Garver's clutch HR propels Rangers into 3-way tie for first

August 30th, 2023

NEW YORK -- Earlier during the Rangers’ current three-city road trip, Marcus Semien stepped up and challenged his teammates. That challenge, according to , was seemingly simple: “Can we win a tight game? Can we come from behind? Can we win with a two-run lead and just lock it down?”

For a team that's been so good all year long, Texas entered this week’s series against the Mets 0-47 when trailing after eight innings and 9-18 in one-run games. But this week, the Rangers stepped up to Semien’s challenge, taking the series in New York with a pair of one-run wins, including a 2-1 victory on Tuesday night at Citi Field behind a big day at the plate from Garver.

The Mariners lost to the A's and the Astros defeated the Red Sox, so the Rangers are now in a three-way tie for first place in the American League West. With head-to-head record determining tiebreakers in the standings, Texas has the edge over Seattle, 5-1, with seven games remaining between the clubs. The Rangers are 4-6 vs. Houston and would need to sweep the final series between the teams from Sept. 4-6 to hold the tiebreaker.

“This one was good for us,” Garver said. “We had to win without the three-run homer, without the crooked number really. We kind of just scratched a few across and our pitching did good work. … We definitely have the offense to be able to capitalize in late innings.”

Garver’s solo home run in the seventh inning -- his fourth of this road trip and fifth in his last 10 games -- broke a scoreless tie to give Texas the lead for good.

He then walked and scored an insurance run in the top of the ninth on Ezequiel Duran’s RBI single, which proved to be vital since the Mets avoided the shutout with a solo homer from Mark Vientos in the bottom half of the frame.

“I can’t say enough about what he’s been doing,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I think if you look at our lineup, we’re not quite clicking like we did early. So you need somebody swinging the bat well, and that's what he's doing for us.

“This changes from week to week with these good hitters we have, but until that happens, you need somebody to come through for you. That's what he's been doing. He’s had a good road trip. That's what we need, especially when you're playing tight ballgames. You need somebody to get a hold of one, and he's done a nice job of that.”

Garver has struggled with injuries throughout his two seasons in Texas, never quite reaching his peak offensive potential. He played in just 54 games in 2022 after undergoing season-ending right forearm surgery in July. He then landed on the injured list with a left knee sprain just two weeks into the ‘23 season.

Now fully healthy for the first time in his Texas tenure, Garver looks like the offense-first catcher the Rangers wanted. In August, he’s slashing .317/.404/.659 with eight homers and 16 RBIs in 23 games, which is by far his best month as a Ranger.

“I think that's fair to say [that I feel like the best version of myself],” he said. “I'm feeling like I'm reaching back to my potential as the player that I believe I can be, the player I was a few years ago. It's still in there. It's not gone. It's just a matter of getting back out there and making it happen.”

While Garver’s contributions sparked the win, both he and Bochy emphasized that good stretches always start with good pitching. That’s something the Rangers were missing during their recent eight-game losing streak.

Tuesday night, the pitching staff stepped up, just as it did in the series opener against the Mets. Rangers starter Andrew Heaney went toe to toe with Mets starter José Quintana to keep the game scoreless through six innings, and the bullpen came through to keep New York at bay long enough for Texas to scratch across a couple of runs.

“I think you saw it in a very tight ballgame because we faced a guy that was on top of his game,” Bochy said. “I thought this would be a close game, a low-scoring game. These guys rose to the occasion. Obviously, you want to bust out and score a bunch of runs, but if not, you want to play well in the close ballgame, which we did.”