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    ALCS: Jose Altuve’s 3-run homer in 9th gives Astros 3-2 series lead after benches clear
    • October 21, 2023

    By STEPHEN HAWKINS AP Baseball Writer

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Jose Altuve hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning and the Houston Astros, after getting into another bench-clearing scuffle with the Texas Rangers, rallied for a 5-4 victory in a wild and testy Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Friday.

    After winning all three games at rival Texas, the defending champion Astros head home to Houston needing one win to reach a third consecutive World Series. They lead 3-2 in the best-of-seven playoff going into Game 6 on Sunday night.

    “We’ve done it so many times. We never give up until the last out,” Altuve said.

    Adolis García punctuated his towering three-run homer in the sixth with a slow trot and an empathic spike of his bat after watching the ball clear the wall to give Texas a 4-2 lead.

    When the slugger came to bat again with a runner on first in the eighth, Bryan Abreu hit García on the left arm with a pitch. An angry García immediately turned to get in the face of catcher Martín Maldonado – the two also jawed nose-to-nose when García touched home plate after his grand slam in Houston on July 26.

    Both benches and bullpens cleared, although it didn’t appear any punches were thrown as the teams grabbed hold of each other near home plate. Once things settled down, García, Abreu and Astros manager Dusty Baker had been ejected during a delay that lasted almost 12 minutes.

    After the game, umpire crew chief James Hoye told a pool reporter Abreu was ejected for throwing with intent, and García was tossed for being the aggressor in the situation.

    “The guy hits a three-run homer; the next time up he gets smoked there,” Texas manager Bruce Bochy said. “I’d be upset, too, if I was Doli. But like I said, it just took too long to get things back in order, that’s what was frustrating me.”

    Rangers closer José Leclerc gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Yainer Diaz and walked pinch-hitter Jon Singleton at the bottom of the lineup to begin the Houston ninth. Altuve then pulled an 0-and-1 changeup over the left field fence, just beyond the glove of a leaping Evan Carter.

    It was the 26th career postseason homer for Altuve, second in major league history behind Manny Ramirez (29). The 5-foot-6 star second baseman was playing in his 101st postseason game – all with the Astros.

    “Number one, he wants to be up there. Number two, he’s got a high concentration level – because that’s what it takes in big moments like that, is concentration, desire, and relaxation all encompassed into one,” Baker said. “This dude is one of the baddest dudes I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some greats.”

    García connected off three-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander, who took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth before Corey Seager doubled, Carter singled and García homered in a span of three pitches.

    Nathaniel Lowe also went deep for the wild-card Rangers, tying it 1-all in the fifth.

    Ryan Pressly pitched two scoreless innings for the win after replacing Abreu following his ejection. Pressly gave up consecutive singles to start the bottom of the ninth before retiring the top three batters in Texas’ lineup. Marcus Semien lined out to shortstop, Seager flied out to deep center and Carter struck out to end it.

    Alex Bregman homered early for Houston, which is in its seventh straight ALCS and is trying to get to its fifth World Series in that span.

    The AL West champion Astros are 40-45 this year at Minute Maid Park, including 1-3 in the postseason. But they are 5-0 on the road and have won 19 of their past 22 games away from home overall.

    Houston went 9-1 at Globe Life Field this season, winning its last eight in a row while outscoring Texas 79-36 during that span.

    García, the Cuban slugger known as El Bombi, took a couple of slow steps out of the batter’s box after connecting and was about halfway down the baseline when the ball landed in the first row of seats a few feet beyond the left-center wall. It was his fourth homer this postseason.

    That go-ahead homer in the 42nd inning of this series was the first time the home team took the lead at any point through the first five games.

    Houston took a 2-1 lead in the sixth when José Abreu reached out to hit a 79 mph curveball from starter Jordan Montgomery and the sharply hit ball took a tough hop off Seager at shortstop for an RBI single.

    Josh Sborz entered with the bases loaded and one out but prevented further damage with the help of a diving play by Semien at second base.

    Verlander retired 13 of his first 15 batters in his 21st postseason start for Houston until Lowe went the opposite way for a 380-foot homer to left field. The 40-year-old right-hander allowed four runs and six hits over 5⅔ innings.


    A day after the retractable roof at Globe Life Park was open during a game for the first time since May 21, it was closed again on a sunny afternoon. The temperature outside at first pitch was 91 degrees. It was 74 inside with the roof closed.


    All-Star pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Framber Valdez will start Game 6, the same matchup as Game 2 when the Rangers won, 5-4. Eovaldi struck out nine and allowed three runs in six innings to win Monday. Valdez had six strikeouts in 2⅔ innings, but he allowed five runs (four earned).


    — MLB (@MLB) October 21, 2023

    The @Astros head back home with a series lead! #ALCS

    — MLB (@MLB) October 21, 2023

    Alex Bregman is in awe of Jose Altuve. #ALCS

    — MLB (@MLB) October 21, 2023

    Breg-Man on the Moon: This ball was up, up, and away. #ALCS

    — MLB (@MLB) October 20, 2023

    This is what 110 Texas-sized decibels sounds like. #ALCS

    — MLB (@MLB) October 20, 2023

    ​ Orange County Register