Altuve's 3-run HR in 9th has Astros 1 win away from World Series

October 21st, 2023

ARLINGTON -- It will go down as one of the most improbable comebacks and dramatic wins in the golden era of Astros baseball, and, of course, it was who further cemented his postseason legend with one of the biggest home runs of his career.

The Astros are one win away from reaching the World Series for the third year in a row after Altuve launched a stunning go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth inning off Rangers closer José Leclerc for a 5-4 come-from-behind victory in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on an emotional Friday night at Globe Life Field.

“It was an incredible baseball game,” Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said. “Two of the best teams in the world competing. Just super fortunate to come out on top.”

Tempers were on the rise in the eighth as the benches cleared, leading to the ejection of two players and Astros manager Dusty Baker. The dustup seemed to spark the Astros, who pulled out the win in the ninth on Altuve’s 26th career playoff homer. It may have been his biggest yet.

“Yeah, I got to say this one, because it just happened and I still have the emotions, the adrenaline in me,” he said. “Yeah, it was a cool moment, and because we ended up winning.”

The Astros still had work to do, though, and closer Ryan Pressly, who was thrust into the game with two runners on base and no outs in the eighth following the ejection of reliever Bryan Abreu, allowed two singles to start the ninth before recording three consecutive outs.

“We play for each other,” Pressly said. “I love this team, and every time we go out there, we try to win, obviously, but it’s just a different animal in this clubhouse. But it’s fun to watch and fun to be a part of.”

The defending champs lead the ALCS, 3-2, heading to Houston for Game 6. The Astros will send lefty Framber Valdez to the mound for Sunday’s Game 6 at Minute Maid Park, where the Astros have gone 7-20 in their last 27 games, winning consecutive games only twice in that span (since Aug. 13). Houston has never lost an ALCS Game 6 (4-0), including 3-0 at home.

Teams ahead 3-2 in any best-of-seven postseason series have gone on to win 79 of 112 times (71%), and it’s about the same for teams that win Game 5 with the series tied at 2-2 (46 of 65, also 71%). In series with the current 2-3-2 format, teams taking a 3-2 lead by winning Game 5 on the road -- before going home for Games 6-7 -- have taken the series 20 of 25 times (80%). However, it’s worth noting that the 2019 Astros are the only team to ever win Games 3, 4 and 5 on the road but still lose the series, doing so in the World Series against the Nationals.

The Rangers took a 4-2 lead in the sixth when Adolis García clubbed a towering three-run homer off Astros starter Justin Verlander. When García, who spiked his bat and slowly rounded the bases, came to bat in the eighth, he was struck on the left arm by the first pitch thrown by Abreu.

"My plan for him was to try to get the ball up and in,” Abreu said. “That's my plan on him -- up and in, slider down and away and all that. But I just missed the pitch, and he overreacted. I was like, 'What's going on here?' I just missed it."

García immediately turned to catcher Martín Maldonado in protest and both benches emptied, though no punches were thrown. The game was delayed nearly 12 minutes as the umpiring crew sorted out the ejections.

“In that situation, we’re down [two runs],” Maldonado said. “We have a chance to come back in one of the most important games of the series. I would say he didn’t try to hit nobody.”

When asked if it fired the Astros up, Maldonado said, “Yes, of course it did.”

The ninth-inning rally began behind a pair of pinch-hitters -- Yainer Diaz singled and Jon Singleton drew a walk in his first plate appearance since Oct. 1. That set the stage for Altuve, who clubbed an 0-1 changeup from Leclerc and sent it over the left-field wall to put the Astros ahead.

Astros players, before the backdrop of a stunned crowd, poured up the dugout steps and over the railings in celebration. Three outs later, the Astros were on the verge of yet another trip to the Fall Classic.

“Everybody was so fired up,” Bregman said. “Obviously, we knew the game wasn’t over, because they’ve got a really good team over there and as you saw, they put two guys on in the ninth. Everyone was just super excited and happy to score some runs there off a really tough pitcher. He’s one of the best pitchers in the world. Just try to stay focused and get three outs.”