Rangers clinch ticket to ALCS, Astros take 2-1 series lead with ALDS Game 3 wins

The Houston Astros quieted the home crowd in Minneapolis early Tuesday morning. A four-run first inning and four total home runs gave the visitors a fairly even outing and a tough day for Twins starter Sonny Gray in a 9-1 win. Now the Astros will try to punch their ticket to a seventh straight ALCS with a win in Game 4 on Wednesday, while the Twins try to stave off elimination and send the series to a Game 5.

Later, the Texas Rangers gave their home crowd plenty to cheer about, with a 7-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles to complete the ALDS sweep and send Texas to the ALCS. It was the Rangers’ first ALCS appearance since 2011 and the Orioles’ first sweep since May 2022.

No. 5 Texas Rangers at No. 1 Baltimore Orioles, Game 3: Rangers 7, Orioles 1 (Texas won 3-0)

Game Summary:

The Orioles — the AL’s winningest team this season and champions of baseball’s toughest division — entered Game 3 with hopes of a repeat start. It took the Rangers two innings to put it all out.

The Rangers completed a three-game sweep of Baltimore with an early-inning offensive onslaught backed by another strong performance from the pitching staff. Corey Seager tied Texas with a solo homer in the first inning, and the real fun came with an unsuspecting five-run second inning by Adolis Garcia.

The Rangers had an easy ride from there until the eighth inning, when the Orioles loaded the bases with two outs and forced Texas closer Jose Leclerc. Aaron Hicks, who owns half of Baltimore’s hits with runners in scoring position in the series, made the count complete but then grounded out to first to effectively end the game.

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Key moment:

Oddly enough, the Rangers’ biggest at-bat in that second inning might have been an out. First baseman Nathaniel Lowe led off the inning against Orioles starter Dean Creamer and lined out to left field — but only after working a 15-pitch at-bat.

Creamer threw 53 pitches in his start, more than a quarter of which came in that game. Josh Jung was singled on the next pitch, perhaps fatigue. After a Leody Taveras pop-out, the next four Rangers reached base, scoring five runs to knock Creamer out of the game.

Lowe did his own damage with a solo homer in the sixth inning shortly after Gunnar Henderson hit an RBI single.

Impact Player:

The Rangers paid Nathan Ewald $34 million last season because of his postseason success, a 2.90 ERA entering Tuesday and a World Series title with the Boston Red Sox in 2018. He backed it all up in Game 3.

The senior right-hander was dominant all night against Baltimore, going seven innings with one run, five hits and seven strikeouts. He did not allow an extra base hit.

In a postseason where many contenders seem to lack reliable starting pitching, the Rangers could enter the ALCS with a relatively strong quartet of Eovaldi, Max Scherzer, Jordan Montgomery and John Gray. Both Scherzer and Gray are out for the series but are reportedly on track to return for the next round.

What’s next?

Just like that, the Orioles’ 101-win season has ended without a postseason win, and the Rangers are in the ALCS. They will have four days off before facing the Twins-Astros winner in Game 1 on Sunday.

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No. 2 Houston Astros at No. 3 Minnesota Twins, Game 3: Astros 9, Twins 1 (Houston leads 2-1)

Game Summary:

Houston’s 9-1 win over the Minnesota Twins in Game 3 of the ALDS saw the Astros’ bats roar out of the gate for a four-run first inning, and starter Christian Javier got the job done from there. With the win, the Astros take the best-of-five series 2-1 and face a chance to close it out in Game 4 on Wednesday.

Kyle Tucker opened the scoring with an RBI single off Gray in the first. Then Jose Abreu opened the game with a three-run home run, putting the Twins in a hole before they even had a chance to bat.

They didn’t dig it. The Astros chased Gray after scoring four runs in four innings, and the Twins squandered several scoring opportunities on a rough day at the plate.

The Astros scored another run on an Alex Bregman solo homer in the fifth and a Bregman RBI single in the sixth. They didn’t really get things going with three more home runs from Abreu and Yordon Alvarez in the ninth.

The Twins tacked on their only run of the day when Willie Castro singled in the sixth to drive in Carlos Correa.

Key moment:

The Twins can look back on many missed opportunities Tuesday, but none more disappointing than the fifth inning. Trailing 5-0, the Twins loaded the bases with one out after issuing walks to Javier Castro, Eduard Julian and Jorge Blanco. They finished the innings without scoring any runs.

Max Kepler saw a high-arcing knuckleball for the second out, setting up wild-card hero Royce Lewis for more heroics. The breakout rookie third baseman set a doubles record with four grand slams in the regular season, then hit two home runs in his first two season plate appearances in Minnesota’s Game 1 wild-card win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

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Even so, Javier got the best of it. The Astros’ starter struck out Lewis on four pitches, including a triple on a slider in the well.

The Twins stranded seven runners in five innings during that stretch. They finished the game with 9 runs.

Impact Player:

There are plenty of worthy candidates on a day that saw Abreu, Bregman and Alvarez hit at least one home run as the Astros scored nine runs. But Javier gets the honors for a gutsy performance on the mound that saw him strike out nine through five shutout innings.

Javier struggled a bit with his control, walking five and hitting another batter. But he got out of jams several times. The Twins struck out two in the first inning, then walked two in the third and went scoreless both times. That was before the bases loaded plays in the fifth.

What’s next?

Game 4 starts Wednesday at Minnesota at 2:07 p.m. The Twins will give the ball to Joe Ryan, trying to extend that streak to a Game 5, while the Astros, whose starter has yet to be announced, will secure a spot in the ALCS.

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