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MLB Playoff Roundup: Rangers push Birds to brink of elimination

While Texas took care of Baltimore, the cross-state rival Astros fell to Minnesota’s Pablo López to tie up their ALDS.

Division Series - Texas Rangers v Baltimore Orioles - Game Two Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

After sending three teams to the playoffs, it’s hard to believe that the AL East would go a combined 0-6, but that’s exactly what has transpired with the Rays and Blue Jays getting swept in the Wild Card round and the Orioles losing the first two games of the ALDS. Baltimore will hit the road for Texas seeking to avoid a sweep on Tuesday.

The Twins at least had slightly more success, leveling their series against the Astros at one game apiece to temporarily halt what looked like a speedy march toward an all-AL West ALCS. Now, Minnesota has gained home-field advantage with the next two games at Target Field.

ALDS Game 2

Texas Rangers 11, Baltimore Orioles 8

(Rangers lead, 2-0)

For all of the excitement over winning the division and hosting a pair of home playoff games to kick off their postseason odyssey, it had to be pretty disheartening for Orioles fans to watch their team drop those first two contests and get pushed to the brink of elimination. It turns out you need staunch starting pitching to compete in the pressure cooker of the playoffs and Baltimore certainly did not receive that on Sunday. Rookie Grayson Rodriguez had looked good since being recalled in mid-July, but he was walloped for five runs on six hits and four walks in only 1.2 innings, placing his team in a hole that would only get deeper after he departed.

Rodriguez is lucky it wasn’t more — Texas loaded the bases in the first with Marcus Semien leading off with a single and Corey Seager and Evan Carter drawing walks, but Grayson got Jonah Heim to fly out to strand all three. It turns out it was only delaying the inevitable, as despite his offense opening the scoring in the bottom-half on a two-run single from Aaron Hicks, the Rangers blew the doors off the contest scoring five in the second.

Nathaniel Lowe drew a leadoff walk and Josh Jung singled, with both coming around to score on a game-tying double by Leody Taveras. After Seager drew another walk, Mitch Garver, Adolis García and Jonah Heim each chipped in with an RBI single to end Rodriguez’s day.

Texas was far from finished at the plate, making a formality out of this one in the very next frame. Bryan Baker walked three straight batters before giving up a grand slam to Garver, a rare flyball to make it over Walltimore in left at Camden.

That was more than enough for Jordan Montgomery to work with. While he was far from as effective as his seven shutout innings in the Wild Card round, there’s a certain freedom that pitching with a seven-run lead affords you. He’d actually give up another pair in the fourth on a Jordan Westburg leadoff double, Jorge Mateo RBI single (one of four hits on the night for the former Yankee prospect) and Ryan Mountcastle sac fly, followed by a Gunnar Henderson homer to lead off fifth to end the erstwhile Yankee starter’s outing — though it still represented just a dent in the Rangers’ lead.

The sixth, seventh and eighth innings brought a rare break in the scoring before both teams finished with a final flourish in the ninth. Seager drew his fifth walk in that final frame — the most walks by a player in postseason history — also the 11th walk of the game by Orioles hitters setting an ALDS record. Hicks made the final score more respectable with a three-run blast following a Henderson walk and Austin Hays single, giving the former Yankee five RBI on the day.

However, that would conclude the scoring as the Rangers took Game 2, 11-8, to put the Orioles on the brink of elimination with (at most) two games at Globe Life Field staring them in the face.

ALDS Game 2

Minnesota Twins 6, Houston Astros 2

(Series tied, 1-1)

The Twins’ offseason trade for Pablo López was one of the rare instances of a win-win swap for both teams. The playoff-bound Marlins received the eventual NL batting champion Luis Arraez while the Twins had finally landed a top-of-the-rotation arm. After helping them win the AL Central and dominating Toronto in the Wild Card Series, López rewarded Minnesota once again with a stellar outing at Minute Maid, tossing seven scoreless innings allowing six hits and a walk against seven strikeouts.

You need your star performers to show out in the playoffs and alongside López that’s exactly what Carlos Correa provided. Playing in front of his formerly adoring fans, the former Astro heard a growing chorus of boos as the game wore on, no doubt for the damage he was inflicting on his former team. He ended the day 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and three driven in.

The star shortstop opened the scoring in the first with his first RBI double after Jorge Polanco drew a one-out walk. The following inning it was Kyle Farmer’s turn, blasting a two-run bomb after Willi Castro’s leadoff single to put Framber Valdez and his team in a 3-0 hole early. Valdez would steady the ship for the next two innings, but with his offense failing to get anything going against López, he would need to continue to be borderline perfect to keep the Astros in it. That came unraveled in the fifth.

Michael A. Taylor and Donovan Solano opened the frame with a pair of singles and a Royce Lewis walk would load ‘em up for Correa to drive in a pair with a single. They’d again load the bases in the frame but reliever Phil Maton struck out Farmer to strand all three ducks on the pond. Correa clubbed his second double in the seventh to plate Lewis for Minnesota’s sixth run, and though Yordan Alvarez would blast his second two-run blast (and third home run overall) of the series in the eighth to break up the combined shutout, that was all the scoring the Astros would manage in their 6-2 Game 2 loss to the Twins to send the series to Target Field knotted at a game apiece.

The American League teams will be off today, but stay tuned for National League action. Game 2 awaits for the Braves & Phillies (6:07pm ET) and Dodgers & Diamondbacks (9:07pm ET).