Rangers keep unbeaten run going, take 2-0 ALCS lead on Astros

Oct 16, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Texas Rangers catcher Jonah Heim (28) celebrates with first baseman Nathaniel Lowe (30) after hitting a home run in the third inning against the Houston Astros during game two of the ALCS for the 2023 MLB playoffs at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON — Adolis Garcia, Mitch Garver and Nathaniel Lowe recorded RBI singles in a four-run first inning before Nathan Eovaldi escaped a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the fifth, and the Texas Rangers held on for a 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Monday.

Texas took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 3 set for Wednesday in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers are unbeaten this postseason, having won six of their seven games on the road.

The Rangers survived a home run barrage from the Astros, with designated hitter Yordan Alvarez slugging solo homers in the second and eighth innings. His second blast of the game and sixth of this postseason came off Rangers left-hander Aroldis Chapman with two outs and pulled the Astros to within a run.

Texas closer Jose Leclerc preserved that margin despite issuing back-to-back walks to Jose Abreu and Michael Brantley in the eighth. He retired the Astros in order in the ninth.

Texas ambushed Astros left-hander Framber Valdez (0-2) with five singles in the top of the first, and Valdez complicated matters by committing two errors on a grounder back to the mound by Robbie Grossman. That misplay enabled Marcus Semien to score from second base and opened the floodgates as Garcia, Garver and Lowe delivered run-scoring singles to build the lead to 4-0.

Valdez never settled in. Rangers catcher Jonah Heim smacked a leadoff homer in the third, his first career postseason home run, that extended the lead to 5-1 and his postseason hitting streak to seven games. Valdez departed with two outs in that frame, having allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits and one walk with six strikeouts.

Eovaldi (3-0) surrendered the first homer to Alvarez in addition to a leadoff blast to left from Alex Bregman in the fourth, and his escape act in the fifth proved seismic.

He allowed singles to Brantley and Chas McCormick before Jeremy Pena reached on a fielding error by third baseman Josh Jung. Eovaldi responded by recording strikeouts of pinch-hitter Yainer Diaz and Jose Altuve before Bregman rolled a grounder that Jung plucked at third before capping the inning with a throw to first.

Eovaldi allowed three runs on five hits and one walk with nine strikeouts over six innings.

The Astros’ woes at Minute Maid Park continued unabated. After finishing 39-42 at home during the regular season, the Astros have dropped three of four games at home this postseason.

–MK Bower, Field Level Media

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