The Houston Astros have accomplished the “feat” of becoming the first major league team to reach the Championship Series (CS) in seven consecutive years. Their performance in Games 1 and 2 did not live up to their reputation. The Texas Rangers, on the other hand, have been unstoppable. The World Series (WS) is now in sight.
The Rangers won Game 1 of the 2023 American League Championship Series (ALCS) against the Houston Astros 5-4 on Sunday at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, USA.
The two teams were locked in a tight race to the end of the regular season. Despite finishing with identical records of 90 wins, 72 losses, and a .556 winning percentage, the teams were evenly matched. Houston punched their ticket to the Division Series (ALDS), while Texas, the underdog, found themselves in the Wild Card (WC) Series.
The two teams, who started the postseason in distinctly different positions, met again in the Championship Series, with the Texans taking the lead in Game 1. The Rangers, who were making their first ALCS appearance in 12 years after knocking off a string of East powers from the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series to the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS, continued their winning ways with a 2-0 victory the day before, extending their franchise-record postseason winning streak to six games.
Houston’s self-destruction for the second day in a row
The previous day’s game (Dec. 16) was characterized by the Rangers’ ability to capitalize on Justin Verlander’s $43.33 million price tag, but also by Houston’s self-destruction in the chase. Here’s what happened. In the top of the eighth inning, with the bases loaded, Houston’s Alex Bregman hit a ball straight up the middle of the infield. It had the potential to be a home run or a hit.
That’s where Texas center fielder Evan Carter comes in and makes a spectacular jumping catch of Bregman’s fly ball. The first baseman, Jose Altuve, was heading for third base when he saw the catch and went back to first base, but he didn’t step on second base. Video review confirmed the call, and the Astros lost the game on a crucial play.
It was the second day in a row that Houston self-destructed on a boneheaded play. Texas started the game off with back-to-back singles by Marcus Semien and Corey Seager against Houston starter Framber Valdez to put runners on first and second with no outs in the first inning. Robbie Grossman followed with a line drive to the pitcher, which proved to be a costly error.
Valdez, the Houston starter, fumbled Grossman’s throw, but he kept his composure and threw the ball to first base, where it hit Grossman in the back, deflected, and Semien, the runner on second, crossed the plate. The error put runners on first and second and third with no outs when the ball would have been handled properly.
Texas capitalized on the opportunity. In their next at-bat, Adolis Garcia drove in a run with an RBI single, and with runners on first and third, Mitch Garber drew a walk and then crushed a 96.5 mph sinker from Nate Lowdow Valdez to left field to extend the lead to 4-0.
1 and 3 American League teams batting first and third.
After jumping out to an early lead on an unearned run, Houston wasted no time in chasing it down. In the bottom of the second inning, Jordan Alvarez, who has been hot at the plate in the postseason, stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and swung at a 95.3 mph four-seam fastball from Texas starter Nathan Ivoldi in the middle of the strike zone. He smashed it over the center field fence for a solo home run to close the gap.
With Houston chasing, Texas regained the lead. Texas added a run in the top of the third when leadoff hitter Jonah Haim pulled hard on a four-pitch low cutter from Valdez, sending it over the left field fence at 107.5 mph and never coming back. Heim made amends for a “misplay” call in the first inning, when he was called out for swinging at a foul pitch with runners in scoring position. Valdez would go on to tie the postseason record for most runs allowed in a single game after two innings.
The offensive battle continued. Houston struck again in the bottom of the fourth inning, this time when Bregman swung at a splitter that dug into the strike zone on a five-pitch pitch from Iboldi, sending it 360 feet (109.7 meters) at 99.9 mph (160.8 km/h) into the stands behind left field. The home run brought Houston back into the game, closing the gap to three runs.
Houston couldn’t be beaten, and the Rangers won their seventh straight.
Chasing a metallurgical Texas, Houston had a bases-loaded opportunity in the bottom of the fifth inning when Jeremy Peña reached on a Texas error after back-to-back Michael Brantley-Chase McCormick singles. A chance to cut the deficit to one run with one hit. But in what could have been a game-winning situation, the Astros came up just short.
Houston sent Yoenis Diaz to the plate for the first batter, Martin Maldonado, who struck out after a six-pitch battle with Iboldi. That left the bases loaded, but Altuve was silenced with a strikeout, and Bregman grounded out to third base to end the threat.
Houston pulled within 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth when Brantley drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk to Alvarez, but the Astros immediately turned to their bullpen as “The Man of the Fall” Iboldi pitched a quality start (six innings, three earned runs or less) with nine strikeouts. 토토사이트Josh Svotz came on in the seventh and shut down the Houston offense.
In the bottom of the eighth, Houston pulled Texas within a run, as Alvarez hit his eighth arch of the postseason off reliever Aroldis Chapman. But that was it. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, “closer” Jose LeClerc came in and pitched a shutout into the ninth, leaving Texas just two wins away from advancing to the World Series (WS).