Rangers stay undefeated in playoffs with 2-0 win over Astros

The Texas Rangers defeated the Houston Astros 2-0 on Sunday night in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. The Rangers now lead the best-of-seven series by a 1-0 margin. The winner will advance to the World Series, where they'll meet either the Philadelphia Phillies or Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Rangers received a strong start from veteran left-hander Jordan Montgomery. They also received some timely contributions from outfielders Evan Carter and Leody Taveras, as well as catcher Jonah Heim. Heim (RBI single) and Taveras (solo homer) both had big hits against Justin Verlander. The Astros veteran ace went 6 2/3 innings but collected the loss.

The Rangers also benefited from a video review in the eighth inning that deemed Jose Altuve failed to retouch second base while returning to first on a deep fly out by Alex Bregman. The double play derailed a budding Astros rally. 

Here are four things to know about the Rangers' Game 1 victory.

1. Young outfielders deliver for Rangers

The Rangers' outfield helped create the only two runs of the contest.

Evan Carter, 21, continued his brilliant postseason. He entered Sunday having hit .429/.619/.857 in his first five playoff contests. In addition to making a number of impressive grabs in Game 1, he led off the second inning with a hustle double. Carter then scored on a Jonah Heim single to make it 1-0 Texas.

Carter has now recorded a hit in all six of his playoff games to begin his career. That'll play, folks, that'll play -- especially from someone who only made his big-league debut on Sept. 8.

Center fielder Leody Taveras, 25, later added Texas' second run of the night on a solo home run off Verlander. It was his first career playoff home run in what amounted to his sixth game. 

And just like, that was all the scoring in Game 1.

2. Montgomery outperforms Verlander

Jordan Montgomery outdueled Justin Verlander in what served as the first game this postseason in which both starters worked at least six innings. It would perhaps be unfair to write that this is why the Rangers acquired Montgomery at the deadline, because it seems unlikely that Texas placed this kind of expectation on him. Nevertheless, he delivered 6 1/3 shutout innings in an impressive start. 

He surrendered five hits and a walk, and he struck out six batters on 90 pitches. Montgomery stymied Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez, punching him out three times in Game 1. In the process, Montgomery became the sixth individual to strike out Alvarez at least three times in a single game, joining Gerrit Cole (twice), Dylan Cease, Clayton Kershaw, Sean Manaea, and Frankie Montas.

Verlander, for his part, allowed just the two runs on six hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings. Not shabby considering he did not record his first swinging strike until his 47th pitch of the night. We'll note that this served as an historic start for Verlander, as he moved past Tom Glavine for the second-most postseason starts by a pitcher. Verlander still trails Andy Pettitte by eight (36 to 44).

3. Astros' potential rally undone by Altuve mistake
The Astros saw Jose Altuve reach to begin the bottom of the eighth. Alex Bregman then hit a deep fly out to left field. Altuve, as it happens, ran all the way to second base, and one step beyond. The Rangers appealed and, after a video review, it was discovered that Altuve had touched second base and advanced (by a single step) without retouching second base on his way back.

As a result, Altuve was deemed out for the unconventional double play. 

Altuve violated rule 5.06b(1), which states the following: "In advancing, a runner shall touch first, second, third and home base in order. If forced to return, he shall retouch all bases in reverse order, unless the ball is dead under any provision of Rule 5.06(c). In such cases, the runner may go directly to his original base."

That's the correct call, even if it terminated an Astros rally and helped Aroldis Chapman out of a potential jam.

4. What going up 1-0 means

According to the invaluable website WhoWins, MLB teams who have taken a 1-0 lead in a best-of-seven series have historically won said series 64.4% of the time. In other words, winning Game 1 is a big deal.

Of course, you don't need the actual data to realize that winning the first game of a potential seven-game series is a good thing. The Rangers now need just three wins (versus the Astros, who need four). Furthermore, the Rangers can win the series without winning another road game. The Astros now must win at least one road game in order to claim the series and the pennant.

What's next?

The Rangers and the Astros will reconvene at Minute Maid Park on Monday afternoon for Game 2. First pitch is slated for 4:37 p.m ET, and the game will be streaming on fubo (try for free). The Rangers will turn to Nathan Eovaldi (12-5, 3.63 ERA) while the Astros counter with Framber Valdez (12-11, 3.45 ERA). 

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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