HOUSTON -- Overwhelming boos turned into deafening silence, and Adolis García took his time rounding the bases again.
The Rangers’ slugger sealed his team’s 9-2 win over the Astros in Sunday night’s Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, quieting the Minute Maid Park crowd with a ninth-inning grand slam that helped force a winner-take-all Game 7.
It was the latest chapter in what has become a remarkable feud between García and the Astros, two days after García and Houston reliever Bryan Abreu started a benches-clearing incident in Arlington.
“If there's one guy I want to play in hostile conditions, I think it's Doli,” said Mitch Garver. “And he showed it tonight.”
The home fans made it hostile, all right.
Roughly two hours after it was announced that Abreu would appeal his two-game suspension for intentionally throwing at García in Game 5, the Houston faithful made sure to express their feelings, relentlessly booing García through all 22 pitches he saw Sunday night.
The pressure seemed to get to García, who struck out four times in his first four at-bats. Then, he struck back.
“That’s just baseball justice at its finest right there,” said Jonah Heim. “I mean, they're booing them all game and he kind of puts the game on ice.”
García hit that Ryne Stanek fastball with authority, sending it to the left-field seats at an exit velocity of 110.1 mph, according to Statcast. He remained unapologetically himself in that moment, too, holding his bat halfway to first base before carelessly tossing it aside and picking up a leisurely trot.
This one clocked in at 29.8 seconds, a sprint compared to his 30.5-second trot time in Game 5. By the time García reached home plate, the score had changed from 5-2 to 9-2, and a good chunk of Astros fans had already left their seats.
“I've never played outfield. I know [visiting players] get yelled at all night,” Marcus Semien said of García’s big night. “I'm sure it was crazy. And then at the plate, it's the ALCS and Houston Astros fans have been here [before]. They tried to do everything they can to get in our heads. It's a great swing by him to quiet everybody down.”
García became the first player in postseason history with four strikeouts and a grand slam in the same game. This wasn’t his first time this year coming up clutch after such a showing, though. The right fielder hit a walk-off home run against the Twins on Sept. 3 at Globe Life Field after whiffing in his first four at-bats.
But that instance happened at home, with fans on his side from the get-go.
“I don’t know how you can boo someone for getting hit,” said Heim. “But it is what it is. He kind of quieted them pretty quickly there, so it’s great to see.”
Heim had his own shining moment in Game 6, hitting a go-ahead two-run homer in the fourth inning. That ball traveled a Statcast-projected 336 feet to right field with just enough carry to elude the glove of Kyle Tucker.
It was Heim’s second homer of the postseason, and it would have been an out in 28 of 30 MLB ballparks -- anywhere except Minute Maid Park and Yankee Stadium. But the Rangers will take them in whatever way they come right now, as guys like Semien and Corey Seager continue to struggle to find their power in this series.
That was also what made a night like Garver’s so important. The Rangers’ DH was a triple shy of the cycle, hitting a game-tying opposite-field home run in the top of the second and adding an RBI double in the eighth. It added to a stellar October for Garver, who now has 10 RBIs in eight postseason games.
Texas has needed all of those contributions, as unusual as they may seem, in a drama-filled Silver Boot ALCS.
“I've said it [from] the middle of August, it's going to be a dogfight all the way to the end,” said Garver. “Really, really good ballclubs on both sides. They have pitching, they have hitting, but so do we. It's one game to settle it all, and I think everyone is excited for that.”
García wasn’t available for questions after Game 6, but you don’t need to ask about his excitement level. Just watch the way he bangs his chest and points to the sky whenever he sends one to the stands.