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MLB Playoff Roundup: Rangers edge Orioles, Astros take Game 1 from Twins

The Rangers pitched their way to victory, while the Astros relied on their thump.

MLB: ALDS-Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, both American League Division Series got underway with the Rangers visiting the Orioles and the Twins traveling to Houston to take on the Astros. There were plenty of former Yankees (and foes) playing today, several of whom distinguished themselves finely. The Rangers topped the Orioles 3-2, and the Astros rolled the Twins 6-4 in Saturday’s action.

ALDS Game 1

Texas Rangers 3, Baltimore Orioles 2

(TEX leads series 1-0)

Baltimore sent the ascendant Kyle Bradish to the mound to open the series after John Means was ruled out for the series. Means came back from early 2022 Tommy John surgery to make four starts down the stretch this year, and didn’t skip a beat in his first game action in 18 months, posting a 2.66 ERA in 23.2 innings. But, the vast majority of Baltimore’s success this year has come without Means, so many thought they’d be able to make due.

On the other side, with Max Scherzer out, Texas gave former Yankee Andrew Heaney the ball for Game 1. Both pitchers came out firing and posted three scoreless innings apiece. In the fourth, both teams broke through to get on the board. First, the Rangers erupted for four straight hits in the top half against Bradish, starting when Adolis García doubled and the impressive rookie Evan Carter did the same to drive in García. A Jonah Heim single brought in Carter, and one batter later Nathaniel Lowe singled. Their second time through the order, the Rangers didn’t try to lift Bradish’s heavy sinker, instead finding holes in the infield and down the lines effectively.

Baltimore struck back swiftly in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead in half — Anthony Santander walked and Ryan Mountcastle doubled him in to make it 2-1. The bespectacled righty Dane Dunning came in to finish the fourth without further incident, ending Heaney’s day after 3.2 innings and one run allowed. Bradish, meanwhile, would finish 4.2 innings before being pulled in the fifth.

Neither team would score again until the sixth, when Josh Jung hammered a Jacob Webb fastball over 400 feet dead-central. When it landed, the Rangers’ lead was back up to two runs.

The home team once again answered in the bottom of the inning with a blast of their own by the veteran Santander. After seven innings of play, the Orioles called upon their fifth pitcher of the day, Tyler Wells, in a tight 3-2 game, and he delivered a scoreless inning. In the bottom half, our old friend Aroldis Chapman allowed the first two hitters to reach, putting the tying run on second with nobody out. Chapman induced a backbreaking Santander double play and a Ryan Mountcastle strikeout to escape the eighth unscathed and send it to the ninth still at 3-2.

Cionel Pérez pitched a scoreless top of the ninth, and on came José LeClerc to close things out with a slim lead. Gunnar Henderson led off the home ninth with a single, bringing up former Yankee Aaron Hicks. Henderson made an aggressive attempt to steal second against Heim’s excellent arm and was nailed at the bag, stifling the O’s momentum. LeClerc finished up in short order and the Rangers took a razor-thin 3-2 win in Game One.

ALDS Game 1

Houston Astros 6, Minnesota Twins 4

(HOU leads series 1-0)

Predictions of the other Division Series weren’t as razor-thin, with the Astros coming in as the clear favorite. The first three innings in Houston were same old same old for these October Astros. The Twins threatened in the first, but didn’t score. José Altuve lead off the home first with a leadoff bomb against Bailey Ober, Justin Verlander put up three zeroes, and Yordan Álvarez hit a two-run shot to the moon in the third to make it 3-0. Yep ... good old Astros.

Kenta Maeda took over and spun a scoreless inning in the fourth, but the Astros would get to him in the next frame. Alex Bregman singled and Álvarez walked, putting Maeda on the ropes with nobody out in the fifth. The much-maligned José Abreu knocked Bregman in with a single, then Chas McCormick delivered a two-out single to score Álvarez and put the Astros up 5-0. Verlander pitched a scoreless sixth to wrap up his day without surrendering a run.

The Twins battled for four hits and three walks in those six innings, but couldn’t cash in anything. Dusty Baker tapped Hector Neris for the seventh, and the power-hitting visiting club’s luck changed immediately. Neris hit Matt Wallner with his second pitch and Ryan Jeffers singled after him to place runners at first and second with nobody out. It looked as though the Twins would bungle the opportunity with two straight strikeouts, but Jorge Polanco came up huge with a two-out, three-run home run to make the score 5-3. Royce Lewis followed that up with a home run of his own, and in a blink, the Twins pulled to within one at stretch time.

After a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth inning and notching the first out of the seventh, Chris Paddack gave way to the lefty Caleb Thielbar with Álvarez lurking in a pivotal spot. Thielbar didn’t give up a home run to a lefty all year. No matter, it turned out, as Álvarez took Thielbar deep for his second big fly of the game, providing a crucial insurance run to make it 6-4.

Carlos Correa made his presence known with a leadoff double in the eighth off another of Houston’s righty fireballers, Bryan Abreu, and Correa would shuffle to third on a wild pitch with one out. He’d be stranded at third after a Jeffers strikeout and a Willi Castro groundout. With a two run lead, the Astros turned to closer Ryan Pressly in the ninth, who polished off the 6-4 win.