Nick Solak was asked a question after scoring the winning run in the Rangers’ 3-2, 10-inning victory over the Astros at Globe Life Field on Sunday.
The question was: “When you were the winning run on third base, and they pitched to Adolis García, did you think the game was over?”
A knowing grin formed on Solak’s face.
“I was getting ready to score,” he said. “I had a good idea that he was going to win the game for us.”
And after what García had done in the previous two games -- and over the previous five weeks -- who wouldn’t?
García was Texas’ catalyst throughout the entire weekend, launching a walk-off home run in the series opener Friday before belting two more homers in Saturday’s victory. On Sunday, he hit a sharp ground ball up the middle that was snared by a drawn-in Jose Altuve, who had no chance at throwing out Solak as he crossed the plate with a proverbial broom in hand to signify a sweep.
García is one of the hottest clutch hitters on the planet right now. Rangers manager Chris Woodward figured the same thought was going through Astros reliever Ryan Pressly’s head with first base open, but even so, García got something to put the bat on. It was a 97 mph fastball on the hands, but García got the job done.
“The guy's got confidence,” Woodward said of García. “He's got more confidence than probably anyone in baseball right now. Hindsight's 20-20. [Pressly] may have punched him out with a couple of quality pitches. I don't know. I felt like he made a quality pitch and [García] still hit it and ended the game. So I'm not going to second-guess anybody, but I was a little bit surprised."
It may have been surprising that García got anything to swing at, but what wasn’t surprising was the result. Since he was called up from the Rangers’ alternate training site on April 13, the rookie center fielder is tied for the American League lead in home runs with 14. And many of those homers have come at just the right time. It didn’t need to be a homer Sunday -- a single would do. And García delivered.
As did Texas’ starting pitcher Sunday, Mike Foltynewicz. The right-hander was coming off three outings over which his ERA was 7.04, and while he had shown glimpses of success sprinkled in with rough outings in 2021, he desperately needed a strong performance. He made it happen, yielding just three hits while walking two and striking out two on a season-high 107 pitches. It was Foltynewicz’s first scoreless start of any length since Sept. 20, 2019, when he threw eight scoreless frames for the Braves.
“In our game -- we’ve gotta forget things really quickly,” Foltynewicz said.
That certainly applied to his recent starts heading into Sunday. It also applied to the Rangers on Friday as they prepared to open a series against their in-state rivals. That’s because two days earlier, Texas’ lineup was no-hit for the second time in six weeks, this time by the Yankees’ Corey Kluber.
And that wasn’t all the Rangers needed to wipe from their short-term memories -- Texas had lost nine of its previous 10 games, and its lineup had endured a period of 24 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings.
Then came this weekend. Globe Life Field was filled nearly to the brim in each game, with more than 100,000 fans passing through the turnstiles to watch the Lone Star Series resume after the Astros swept the Rangers in a four-game set at Minute Maid Park the prior weekend.
In returning the favor, the Rangers may just have experienced the right confluence of fan energy, clutch heroics and success on the scoreboard to turn things around before they hit the road for nine games beginning Tuesday in Anaheim.
“Heading into the off-day, we talked about having played 46 games in 48 days,” Woodward said. “To finish like that? I was a little worried after the last three games in New York -- and I talked about it openly -- there may be a little bit of burnout mentally, physically. That we would kind of limp into that off-day. But the way these guys played the last three days, the human spirit was in full form. Our guys are fighting their butts off out there.”
Sunday’s victory was déjà vu all over again for Texas, right down to the postgame press conference with Woodward -- García’s the hero and the Rangers beat the Astros.
Woodward didn’t mind.
“We can do that every day if you want,” he said.