Texas will be playing in a game seven coming off the high of winning game six 9-2. It was a total team effort to not only win, but to bounce back after the devestating game five loss. This team if people did not know already has a mental toughness to them. Not every team comes back and wins the game tonight, especially on the road. Texas is not your typical team. They are not burdened by the historic failures of this organization. The two best examples of this are Adolis Garcia and Jose Leclerc and how they responded to the game five loss.
Adolis "BOOOOO" Garcia
The Astros fans have found their villain in this series and it is Adolis Garcia. He was booed during pre-game introductions. He was booed every time he came to the plate, He was booed when he stepped out of the batters box. Fans were holding signs that said, "Free Bryan Abreu". This was all a reaction to what happened in game five between Garcia's three-run home run and his celebration afterward to the hit-by-pitch and brawl that ensued.
Garcia for most of this game looked like he let it get to him. He was taking huge swings and trying to hit the train tracks with every pitch he swung at. It was not working. He struck out in his first four at-bats much to the delight of the Astros fans. The whole game they would boo until he struck out and then immediately it would turn to cheers as he walked back to the dugout.
Texas came to bat in the ninth and there was no guarantee he would get an at-bat. Josh Jung led off with a walk, Leody Taveras followed up by reaching on an error, Semien singled to load the bases. There were still no outs, At this point it was very likely Garcia would get an at-bat. Seager was then took a baseball off his shin to score a run.
Garcia then came to the plate to face Ryne Stanek with the bases loaded and still no outs. He is 3-10 in his career against Stanek with two doubles, one single, and just one RBI against the right-hander. This time he swung at a pitch around his head for strike one, but then he laid off a pitch inside for ball one. The count was 1-1 and Stanek came high and over the plate this time and Garcia did this,
No one was booing after that home run. They all were quiet as he rounded the bases for the fourth time in this series. He handed Texas a 9-2 lead. He was not only one who had to get back up after a difficult end to game five.
The maturation of Jose Leclerc
This has been quite the journey for Jose Leclerc from fans wanting him to be DFA'd in April and May to now being the reliant closer that this team has been searching for throughout the 2023 season. Leclerc always had the stuff, but it often seemed like in big moments he would pitch timidly. He would not attack the strike zone and rely on hitters chasing pitches to get outs. That would lead to walks, runs scoring, and blown save opportunities. It took Leclerc till probably September for him to earn Bochy's trust back fully.
Leclerc has the trust of everyone in the organization. He did not come through in game five. He gave up the three run home run on a pitch that was left over the plate and Texas lost 5-4. He did not lose Bochy's trust because of that pitch. In game six he was put back out there with runners on base in a two-run game with the chance that he could blow it again. He faced some of the same hitters as well in Maurcio Dubon and Jon Singleton. Rangers' fans across the country I am sure expected to see him blow the lead with a base hit or a home run.
Leclerc did not melt down, he locked it down. He retired Dubon on the third pitch with a 67mph soft line drive to Seager. Then he went up against Singleton who he walked in game five. This time he mixed up his pitches and was inside and outside the strike zone. He used his fastball, sinker, cutter, and slider in the at-bat. The count got to 3-2 and he was pumping 97mph fastballs in the strike zone. Finally on the eighth pitch he threw a 3-2 cutter at the top of the zone.
He struck him out to end the inning and shut down the threat. This at-bat and the situation surrounding the at-bat shows just how far Leclerc has come since the beginning of the season. The velocity is back with Leclerc as he is normally around 98-99mph now. That velocity return has helped the rest of his pitches be much more effective.
His appearance in game six and the success he had showed an amazing amount of resiliance. Not every pitcher would have bounced back like Leclerc did. This Rangers team is different. Win or lose in game seven this is a different era of Texas Rangers baseball. These players like Leclerc and Garcia are not afraid of the moment. That is why I think they have a realistic shot to win game seven and advance to the third World Series in franchise history. The resiliance of this team will be what gives them the shot to respond to anything Houston throws at them in this win or go home game.