Jordan Montgomery stopped Yordon Alvarez in his tracks, and the Texas Rangers won their first in the American League Championship Series thanks to the baserunning gaffe of their unlikely playoff ace and playoff legend.
Montgomery posted his second scoreless game in three playoff starts, including a total throttle of the Houston Astros’ previously unstoppable slugger. And the Rangers showed their undisputed advantage in the series — hitters at the bottom of the order — to register 2-0 win in 1st match of the ALCS on Sunday night at Minute Maid Park.
The Rangers have been perfect this postseason — 6-0, with five wins coming on the road — and they put the Astros in an unfamiliar, uncomfortable spot. The defending World Series champions have won the last two AL pennants, and they’ve taken Game 1 of the ALCS twice.
Now, in their seventh straight ALCS, they have to play uphill.
Their best chance to get back in the game was snuffed out in the eighth inning when Jose Altuve drew a leadoff walk, and Aroldis Chapman — who had been trounced twice as a Yankee by the Astros in the ALCS — was called upon to face Alex Bregman. Bregman again posterized Chapman with a fly out to left, but rookie Evan Carter jumped the wall and made the catch.
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Altuve ostensibly did the right thing — ran to second and waited to see if the ball was caught — but failed to touch second base after he got past the bag. He was called for a replay review – a disastrous double play.
But the real damage was done by Montgomery. He allowed just five singles in his 6 ⅓ scoreless innings, striking out six and allowing just one run. He had the Astros’ top five hit with two singles in 15 at-bats.
More importantly, he shut down Alvarez.
The 2021 World Series champion and one of the game’s premier sluggers came on the heater and homered four times in four games in the Astros’ 3-1 AL Division Series victory over Minnesota.
But he was no match for Montgomery’s sneaky fastball and elite breaking ball; He fanned three against Montgomery and struck out in his final game on that curveball.
Acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals at the trade deadline — and dumped a year ago by the New York Yankees, who found he didn’t fit into their offseason plans — Montgomery twice led Texas to a Game 1 victory.
His seven shutout innings against Tampa Bay propelled the Rangers into the wild-card series after a shaky final week of the regular season — and forced Montgomery into the Game 1 start.
Now, with a no-decision in the ALDS and Sunday’s effort against Baltimore, he’s had a great postseason: 2.08 ERA, 13 strikeouts and one walk in 17 ⅓ innings.
Monday’s Game 2 features two veteran playoff heroes: Astros lefty Framber Valdez and Rangers right-hander Nate Ewaldi. But the Astros should win this one virtually.
— Cape Locks
Here’s how Game 1 went down on Sunday:
Evan Carter’s clutch catch starts a double play in the eighth
After Josh Spurs walked leadoff man Jose Alduve in the eighth, Rangers manager Bruce Bochy called on reliever Aroldis Chapman, who surrendered Alduve’s walk-off home run at Minute Maid Park that sent the Astros to the World Series.
Alex Bregman hit a deep drive to left, but Freshman outfielder Evan Carter made a leaping catch against the high wall. Altuve stepped on second base and failed to touch the bag again on his way back to first, being called into a 7-6-4 double play.
Rangers lead 2-0 to seven
Jordan Montgomery, who finished with six strikeouts in 6 ⅓ scoreless innings to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the eighth, left with one out in the seventh. Josh Spores relieved Montgomery to get the final two outs of the seventh inning.
Astros starter Justin Verlander had five strikeouts and two runs in 6 ⅔ innings.
Jonah Heim in the 6th hit Justin Verlander’s first run of the ALCS in the 1st, and 9th hitter Leodi Taveras hit a solo home run off Verlander in the fifth inning to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
If the Rangers have one advantage over the West Division champion Astros, it’s 6-9 in the standings. However, the Astros nearly tied it with singles by Chaz McCormick, Mauricio Dubon and Jeremy Pena. But No. 9 hitter Martin Maldonado was out for 3 runs.
However, the Astros are getting closer to entering a questionable Rangers bullpen.
— Cape Locks
In the top of the second, Rangers catcher Jonah Heim hit an RBI single Rookie Evan Carter after his one-out double against Justin Verlander.
Verlander loaded the bases with two outs — a Josh Jung single and a Leoty Taveras walk — but Marcus Siemian popped out the top on the seventh pitch of the at-bat to escape the jam.
Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer meet again — on opposite sides of the ALCS
Two forty pitchers, two identical injuries, six months apart.
Suddenly, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer were reunited, albeit on opposite sides of the American League Championship Series.
The Rangers announced Sunday that Scherzer, 39, will be activated for the ALCS and will likely start Game 3 or 4 when the series shifts from Houston to Arlington. It was his first start since suffering a major strain on his shoulder in his last start on September 13th.
Scherzer and Verlander, each making $43.3 million this season, were supposed to be the backbone of the New York Mets — the most expensive team assembled — but things started to go sideways when Verlander, 40, suffered his own serious injury just before Opening Day. That, along with fellow starter Jose Quintana’s rib injury that sidelined him in the first half, was part of the reason the Mets stumbled.
Verlander was traded to Houston in July, and Scherzer was traded to the Rangers a few days later. Now the longtime Detroit Tigers teammates will face each other again in a big series — just as they did in the 2019 World Series, where Scherzer started Game 1 and won Game 7 for the victorious Washington Nationals. Verlander started both Games 2 and 6 and lost; Manager Bruce Bochy told reporters Sunday in Houston that Scherzer will be available even in a Game 1 extra-inning scenario.
On Sunday, Verlander got the Game 1 nod for the Astros, and he will also start Game 5 in Arlington. Depending on how he gets out of his start, Scherzer will be available if he goes back to Games 6 or 7 in Houston.
He returns in due time. Thanks to a successful “piggyback” game by Andrew Heaney and Dan Dunning, the Rangers pulled off a three-game sweep in the Baltimore ALDS. Now, in top-of-seven form, they hope Scherzer can extend their rotation along with John Gray, activated after a forearm strain, and Bochy says he’ll start one of two or three games in Arlington.
Whenever Scherzer pitches, both clubs have him to thank for strengthening them.
— Cape Locks
Astros vs. Rangers: ALCS Game 1, TV Channel
Game 1 of the American League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers will air on Fox at 8:15 p.m.
Astros manager Dusty Baker was asked before Game 1 what he and Rangers captain Bruce Bochy were elder-statesmen:
“I remember talking to him when he retired: how many booze he got and how many rocking chairs he got,” Baker said.
“I told him, hey, I’m glad you’re back, you went to another division, and so is (pitch coach Mike Maddux. That’s some of the honors he’s had.”
LHP Jordan Montgomery: 10-11 3.20 ERA in regular season – 3.27 ERA in 11 innings in 2023 postseason
- Marcus Siemian (R) 2B
- Corey Seager (L) SS
- Mitch Carver (R) DH
- Adolis Garcia (R) RF
- Evan Carter (L) LF
- Joanna Heim (S) c
- Nathaniel Lowe (L) 1B
- Josh Jung (R) 3 b
- Leodi Taveras (S) CF
RHP Justin Verlander: 13-8, 3.22 ERA regular season – 1-0, 6 IP, 0 ER in 2023 postseason
- Jose Altuve (R) 2B
- Alex Bregman (R) 3B
- Yordan Alvarez (L) DH
- Jose Abreu (R) 1 b
- Kyle Tucker (L) RF
- Chas McCormick (R) LF
- Maurizio Dubon (R) cf
- Jeremy Pena (R) SS
- Martin Maldonado (R) c