Rangers boot Astros in Game 7 to reach 1st World Series since '11

García homers twice with five RBIs to snag ALCS MVP; Bochy taking 3rd club to WS

October 24th, 2023

HOUSTON -- Rangers first baseman sprinted from the stage in center field, carrying a large flag adorned with a “Texas Rangers: American League Champions” logo. He waved the flag in front of hundreds (thousands?) of fans wearing red, white and blue at Minute Maid Park, before disappearing into the clubhouse.

Inside the clubhouse, champagne popped, third-string catcher smoked a cigar with reliever   and the Rangers’ victory playlist blared loudly over the speakers. Texas finally clinched its first American League pennant since 2011 after knocking out the reigning World Series-champion Astros in seven games.

The Rangers did so in emphatic fashion, winning Game 7, 11-4, and dominating the Astros in Houston on the strength of ALCS MVP Adolis García (4-for-5, two homers and five RBIs), whose high-flying homers and flair for the dramatic have been the emotional backbone of this team all season.

“He’s a bad man, ain’t he?" said of García. "He’s been able to come in this atmosphere and do it every at-bat, and [to] do what he did was pretty special. He’s been fun to watch.”

The Rangers will meet the National League champion D-backs in Game 1 of the World Series on Friday night at Globe Life Field.

Texas is a long way from the late-September weekend when it seemed like it was all falling apart. As the regular season came to an end, two wins and the Astros stood between the Rangers and the AL West title. 

The Rangers couldn’t seal the deal, losing the division to the Astros via a tiebreaker, and headed to St. Petersburg to begin their postseason journey in the Wild Card Series.

Three weeks later, two wins and the Astros stood between the Rangers and their first World Series appearance since 2011. After taking the first two games of the ALCS at Minute Maid Park, Texas dropped all three at home to fall behind in a series for the first time this postseason.

The Rangers returned to Houston needing to win the final two games with the pennant on the line. They got them both.

García pointed to Seager’s own fire after his first-inning home run as to what got the entire team going. Seager, normally stoic on the field, rounded the bases after his 440-foot shot, slamming a high-five to third-base coach Tony Beasley and screaming toward his teammates as he made his way to the dugout.

“We’ve had our streaks. We’ve had our injuries," Bochy said. "They keep getting up. To come in here and beat a great club like Houston -- and congrats on their year -- but it’s great to be wearing the horns in Texas.”

For seven years, the Astros have felt inevitable, both in the AL West and in the American League as a whole. Since 2017, Houston has won two World Series championships, two additional pennants and made two more ALCS appearances. During that time, the Rangers turned around six straight losing seasons going into this year. 

After losing the division on the final day of the year to their in-state rival, the Rangers were on a mission to exorcise those Astros demons. They stormed into Minute Maid Park, won every game in enemy territory, and won the pennant. Their run began with a sweep of the Rays and Orioles in the Wild Card Series and ALDS, respectively.

“That's something that I think we're all really proud of,” García said. “We've lost almost 200 games throughout this journey. More than anything, it's not even about beating the Astros or that particular opponent, it's how proud we feel about the journey we've been on and how we've been able to improve to get to this point right now where we're celebrating this victory.”

This Rangers team hasn’t done many things easy this season.

Despite having one of the highest payrolls in baseball, signing superstar after superstar over the last two winters, the Rangers were still in a division with the reigning champion Astros, an upstart Mariners team and an Angels team that has often underachieved but still employs two of the best players of this generation. 

They endured injury after injury, starting with ace tearing his UCL and continuing with five of the club’s six All-Stars landing on the injured list at various overlapping times in the second half. The Rangers bounced back each time, driven by the calming hand of manager Bruce Bochy, who never failed to right the ship.

But Bochy’s greatest managerial feat may be his navigation of the oft-criticized bullpen this postseason. In the regular season, the Rangers had a bullpen ERA of 4.77, the worst among playoff teams. It hasn’t been smooth sailing by any means, but the high-leverage trio of , and has kept Texas in more games than not. 

In Game 7, Bochy even used both of the starting pitchers the Rangers acquired at the Trade Deadline to reinforce the rotation -- and   -- before turning it over to the bullpen. The two combined for five innings and just two runs to stymie the Astros’ high-powered offense.

“[Bochy] has done this so many times, so many times,” Scherzer said. “I'm just a good soldier. Whatever buttons he pushes, I'm down for it because this is the moment that we play for.”

And Leclerc, the longest-tenured Ranger, recorded the final out, a soft ground ball from Kyle Tucker to second baseman Marcus Semien, sending Texas to the World Series. The Rangers believe they can go all the way.

“This is just a winning vibe, it’s a winning club,” Scherzer said. “We're playing our best baseball in October and that's what it takes.”