Rangers take Game 1 with help from red-hot rookie duo

Carter (RBI double) continues historic start to postseason, Jung hits 1st playoff homer

October 8th, 2023

BALTIMORE -- For a team led by two big-name free agents at the top of the lineup all season, it says a lot that the Rangers’ day was once again driven by a pair of homegrown rookies this postseason.

The rookie duo of Josh Jung and Evan Carter powered the Rangers’ offense to a 3-2 victory over the Orioles, and Texas silenced a sold-out crowd of 46,450 at Camden Yards during Game 1 of the ALDS on Saturday.

The win was a big one, shifting home-field advantage the Rangers’ way. In all best-of-five postseason series, Game 1 winners have gone on to take the series 105 of 148 times (71%). In Division Series with the current 2-2-1 format, teams that have won Game 1 on the road have advanced 30 of 42 times (also 71%).

Carter (RBI double) and Jung (solo homer) each had just one hit, but they were the two biggest knocks of the day for Texas. Both now have four extra-base hits this postseason, which is tied for the most by a rookie in his first three career postseason games with Luis Arraez (2019) and Charlie Keller (1939).

Neither Carter or Jung has shied away from the big moments.

“I think they go about it two different ways,” veteran second baseman Marcus Semien said. “Josh Jung came up last year and struggled a little bit. A lot more swing and miss. And he showed up at Spring Training very hungry. His work ethic is top notch. … I think I'm still learning about Evan. What I've learned about him is that he's very calm in the big moments, and that's very rare.”

Carter played in just 23 regular-season games for the Rangers, but he quickly emerged as a key cog in what was already one of the best offenses in the Majors.

In the first three games of his postseason career, he hasn’t slowed down a bit.

With two walks and an RBI double, Carter became the first player in AL/NL history to reach base three times in three straight playoff games before turning 22 years old.

The Rangers’ top prospect and the No. 8 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline when he made his big league debut on Sept. 8, Carter reached base in his first six plate appearances in his club’s Wild Card Series sweep of the Rays, which was the second-longest such streak in a player’s postseason debut, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“First of all, Evan is an outstanding kid,” designated hitter Robbie Grossman said. “He's a heck of a player. Tools aside, you watch his at-bats, he takes them like a seasoned big leaguer. It's refreshing and fun to watch for someone so young thrown right into the fire. I'm happy for him, because he's playing well for us right now.”

Carter’s fourth-inning double put the Rangers on the board first, and made Carter, at 21 years and 39 days old, the third-youngest player in postseason history with four extra-base hits in a three-game span, per MLB.com’s Sarah Langs. Only Miguel Cabrera, who was 20 years and 169 days old when he did it with the 2003 World Series champion Marlins, and Juan Soto, who was 20 years and 355 days old with the 2019 World Series champion Nationals, were younger.

Carter, however, stands alone as the youngest player with four extra-base hits in the first three postseason games of his MLB career.

“I've said so many things about him, I don't know what else to say,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “This kid has handled himself so well. Being in the postseason, he still has that calmness and that confidence that he plays with. He's a gifted hitter, he's got a great eye at the plate and it works. We moved him to the five-hole and it didn't faze him one bit. He went out there and took some great at-bats. He just sees the ball so well.”

With the breakout of Carter, it’s easy to forget about Jung, who was an AL Rookie of the Year frontrunner before a fractured left thumb landed him on the injured list from Aug. 7 to Sept. 18.

Jung’s home run in the sixth inning would ultimately be the game-winner, as he became just the third Rangers rookie to homer in a postseason game, along with Carter (in Game 2 of the WC Series) and Mitch Moreland (2010). Jung has collected an RBI in each of Texas’ first three postseason games, which is tied for the third-longest streak in club history.

“So far, so good,” Jung said. “It’s baseball, though. I struggled pretty hard the last week and a half [of the regular season]. Games like today, when the team comes out with the big victory, you can't help but just stay confident.”

For a club that’s seemingly built on and around Semien and Corey Seager, the Rangers have thrived so far this postseason on the backs of their youthful duo.

“I just think it's exciting for the future of our franchise that we have these guys that come through our system,” said general manager Chris Young. “It's a tribute to our amateur scouting and player development groups that they are helping us compete for a World [Series] championship and making an impact. It's just an all-around team effort and I'm really proud of our organization in terms of our ability to have impact players that are reaching the big leagues. Hopefully this is just the beginning.”