Adolis Garcia smashed a grand slam home run and the Texas Rangers beat defending champion Houston 9-2 on Sunday to force a winner-take-all showdown in the Major League Baseball playoffs.
The Rangers pulled level at 3-3 in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series and will try to reach their first World Series since 2011 by winning on the road again on Monday.
“Going to be a tough game,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s a big game for both sides. It’s going to be exciting.”
The AL champion will open the World Series on Friday against the winner of the National League Championship Series, which Philadelphia leads 3-2 over Arizona with game six on Monday in Philadelphia.
The Astros will seek their third consecutive World Series and fifth in seven seasons, having taken the title in 2017 and last year in the dynasty run.
“We’ve got to come in ready to go,” winning pitcher Nathan Eovaldi said. “We don’t worry about the World Series. We worry about winning that game.
“We knew they weren’t going to roll over. We knew it was going to be a dogfight. Now we have to come out tomorrow and be ready.”
Garcia was ejected from game five on Friday and had to be restrained by teammates after becoming upset when he was hit by a pitch from Houston’s Bryan Abreu, who was also ejected.
Garcia had struck out four times on Sunday, the last when Abreu retired him in the eighth inning without hitting him, but the 30-year-old Cuban outfielder returned to the plate in the ninth with the bases loaded and crushed a dramatic four-run blast to secure a Texas triumph.
“He certainly helped things out,” Bochy said. “Garcia, that’s him sometimes. He has got the ability to put those at-bats behind him, face a tough pitcher and hit the ball out of the ballpark.
“It’s about bouncing back, not dwelling on what happened.”
That’s a summation of the season for a Texas team that has been tested.
“They are amazing,” Bochy said of his players. “They just don’t let adversity get to them. We’ve had injuries, tough streaks and they keep getting up. Got to bounce back and be resilient.”
After tensions boiled over into a melee during game five, the Astros and Rangers faced more intense moments in game six.
“We handled it really well,” said Eovaldi.
Abreu was in the Astros lineup after he appealed a two-game suspension issued by MLB for intentionally hitting Garcia to spark a benches-clearing melee. A hearing on Monday will decide his fate but he could be sidelined for game seven.
Jose Altuve, whose three-run homer in the ninth inning brought Houston a game-five triumph, opened the scoring in the first inning of game six when he singled, stole second and raced home on Yordan Alvarez’s single.
Garver sparks Texas
Mitch Garver’s solo homer lifted the Rangers level and Garver’s two-out single in the fourth set the stage for Jonah Heim’s two-run homer to put Texas ahead 3-1.
Houston pulled within 3-2 in the sixth when Alvarez singled, advanced on an Altuve single and a Kyle Tucker ground out then scored on Mauricio Dubon’s sacrifice fly.
Texas added an insurance run in the eighth after Evan Carter singled, stole second and scored on Garver’s double to left.
Houston loaded the bases in the eighth but Texas closing relief pitcher Jose Leclerc got Dubon to fly out to shortstop Corey Seager and struck out pinch-hitter Jon Singleton to end the threat.
Texas loaded the bases in the ninth as Josh Jung walked, Leody Tavares reached base on an error and Marcus Semien singled.
Astros reliever Ryne Stanek entered and hit Seager to force in a run, setting the stage for Garcia to create the final margin.
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