HOUSTON -- There is no player competing in the 2023 American League Championship Series who embodies the Lone Star State more than Astros closer Ryan Pressly, who was born in Dallas, has a tattoo of the state on his back and is seldom seen not wearing cowboy boots off the field.
Heck, Pressly’s wife, Kat, is a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader who grew up in Houston. It doesn’t get more Texas than that.
When it comes to Space City vs. the Metroplex, though, there’s no question where Pressly’s allegiance lies -- he’s hoping his Astros can end the Rangers’ season in the coming days in a Texas-sized ALCS. The Astros will have home-field advantage in the best-of-seven series, beginning with Game 1 on Sunday night at Minute Maid Park.
“It’s going to be rowdy, but I think the crowd is going to be 50-50 when we’re up there [in Arlington],” Pressly said. “It will be fun. I’m excited to be able to go back up there and play some baseball.”
If the Astros are going to get past the Rangers and advance to their third consecutive World Series -- and fifth in seven years -- Pressly will be called upon to get some big outs, but he’s proven to be up for the challenge of October.
Pressly’s 13 career postseason saves are the fifth-most in Major League history, trailing Mariano Rivera (42), Kenley Jansen (20), Brad Lidge (18) and Dennis Eckersley (15). No one has saved more games in the postseason without a blown save than Pressly, who was 6-for-6 in last year’s run to the World Series title.
“I think it's just another game,” Pressly said. “You try to keep things as simple as you possibly can when you're out there. You don't want to try to do too much or overthink things. It's just the same game, like I said earlier this year. It's just a lot more people are watching.”
Pressly, 34, was drafted by the Red Sox in 2007 out of Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas, and would have attended Texas Tech if he hadn’t signed with Boston. He began his professional career as a starter before making the move to relief. He pitched five seasons in the Twins’ bullpen before the Astros acquired him in 2018 to bolster their bullpen.
In his first game with Houston on July 28, 2018, Rougned Odor of the Rangers rocked him for a homer.
“I was like, ‘I could have done this in Minnesota,’” Pressly said.
The Astros were wooed by Pressly’s spin rate on his curveball, as well as his fastball. He changed how he used his pitches and moved into the closer’s role in 2020. He’s become one of the most dominant and accomplished relief pitchers in baseball.
Pressly notched his 100th save with the Astros on July 25 against the Rangers, becoming the fourth pitcher in club history to reach that mark. Only Billy Wagner (225), Dave Smith (199) and Lidge (123) have more saves in an Astros uniform.
“Like my dad always told me, ‘Just keep your head down, and then when you look up at the end of your career, you'll see what you've done,’” Pressly said. “I never thought I'd get to 100 saves. I mean, you got to be good for a long time to do that. And you're on a team like this, and they just win. And then you have the personnel surrounding you, and it just makes you that much better. I never thought I'd get there, but I'm glad I did.”
Since joining Houston, Pressly has been named to a pair of All-Star teams and posted the longest scoreless-appearance streak in Major League history -- 40 games -- from Aug. 15, 2018, to May 24, 2019. He’s also been scoreless in 36 of his 43 career postseason appearances with the Astros, including the final three outs in the clincher over the Phillies in last year’s World Series.
“There's not a greater feeling in the world and seeing every single one of your teammates [rushing] to you to celebrate,” Pressly said. “So I'll never forget that for the rest of my life, especially seeing the ball land in [Kyle] Tucker's glove, too. It's the greatest feeling in the world.”
Earlier this year, Pressly reached 10 years of service time and was gifted -- what else? -- a pair of custom-made boots. The boots featured the Astros logo on the front of one boot and a Twins logo on the front of the other. The back of the boots featured the All-Star Game logos in 2019 and ’21.
“I wear boots probably about 99 percent of the time,” he said. “It’s pretty special to get something like that. I don’t think I’ll ever wear them, obviously. It will be something I have in my man cave, and hopefully a lot of people ask about them when they come over to the house.”