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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Five thoughts: Adolis García gets revenge, Rangers force decisive ALCS Game 7 vs. Astros

Andrew Heaney, left, and Jonah Heim of the Texas Rangers congratulate each other after defeating the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the ALCS at Minute Maid Park on Sunday in Houston.  (Tribune News Service)
By Evan Grant Dallas Morning News

HOUSTON – Five fast and furious thoughts from the Rangers’ 9-2 win in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Sunday at Minute Maid Park, which sets up the second Game 7 in Rangers history. These teams will play a win-or-go home game at 5:03 p.m. Monday in Houston.

What it means: Win or go home. Really what more needs to said than that ? Doesn’t get any more straightforward than that. But here we go anyway. First of all, what drama! Second, the Rangers will almost certainly place their season in the hands of Max Scherzer, who has one previous Game 7 start. But it’s impossible to overlook the performance of Nathan Eovaldi, having the best postseason run by a pitcher in Rangers history. Eovaldi pitched into the seventh after a 25-pitch first inning. During the postseason, he has compiled a 2.42 ERA in four starts, all Rangers wins.

This series has been wholly unpredictable. The road team has won all six games. The Rangers, who had a losing road record during the regular season (40-41) have won seven consecutive road playoff games this fall. It is the second-longest road winning streak in MLB postseason history. The only team to ever win eight? The 1996 New York Yankees, the team that opened the gates to the last Yankees Dynasty.

Just consider the final stroke of unpredictability: If a three-run homer in Game 5 wasn’t quite enough, Adolis García, who has become Public Enemy No. 1 in Houston, did himself one better. He recovered from going 0 for 4 with four strikeouts to hit a grand slam in his final at-bat. It took any potential bullpen tension in the bottom of the ninth out of the mix.

By Josh: Impossible to state how big a pitch Josh Sborz made after replacing Eovaldi with one out in the seventh and the tying run on base. Sborz quickly fell behind Michael Brantley 2-0, then evened the count with a pair of 95 mph fastballs down and on the black. At 2-2, he got a late-breaking curveball under the barrel of Brantley’s bat for a grounder to second on which Marcus Semien began a double play. Sborz may not have started or finished the game, but his bridgework was exceptional.

Jonah and the whale of a hit: The story of the series entering Sunday had been that the Astros had simply executed better in more big situations than had the Rangers. Jonah Heim’s two-out, opposite field homer in the fourth shed light on how that has influenced the series. The Rangers entered the inning 5 for 24 with two outs and men on base; Houston entered the game 10 for 29 in those situations. In big moments, the Astros had executed better.

El Bombi, the bad guy: Astros fans have found themselves a villain. The crowd at Minute Maid Park lustfully booed Adolis García even before he was introduced ahead of his first inning at-bat. You know the story: García hit that big homer in Game 5, then tried to fight Martín Maldonado after he was hit with the first pitch in his next at-bat by Bryan Abreu. Benches cleared. Etc. Etc. Etc. The effort was spontaneous and impressive. And, look, every rivalry needs a good villain. Rangers fans, of course, have Jose Altuve.

It seemed to culminate with an eighth inning at-bat against Abreu, who on Sunday appealed the two-game suspension he had been handed a day earlier. Abreu won the battle with a slider that García was well ahead of. García may have been rattled by all the booing. Or maybe not. He did, after all, issue a final thrust into the Astros with the ninth-inning grand slam.

Calling Evan: The most interesting lineup call of the game was whether to start Evan Carter, who had moved up to No. 3 in the order in recent games, against a left-hander. Bochy opted to stick with his platoon, going with Robbie Grossman to face left-hander Framber Valdez to start the game. But he did not waste time going to Carter. When the Rangers took a lead in the top of the fourth, the game immediately became about run prevention and Carter, the superior defender, went to left for the bottom of the inning. Carter has simply not faced lefties since his early September callup. He was just 1 for 15 over September and the playoffs. He struck out against Valdez to end the fifth.

Carter reached on an infield single in the top of the eighth, stole second and later scored an insurance run on Mitch Garver’s double. Garver was 3 for 4 with a second-inning home run that tied the game 1-1.