The Texas Rangers did it again and won their sixth straight postseason road game with a 5-4 win in game two against the Houston Astros. They have now won all seven games they have played in the postseason. Today's win was keyed by the offense scoring four runs in the first inning against Framber Valdez. It was also a result of a great six innings thrown by Nathan Eovaldi. The right-hander had pitched excellent in his first two starts. He went 6 2/3 innings against Tampa Bay to clinch the ALDS. He followed that up with 7 innings against Baltimore in game three to clinch that series. The consistent between those starts was zero walks in either start and only one run allowed in either start. Today would be a much stronger challenge than what he faced against Tampa and Baltimore. Houston's lineup is full of guys who have hit Eovaldi hard throughout his career. Eovaldi was effective today, but when the moment called for it he was great.
Eovaldi and his start in game two
Before Eovaldi stepped foot on the mound Texas had already given him a four run lead. He was able to be in attack mode from pitch one. He retired Houston in order in the first. He was able to avoid having to face Yordan Alvarez till the second inning. Alvarez coming into this game was 8-11 in his career against Eovaldi with a home run and three doubles. He continued that mastery with another home run in the second. In what would the theme of the game it was a solo home run.
Eovaldi did a great job staying away from the big inning. He did give up runs, but never more than one in an inning. He gave up the home run to Alvarez in the second, a solo home run to Alex Bregman in the fourth, and then a Michael Brantley double that scored Alvarez from first in the sixth inning. He never allowed the inning to get away from him. The best example of this was in the fifth inning.
Eovaldi escapes a four-alarm fire in the fifth inning
Eovaldi through four was rolling along having allowed just the two solo home runs to Alvarez and Bregman. Texas was up 5-2 and Eovaldi had not ran in much trouble at all with runners on-base through the first four innings.
In the fifth Brantley led off with a single, was followed by a single from Chas McCormick, and then an error on Josh Jung allowed Jeremy Pena to reach first and load the bases with no outs. The tying run was on first and the lineup was approaching the top of the order. The game was in the balance at this moment. Bochy could have chosen to go to the bullpen to rescue the team in this situation. The Astros could have tied the game or taken the lead with one swing of the bat. It was a dangerous moment.
Bochy decided to stick with Eovaldi and was rewarded with greatness. Eovaldi buckled down and went to work. Dusty Baker decided to sub in his better offensive catch in Yainer Diaz for Martin Maldonado. Diaz had a spectacular offensive season for the Astros in a part-time role. He had 23 home runs on the season. He was a threat to go deep. Eovaldi got behind 2-1 and then went cutter, fastball, and curveball to strike out Diaz swinging. That was the first out.
Next was Jose Altuve representing the top of the order. The potential future Hall of Famer and Astros legend was up with one-out and the bases still loaded, Eovaldi jumped ahead 1-2 on Altuve and then got him swinging on a splitter down and away. That was the second out.
The threat was not neutralized yet though. Bregman had a home run in his previous at-bat. The bases were still loaded and the Astros were still one-hit away from cutting into the lead or even taking the lead. Eovaldi threw a ball to Bregman to go down 1-0. Then he threw a cutter middle-away from Bregman and the third baseman made contact,
Bregman hit a ground ball to third baseman Josh Jung, who made a clean throw to first to end the inning and keep the Astros from scoring a single run. The bases were loaded and zero outs and in the end Eovaldi escapes with zero runs scored.
This situation was the defining moment of the game. Houston went on to score two more runs. Brantley had the RBI-double in the sixth and Alvarez hit his second home run of the game in the eighth to make it 5-4. In the end Leclerc got four outs to close out the game and stake the Rangers to a 2-0 lead heading home.
If Texas can win this series fans will talk about Carter's catch and double play in the eighth inning of game one and Eovaldi's bases loaded escape in game two. Texas' win probablity after Jung's error declined sharply down to 60%. It would be the lowest they would be after the first inning. Then, after Alex Bregman's ground out it shot back up to 87%. It was a V-shaped win probability created because of Eovaldi's brilliance in the high-pressure situation.
Eovaldi's night on the mound
The right-hander would go on to pitch one more inning after the bases-loaded escape. He finished the night with six innings, three runs allowed, nine strikeouts, one walk. He was not as good as Montgomery in game one, but still highly effective. The right-hander stayed away from the big inning. He was able to hand a 5-3 lead to the bullpen. Josh Sborz, Aroldis Chapman, and Jose Leclerc then combined to get the last three innings.
Texas is now setup perfectly to clinch this at home without having to make a return to Houston. They just need to win two of the next three games. No team in baseball history has won an LCS series after losing the first two at home. History is on Texas' side, but they still need to go out there and take it.