HOUSTON -- At this point, who could fault Adolis García for stopping and staring?
The Rangers’ cleanup hitter made history in the 2023 American League Championship Series, capped by a two-homer, five-RBI night in an 11-4 Game 7 win over the Astros on Monday. García’s 15 runs driven in became a new postseason best for a single series, and the records didn’t stop there.
As committed as García was to sharing the glory with his teammates, when he hoisted the ALCS Most Valuable Player trophy at Minute Maid Park, the moment was his to savor. He did so with the same flair he’s sported all through the postseason.
“There’s no denying it: October is different,” García said in Spanish after the Rangers’ pennant-winning victory. “In every sense: The emotions, the fans, it’s all different. But I feel good. Thanks to God, I’ve been able to control my emotions and try to do what I always do.”
Controlling emotions isn’t the same as containing them.
García’s emphatic bat flips and deliberate home run trots are an inextricable part of his success, because they’re part of who he is. For Rangers fans, those antics have become a thrilling staple of their team’s postseason run. For opponents -- the Astros most of all -- that behavior is something easy to single out, to draw motivation from. These storylines are always more fun with a villain.
El Bombi has played the part brilliantly. That pair of Game 7 blasts -- one to each side of the outfield -- gave García four straight games with a home run, the fourth-longest streak in postseason history. He continued to celebrate them as he usually does: By admiring his work, then pumping up his teammates in the dugout as he saunters to home plate, showered by boos from the Houston faithful.
“There was a moment in the first game after his second at-bat,” bench coach Donnie Ecker said of García, “I walked up to him and said, ‘The only other player I’ve seen get booed like this on the road is Michael Jordan. Like, dude, how lucky are you?' It just brought out the best in him. [He's] such a special person, I can’t even quantify it.”
Allow the stats to do some quantifying: García’s 20 RBIs so far are tied for second most in a single postseason, trailing only David Freese’s 21 in 2011. García shares the 20 mark with teammate Corey Seager, who did it with the Dodgers in 2020.
The difference is García only needed 12 games to do it, while Freese and Seager reached their marks in 20 postseason contests. With at least four more on tap, chances are the 30-year-old García will add yet another record to his name.
“He's just a talented guy,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “I’m not surprised by anything. Defensively, offensively, we're lucky to have him.”
As for that single-series RBI record García broke? The guy who held it before him was none other than former Ranger Nelson Cruz, who had 13 in the 2011 ALCS.
Not bad for an undrafted free agent twice designated for assignment in his Major League career.
“It’s been a very long way here,” said García. “We all know about the sacrifices we have to make to get to the Major Leagues. I never dreamed that I would play in a World Series, but thanks to God, He put me in the right place, with the right team, and so here we are today.”
A Ciego de Ávila, Cuba, native, García left his home country in 2016 to play in Japan. The next year, he joined the Cardinals, who DFA’d and dealt him to the Rangers in ‘19. García was DFA’d again two seasons later, but he found his way back to Texas’ roster.
By April 2021, he was Rookie of the Month. Now, he’s a two-time All-Star and ALCS MVP.
“I’m someone, like so many others, who has been through a lot,” said García. “I came from a different country with a dream to make it here. I wasn’t able to succeed earlier on in my career, but I didn’t give up. And it’s been worth it.”
It’s also made him an example to follow in the clubhouse, even if that’s not the first thing that comes to mind.
"He's a leader,” said Marcus Semien. “People don't talk about him as a leader. He's a leader, especially for the Latin guys. For all our players and fans to see what he did in the biggest moments with all the fans yelling out and it's pretty, it's pretty special.”
So, García has earned the right to admire his work from time to time -- though that trend can spark some visceral reactions.
That’s what allegedly prompted García to get plunked by a Bryan Abreu fastball in Game 5 at Globe Life Field, where the Rangers’ slugger took a glacial 30.5 seconds to round the bases after hitting a go-ahead home run. That was followed by a well-documented benches-clearing incident, and it only added fuel to the rivalry between the two Texas teams vying for a World Series berth.
“When you wake Adolis up, you better be careful,” said Jonah Heim. “You’re playing with fire there.”
But the Astros didn’t start the fire. It was burning since long before the calendar flipped to October.