Well, it seemed unlikely that the Rangers would just straight up sweep through the entire month of October. Finally, after starting their postseason run with seven consecutive wins, they are staring at some adversity.
Tonight’s starter Max Scherzer couldn’t make any assurances as to what his performance would be like after missing over a month of action. As it turns out, it, uh... wasn’t great. Scherzer’s stuff seemed fine, as he hit 95 MPH with his fastball and he sometimes had a decent looking breaker, but the command wasn’t there as one might expect after such a layoff without in-game rehab action to shake off the rust.
In total, Scherzer lasted a generous four innings and allowed five runs on five hits with a walk, a run-scoring wild pitch, and four strikeouts in 63 pitches. It started out ok as he needed just eight adrenaline-fueled pitches for a spotless 1st but the Astros got to him for a three spot in the top of the 2nd. The most regrettable part of that inning was the Astros did most of that damage from the bottom of their lineup, with barely-sentient-with-bat Martin Maldonado driving in a couple with a clutch two-out hit.
After another run in the 3rd — a solo home run by Jose Altuve — and the fifth run in his final frame in the 4th, Scherzer’s night was in the books and Texas was tasked with finding five runs of offense and getting five innings from the bullpen ahead of another tricky game tomorrow night. They eventually did the former, but the latter was always going to be a problem.
That ‘pen held Houston at bay for a few innings but with the soft underbelly in the game, you knew it was just a matter of time. They got some help from Leody Taveras who made the catch of the postseason thus far to rob Yordan Alvarez of seemingly his 100th dinger of these playoffs.
They did not get Alvarez the next time up, however, as Will Smith walked the bases loaded to face the hottest hitter on the planet before Houston’s October legend predictably drove in two more runs to further put the game out of reach. The Astros added insurance in the 8th off Jon Gray, who was making his relief and postseason debut.
Alas, with not much cookin’ at home by the lineup in innings not featuring Nathaniel Lowe and Josh Jung, Texas dropped their first game since the regular season finale and their first game of this series. Now it’s time to see if they can bounce back.
Player of the Game: The Rangers didn’t have a hit off Astros starter Cristian Javier until the bottom of the 5th, however, Jung followed Lowe’s hit column ice breaker with a two-run dong that momentarily provided some hope while helping Texas avoid the shutout.
The next time those two were up, Lowe singled and Jung homered again. If only they could have batted every inning.
Up Next: Game 4 of the ALCS with two TBDs for starting pitchers. The Rangers will likely opt for RHP Dane Dunning or LHP Andrew Heaney or a tandem of both while the Astros will likely turn to RHP Jose Urquidy as they did in Game 4 of the ALDS.
The Thursday evening first pitch from The Shed is scheduled for 7:03 pm CT and will be aired on FS1.