Mitch Garver had not played in any of the three previous playoff games that the Texas Rangers have had this October. That is until manager Bruce Bochy decided to make the switch from Robbie Grossman as the teams designated hitter and third hitter in the lineup, and inserted Garver into the starting lineup for Game 2 of the ALDS. Garver answered the call and delivered the biggest hit in a wild 11 to 8 victory for the Rangers.
Garver was one of the hottest hitters in the second half of the season for Texas and it was a bit curious that he had not gotten into the starting lineup through those first three playoff games. Bochy had decided to go with the switch hitting Robbie Grossman, and because of the lack of production, it was time to shake it.
For the day, Garver ended up going 2 for 6, struck out once, scored two runs, drove in five, and had one home run that happened to be of the grand slam variety. His first at bat is when he struck out against Baltimore's starting pitcher, Grayson Rodriguez. While the result was a strikeout, Garver looked comfortable at the plate but swung over the top of a nasty changeup from the rookie hurler from Nacogdoches, TX.
In the top of the second inning, Garver found himself back up at the plate. This is where the decision to have him in the lineup started to payoff. Not because of a sharply hit ball, but because of an excuse me dribbler back to the pitcher. There was one out and runners at the corners, so the struck ball got people moving. At the end of the play, a run had scored and Garver found himself standing safely on first base.
The top of the third inning was when Garver really announced his presence to the playoffs. After Corey Seager had walked for the third time in three innings, Garver strolled from the on-deck circle with the bases loaded. Jacob Webb had been summoned from the bullpen to face the big power hitter. Garver worked the count to 3-1 and was sitting dead red on the next offering, and he didn't miss. He deposited the center cut fastball into the leftfield seats for a grand slam. The home run was Garver's first in postseason play and took much of the wind out of the Orioles sails and put the Rangers out in front by a score of 9 to 2.
"I got a good pitch to hit, honestly. I was a little hesitant on the first pitch. I was kind of looking for the slider. Wasn't quite where I wanted it. Worked myself into a count where I could get a fastball. I had a feeling he wasn't going to go offspeed in a 3-1 count with the bases loaded, so I took my shot."- Mitch Garver
There would be yet another opportunity for Garver to hit with the bases loaded. In the top of the fifth, Garver came up with nobody out and the bases juiced once again. He grounded the ball to Gunnar Henderson at third base who stepped on the bag and threw to first to record a double play. Leody Taveras scored on the play, but because of the double play, Garver was not credited with a run batted in. In his other two at bats, Garver would fly out, but he had good swings and seemed to be seeing the ball well.
It will be imperative for Garver to keep hitting as this postseason run continues. Corey Seager set a record for the most times reaching base via a walk, in playoff history. The Orioles pitchers were struggling with command yesterday, but they have made it clear that they will not let Seager beat them. That mindset is going to mean that Garver will continue to find himself in big moments.
Yesterday he came through and had a memorable day for the Texas Rangers who are on the brink of advancing to the ALCS for the first time since 2011. If they are to keep advancing, Garver will need to continue to hit and do damage at the top of the Rangers lineup.