For those who thought the Astros were just too tired to make another run for the trophy, or just didn’t care, you’re wrong yet again.
This series ain’t over yet.
Going in, it seemed there was as good a chance that this game could be a classic pitcher’s duel as it could be a slugfest by one or both teams.
After all, it pit future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer against playoff legend Cristian Javier. Both have been great — and terrible at different times this year.
In the first inning, it looked like the classic pitcher’s duel, with both pitchers getting the opposition 1-2-3.
In the second inning, it became apparent that one of the pitchers would record a game for the ages, and the other just looked aged.
The Astros put a three spot on Scherzer in the second inning, starting with a Yordan Alvarez hit-by-pitch on an 0-2 count. Kyle Tucker then walked, Mauricio Dubon singled the bases loaded, and a wild pitch scored Alvarez.
And then an unlikely hero, Martin Maldonado, came up big with a two-run single. He was thrown out at second trying for the double.
In the fourth inning, Jose Altuve led off with a 400+ home run. He just missed homers on two other at-bats.
In the fifth inning, Jose Abreu opened with a double, and scored on a Dubon single.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Rangers recorded their first hit of the game and recorded two runs. Nathaniel Lowe beat the shift with a single to left field, and Josh Jung homered him in.
In the sixth inning, Yordan had his seventh post-season homer stolen on an incredible play by Leody Taveras in center field.
Javier got past Marcus Semien and Corey Seager in the sixth, then a double by Evan Carter chased him in favor of Hector Neris. Neris got Adolis Garcia to pop out to preserve the Astros 5-2 lead.
For the game, Javier went 5.2 innings, allowed three hits and one walk, with three strikeouts. The Rangers managed only six batted balls classified as hard hit, and typical of Javier at his best, he had eight flyouts. His ERA in two games this off-season is 1.69.
In the seventh inning, the Astros added two more runs to their lead. Maldonado and Altuve started it out with singles, which brought lefty reliever Will Smith in to face the next three hitters, the lefty, righty, lefty combo Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, and Alvarez. Smith got Brantley, but walked Bregman, loading the bases for Alvarez. Alvarez thwarted yet another left-handed bullpen ace, this time singling home Maldonado and Altuve.
I hope opposing managers keep doing this.
Yordaddy always comes through. pic.twitter.com/0Ui5wHtSqq— Houston Astros (@astros) October 19, 2023
However, Josh Jung and the Rangers answered in the bottom of the seventh with a two-run homer, his second of the game. He accounted for four of the five Rangers' RBI.
But the Astros weren’t taking it easy with a three-run lead. In the eighth, Kyle Tucker opened with his third walk, Dubon hit a broken bat blimp single to move Tucker to third, And Pena grounded a single to right to score Tucker.
However, the Rangers weren’t giving up either. Bryan Abreu hadn’t allowed a run since July 15th, but he made a familiar mistake: he walked the first batter. That runner would score on a two-out Adolis Garcia single to get the Rangers back to within three runs, 8-5.
The Astros threatened to add another run of their own in the ninth. Yordan hit a liner down the right-field line that looked like a sure double, but it bounced directly to Adolis Garcia, limiting Alvarez to a single. With two outs, Tucker slugged a double over Garcia’s head, but Garica made another efficient recovery and threw a perfect relay to Semien, who threw out Alvarez easily trying to score.
Of course, Ryan Pressly made it more interesting than it had to be in the ninth. He walked the first batter. However, he got Lowe to strike out, and Rangers hero-turned-goat Jung ended the game with a double play.
Astros 8-5. They play it again, Sam, tomorrow. Same bat time. Same bat station.
Keys to the game.
Of course, Cristian Javier holding the Rangers to only two runs in nearly six innings pitched. Alvarez with two hits, two RBI and a run scored, Tucker with three walks that kept the turnstiles turning and resulted in two runs, Mauricio Dubon, who was 3-4 with a run and an RBI, and Martin Maldonado, who was 2-4 with two RBI and a run scored. Four RBI in bases loaded situations. And good call, Dusty on a hunch that Dubon was a hot bat right now, and maybe his stubbornness on Maldonado might pay off after all.