Texas Rangers win AL pennant

The Texas Rangers are going to the World Series for the first time since 2011. Monday night the Rangers rather shockingly blew out the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park (TEX 11, HOU 4). The road team won every game of the ALCS. It's the second time in MLB history the road team won every game of a best-of-seven series. It also happened in the 2019 World Series, which the Astros lost to the Washington Nationals.

Adolis García wrapped up his ALCS rampage with four hits, including two home runs, and 5 RBI in Game 7. He drove in 15 runs in the series. Texas is 8-0 on the road this postseason, tying the 1996 New York Yankees for the longest road winning streak to begin a single postseason. The Rangers are going to the World Series for the third time in franchise history and the Astros are heading home for the winter. Incredibly, Houston went 7-22 in their final 29 home games of 2023.

Here are our takeaways from Game 7 of the ALCS.

The Rangers jumped all over Javier

Cristian Javier went into Game 7 with a 2.08 ERA in 43 1/3 career postseason innings, including two runs allowed in 10 2/3 innings in his first two postseason starts this year. He's been one of the game's best October pitchers the last few years. But, on Monday night, Javier faced six batters and got one out. The Rangers knocked him out in the first inning.

Corey Seager opened the scoring with a long and loud solo homer in the second deck in left field. A walk, a stolen base, a single, another stolen base, and another single followed to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead and send Javier to the showers.

Give the Rangers credit, the put some pretty good pitches in play. Look at Seager's homer. Javier put a fastball at the top of the zone, a location where he usually gets a ton of swings and misses, and Seager just beat him to the spot. Texas went to the plate with a plan and executed. They covered the fastball up -- Javier's moneymaker -- expertly.

Javier is the first starter to fail to complete one inning in a Game 7 since Donovan Osborne, then with the St. Louis Cardinals, retired only two Atlanta Braves in Game 7 of the 1996 NLCS. He's the first starter to get just one out in a Game 7 since Vic Aldridge with Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 7 of the 1925 World Series. Unlike Javier's Astros, Aldridge's Pirates came back to win that game.

Adolis had an MVP performance

For more than one reason, Adolis García was the center of attention in the ALCS. He sparked a benches-clearing incident in Game 5 after being hit by a Bryan Abreu pitch, and that earned him healthy boos from the Astros faithful every time he stepped to the plate in Games 6 and 7. García struck out in his first four at-bats of Game 6 ... and then he launched a grand slam his fifth time up.

In Game 7, García smashed an RBI single off the left field wall in the first inning, and it was only a single because he stood at the plate and admired it, thinking it was a homer. He should have been at second. No matter, García stole second, then scored on Mitch Garver's bloop single. In the third inning, García launched a solo homer the other way. 

One inning later García pulled a ground ball single through the left side to plate two runs and break Game 7 open. He added a solo homer in the eighth inning, just because. All told, García went 4 for 5 with two homers and 5 RBI in Monday's winner-take-all affair. He had five hits, including three homers, in his final six at-bats of the ALCS.

García went deep in each of the last four ALCS games and he drove in at least one run in every game of the series except Game 1. He went 10 for 28 (.357) with four home runs and 15 RBI in the ALCS. 

Through 12 games García has 20 RBI this postseason, tied with Seager (20 RBI in 2020) for the second most ever in a single postseason. Only David Freese (21 RBI in 2011) had more. García will have at least four World Series games to pad his RBI total.

Montgomery pulled a Bumgarner

In Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, then-Giants manager Bruce Bochy asked ace lefty Madison Bumgarner to come out of the bullpen and get as many outs as he could. He would up going five innings for the save two days after throwing 117 pitches in a complete game shutout in Game 5. It was one of the most remarkable postseason pitching appearances ever.

In Game 7 of the 2023 ALCS, current Rangers manager Bruce Bochy asked stalwart lefty Jordan Montgomery to come out of the bullpen and get as many outs as he could. Montgomery threw 82 pitches and 5 1/3 innings in Game 5 two days earlier. No, Montgomery's Game 7 relief outing was not as impressive as Bumgarner's in 2014, but it was damn good nonetheless. He got seven outs behind a wobbly Max Scherzer and was credited with the win.

Montgomery, who'd made only two prior relief appearances in his big-league career, was not given a soft landing spot. He entered to face Michael Brantley with a runner on third and two outs in the third inning, with the Rangers leading 4-2. The game was close with a lot of innings left. Montgomery got Brantley to line out to short, then added two more scoreless innings to settle things down. No 2023 trade deadline addition has been more impactful this year. Montgomery, who is a few weeks away from free agency, has been terrific in October.

Josh Sborz (1 2/3 innings), Aroldis Chapman (1 1/3 innings), and José Leclerc (one inning) following Montgomery out of the bullpen to close out the Game 7 win. Sborz appeared in five of the seven ALCS games and tossed six innings, allowing just one run. It came with his team up 10-2 in the seventh inning of Game 7 and was inconsequential.

Dusty did not have a good night

I don't want to pick on Dusty Baker too much because he didn't throw any pitches or swing the bat in Game 7, but Baker didn't have a great night. Javier put him in a tight spot with his short start, but Baker went to rookie righty J.P. France down two runs in the fourth inning, and France proceeded to retire only two of the eight batters he faced. He was charged with four runs. Only after the Rangers stretched their lead to 8-2 did Dusty go to Hector Neris, one of his trusted high-leverage arms. Why France before Neris? France is the type who should be the last guy out of the bullpen in Game 7.

Then, in the bottom half of the fourth inning, Baker allowed Martín Maldonado to hit for himself with two on and one out. Maldonado is a light hitter -- he slashed .191/.258/.348 during the regular season -- and at that point Houston needed six runs just to tie. Backup catcher Yainer Diaz hit .292/.308/.528 with 23 home runs this year remained on the bench at a time when the Astros needed a big swing. When you're down that much, Maldonado's elite defense isn't worth much. The Astros needed runs and Diaz was a much better bet to provide them, yet he did not pinch-hit. Maldonado flew out and Houston did not score that inning. Diaz eventually hit for Maldonado with the bases empty and the Astros down 10-2 in the seventh inning.

In the simplest terms, the manager's job is to put his team in the best position to win, and Baker did not do that in Game 7 when he used France before Neris, and allowed Maldonado to hit for himself with two runners on base. Those decisions were not the reason the Astros lost Game 7, but they did contribute to the loss. Baker is now 0-4 all-time in Game 7s. He'd previously lost Game 7 in the 2002 World Series, 2003 NLCS, and 2020 ALCS.

The Rangers are looking for first World Series title

This is the third pennant in Rangers history and they are looking for the franchise's first World Series title. The Rangers lost to the San Francisco Giants in 2010 and the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011 in their two previous World Series trips. Texas will take on either the Arizona Diamondbacks or Philadelphia Phillies when the World Series begins Friday at Globe Life Field. The D-backs and Phillies will play Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday.

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