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    ALCS: Eovaldi leads Rangers past Astros to force Game 7
    • October 23, 2023

    By KRISTIE RIEKEN (AP Sports Writer)

    HOUSTON — Nathan Eovaldi remained perfect this postseason, and Mitch Garver and Jonah Heim homered early before a ninth-inning grand slam by Adolis García helped the Texas Rangers avoid elimination with a 9-2 win over the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series on Sunday night.

    Eovaldi, who also got the win in Game 2, yielded five hits and two runs in 6 1/3 innings to improve to 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA in the playoffs this year.

    The decisive Game 7 is Monday night in Houston, where the Rangers, one of six major league teams without a World Series title, need a win to return to the Fall Classic for the first time since back-to-back trips in 2010-11.

    The defending World Series champion Astros were again felled by a subpar start from Framber Valdez and lackluster play at home. Valdez was charged with five hits and three runs with six strikeouts in five innings to fall to 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA this postseason.

    The Rangers led by two before breaking the game open with a five-run ninth, punctuated by the slam from García, who struck out his previous four times up. The slugger was booed throughout the game after being at the center of a bench-clearing scuffle in Game 5 after being hit by a pitch from Bryan Abreu.

    When García knocked a pitch from Ryne Stanek into the Crawford Boxes in left field with one out in the ninth, many of those fans began streaming for the exits after yet another poor home showing by Houston.

    The Astros, who are 5-0 on the road this postseason, won three in a row in Arlington wearing their orange jerseys to move within a win of reaching their third consecutive World Series. But it didn’t help them carry their road magic home as they fell to 1-4 in Houston this postseason after posting a 39-42 mark at Minute Maid Park in the regular season.

    This series joins the 2019 World Series, which Houston lost to Washington, as the only best-of-seven series in postseason history in which the road team won the first six games.

    Houston led by one after a first-inning RBI single by Yordan Alvarez. But Garver tied it on his solo shot to start the second.

    Heim connected off Valdez for the second time this series with a two-run shot with two outs in the fourth that put Texas on top 3-1.

    Houston got within 3-2 on a sacrifice fly by Mauricio Dubón in the sixth. But the Rangers got some insurance from an RBI double by Garver with one out in the eighth off Abreu.

    It’s the first time the Rangers have won an elimination game in the postseason since Game 5 of the 2010 ALDS at Tampa Bay when Cliff Lee pitched a complete game in a 5-1 Texas victory. They’d lost five straight such games and Sunday’s win was just their second in eight tries.

    The Astros had a shot to cut the lead late before Garcia’s big swing, but José Leclerc came through after giving up the decisive three-run homer to Jose Altuve in the ninth inning of Game 5.

    Josh Sborz walked Alex Bregman to start the Houston eighth and struck out Alvarez before José Abreu singled with one out.

    Leclerc took over and walked Kyle Tucker to load the bases before Dubón lined out softly to shortstop. Pinch-hitter Jon Singleton, who entered with one career postseason at-bat, batted for Jeremy Peña and struck out against Leclerc to end the threat.

    Alvarez got Houston’s first hit since the first inning with a single with no outs in the sixth. Abreu singled on a grounder to right field before Tucker grounded into a force out that left him out at second and sent Alvarez to third.

    The sacrifice fly by Dubón sent Alvarez home to cut the lead to 1. But Peñagrounded out to end the inning.

    The Astros looked good early against Eovaldi. Altuve hit a leadoff single and stole second base before Brantley walked. There was one out in the inning when Alvarez lined a single to center field to score Altuve and make it 1-0. Eovaldi limited the damage when Abreu lined out before Tucker struck out.

    Garver sent the first pitch of the second inning into the seats in right field to tie it at 1-all. The ball was caught barehanded by a man in the second row.

    Nathaniel Lowe singled after that, but Josh Jung grounded into a double play to end the inning.

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    Valdez didn’t allow another baserunner until Garver singled with two outs in the fourth. Heim followed with his shot to right field to make it 3-1. The ball sailed just past the glove of a leaping Tucker and into the first row. Heim, who had a career-high 18 home runs in the regular season, also homered off Valdez in Game 2 of this series.

    Bryan Abreu pitched the eighth inning for Houston after appealing the two-game suspension he was given by Major League Baseball for intentionally throwing at Garcia.

    Bryan Abreu’s hearing is Monday before John McHale Jr., special assistant to Commissioner Rob Manfred.

    Evan Carter singled off Bryan Abreu to start the eighth before he struck out Adolis Garcia. Bryan Abreu allowed a run-scoring double by Garver before retiring the next two batters to end the inning.

    ​ Orange County Register