continued to churn out clutch pitching, today posting 2.1 innings scoreless, buying the time the Rangers lineup needed to stretch the lead out. He doesn’t do it in the sexiest way — just one of the seven outs recorded was via the strikeout — but you’re working on getting 27 outs, and Gumby played a big role in getting Texas there.

Now, it is Halloween season and you’d be forgiven for ascribing a certain Michael Myers-ness to the Astros. They’re never really dead, and that’s why Nathaniel Lowe’s sixth-inning home run felt so huge.

Eagle-eyed viewers will recognize that blast coming off Bryan Abreu, who will serve his two-game suspension for drilling García at the opening of the 2024 season. Surprise surprise, the reliever suspended for intentionally hitting a batter hit a batter ahead of Lowe’s dinger, drilling Mitch Garver in the ribs. If nothing else, Rangers home runs have taken on a sword of justice role in the ALCS.

Because he can’t just shut up, Altuve did hit a solo home run in the ninth, and the ‘Stros did get a couple other men on. All that was just arithmetic though, as the Rangers clinched their third AL pennant in 52 seasons of baseball in Arlington.

It’s a tradition when your team has been eliminated to look at the teams that won pennants and wonder why they succeeded when yours didn’t. I don’t know how much we would hold Texas up as a model franchise, except ... they have a better farm system than the Yankees do. Sure, that’s cyclical, but they probably wouldn’t be here without contributions from Josh Jung and Evan Carter (among others).

They spent money a year “early” in their competitive cycle on Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. In the winter ahead of the 2022 season, a lot of people were scratching their heads as to why Texas, of all teams, was spending this amount of money when they weren’t immediately competitive. Now maybe this is confirmation bias but boy the strategy of “just sign the best players and figure the rest out as you go” seems to have paid off for the Rangers.

Carter had a hell of a time in left field last night, misplaying three different balls. On paper, Adolis García has a little too much swing-and-miss in his game. The Rangers put those two sluggers in the corner outfield slots, where power matters more than defense or contact, and developed them at the big-league level (especially García). Now the Yankees obviously have just about the best player in baseball in right, but how much better a team would they have been over the past couple seasons if they used left field the way it’s supposed to be used — here be the dude who smokes baseballs, we don’t care if he’s an all around athlete?

Of all the franchises in baseball, I would prefer the Yankees follow the lead of a couple other clubs before the Rangers, but you can see how their approach differs from New York’s, and at least based on the results of a four week tournament, the Ranger recipe seems to have a little more spice. They are four victories away from their first World Series title. They will host either Arizona or Philadelphia, and Nasty Nathan Eovaldi will be on regular rest if they decide to go that way. Hats off to the American League champions.

We leave you with the ALCS MVP himself, Adolis García.