Holy cow, this Texas Rangers rollercoaster season is heading to an ALCS Game 7. After the heartbreak of Game 5, the Rangers regrouped and hung tough against the Astros last night until, Adolis Garcia put the score out of reach in the top half of the ninth with an epic redemption grand slam. It should surprise no one that this series is going to the max. Max Scherzer to be precise. The big game pitcher will be on the mound in the biggest game of the year to this point for the Rangers.
Texas Rangers pitching is setup perfect for ALCS Game 7 for Bruce Bochy
Bruce Bochy is known for several things, one is winning World Series titles, and another is managing bullpens. He will be able to have a field day tonight, as he will have access to 12 of his 13 pitchers. The only pitcher that will not be available tonight is Nathan Eovaldi who has won not one, but two games in this series already. After pitching last night, he will be coaching up the other pitchers and helping Austin Hedges lead the cheers in the dugout. If the Rangers are able to win tonight, he would be available for Game 1 of the World Series which starts on Friday, on full rest. Nothing screams all hands on deck, quite like a Game 7. With more baseball coming only with a win, both Bochy and Dusty Baker will have short leashes on their pitchers tonight.
Max Scherzer will get the start for the Rangers. This will be his second outing since returning from injury. The general consensus is that while he still might not be his normal self, he should be much better tonight after pitching four innings last Wednesday when he gave up five runs on five hits and allowed a home run to Jose Altuve. Bochy would love for Scherzer to be dealing tonight and be able to ride him for a while, but if there is much sign of trouble, he will go to his pen early and often. In an ideal world Scherzer goes five or six strong innings, but in reality, if he can keep the Rangers in it for the first two or three innings, that could be enough.
With the urgency of a Game 7 Jordan Montgomery could take the mound yet again, at some point. Montgomery last pitched a gem in the crazy Game 5 on Friday. Obviously on two days rest, he won't be able to go but a few innings. He would be getting work in today anyway, so why not let him do it with the bright lights shining? Don't be surprised if Montgomery comes into the game in relief for Scherzer if the game is a tight one.
Both Josh Sborz and Jose Leclerc threw 16 pitches yesterday. Thanks to the breakout top of the ninth, Bochy was able to remove Leclerc and save some of his bullets for todays game. If the game had remained close and Leclerc had to pitch the ninth inning, it is very likely that he wouldn't have been available today. The Garcia grand slam not only had an impact on yesterday's game, but today's game as well.
Aroldis Chapman was not used yesterday, although he did get up in the eighth inning in case Leclerc was not able to squirm his way out of a bases loaded jam. Chapman has been terrible this year when pitching on back-to-back days, so the fact that he didn't pitch last night will bode well for the Rangers. When he is on, there are few better. When he is off, well, we just won't talk about that and go with the "he is going to be on" thoughts.
4 keys to the Texas Rangers winning Game 7 of the ALCS against the Astros
The obvious answer to the above question, is score more runs than the Astros. There are many possibilities on how to get to that outcome. However, one key is going to be to score early and often. The Rangers bats are going to need to carry the team again and they are primed to do so. They will be going up against Cristian Javier who got the win for the Astros in Game 3. Javier has stellar numbers in the playoffs but was lit up by the Rangers in his only other start against them this season. On July 3rd, the Rangers got to him for eight runs on nine hits over 4 1/3 innings. Leody Taveras and Travis Jankowski both hit home runs in that game.
From a pitching standpoint, the old adage of limit the walks and keep the ball in the ballpark will be crucial this evening. Free passes have plagued the Rangers in their losses this series, and they will have to limit them if they want to keep playing baseball this season. Home runs are momentum shifters, and while they don't single handedly determine who wins, the Rangers pitching staff will need to keep the ball in play and let their defense do their work.
Speaking of the Rangers defense. Texas boasts five Gold Glove finalists in their starting lineup. They also have a third baseman in Josh Jung, who should have been a finalist, and solid fielding Evan Carter and Leody Taveras round out the defense. The defense has flown under the radar this season, but it has been exceptional. They will need to make all the plays again tonight to help the pitching staff navigate this tough Astros lineup and head to the World Series.
The final key to victory tonight is going to be staying relaxed and having fun. It is a huge moment, and a game that is bigger than most all of the team has played in. But that doesn't mean that they can't take a deep breath and go out and just play baseball. You don't get to the big leagues without some key moments and pressure packed situations along the way. Bochy will have the team ready to take care of business tonight and make sure that they are having fun while they do so.
Enjoy the ride!
It all comes down to this one game. Spring training, 162 regular season games, 11 playoff games across three different series, and it comes down to a winner take all Game 7. Win and move on to the World Series that starts on Friday or lose and start the offseason. It is bound to be intense, and I will no doubt have to remind myself to breathe at times. These are the sports moments that we dream about. Rangers' fans, here we go, it's time to #GoAndTakeIt. Enjoy the ride!
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