Thunderous boos cascaded down from all angles of Minute Maid Park every time Adolis García approached the plate Sunday night. They got louder with each whiff, as the man at the center of the previous game’s fracas looked to send every pitch he saw in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series into the Crawford Boxes in left field.
After striking out in each of his first four at-bats of Game 6, he caught one.
“If there’s one guy I want to play in hostile conditions,” Mitch Garver said, “I think it’s Doli.”
With the help of Garver, Jonah Heim and a resurgent Marcus Semien, the Rangers survived the first eight innings of their first elimination game of the postseason without needing any production from their top power threat. But in the ninth, with his team holding a three-run lead, García remained the focal point of a Texas rivalry getting spicier by the night with an emphatic grand slam that put the Rangers’ 9-2 win over the Astros away and forced a Game 7 on Monday (FOX, 8:03 p.m. ET).
“People ask you, ‘Are you having fun?'” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “Yeah, it’s fun, you try to enjoy it, but it’s intense out there. That’s what I came back for, to be in this situation. It’s exciting.”
All year, Bochy touted his club’s ability to handle adversity — through a horrendous stretch in late August that threatened to topple its season, through injuries at various points to nearly all of its best players, through a loss in the regular-season finale that gave the Astros the division.
Each time, the Rangers responded. Sunday was no different.
“They have put that behind them all year — the tough games, the streaks, the injuries,” Bochy said. “They haven’t let that faze them. They keep getting up. That’s what I love about this team.”
Adolis García hits GRAND SLAM to seal Rangers’ 9-2 win
After a backbreaking Game 5 loss, in their most consequential test of the year, the Rangers’ offense exploded and helped them move one win away from returning to the World Series for the first time in 12 years. García’s blast will be the one played on highlight reels, but it was the two home runs prior from the Rangers’ top backstops that were the most consequential.
The Astros did what the Rangers could not, keeping the home crowd involved by jumping out to an early lead. But after scoring a run and forcing starter Nathan Eovaldi to throw 25 pitches in the first inning, Garver alleviated the stress on his group with an opposite-field home run off Framber Valdez.
It was more of the same from the designated hitter who helped ease the Rangers’ burden throughout the season’s second half.
In late July, when a wrist injury sidelined Heim for 12 games, Garver bumped behind the plate and hit .317 in the All-Star catcher’s absence. He proceeded to mash eight homers with a 1.022 OPS in the month of August. When the Rangers won just four games over a 20-game stretch from late August to early September, watching their 3.5-game division lead evaporate as they dropped to third place in the American League West, it was Garver picking up the offense and supplying hope.
Rangers’ Mitch Garver crushes solo homer to even the score
On Sunday, with the Rangers facing their first do-or-die moment of the postseason, it was again Garver helping keep his team’s season alive. The road team has won all six games to start the series, much to the confusion of the teams involved.
“I can’t explain that,” Bochy said. “I wish I could or we would have done a better job at home.”
If the Rangers continue hitting this way on the road, getting contributions throughout their lineup, their home struggles won’t matter.
After Garver tied the game going the other way with a homer, Heim snuck his own opposite-field shot over the glove of right fielder Kyle Tucker for a 336-foot home run. It would only have been a home run in two venues, but it only mattered that Minute Maid Park was one of them.
It was the switch-hitter’s first opposite-field homer from the right side all season, and it gave Eovaldi the breathing room he needed to maintain the Rangers’ lead the rest of the night.
“It eases your mind a little bit going into those final outs in the game,” Garver said. “I can’t state enough how big Jonah has been for this team.”
Jonah Heim cranks two-run homer to give Rangers 3-1 lead
It took contributions throughout the Rangers’ lineup to run away with the win. The most important development happened atop the lineup, as Semien reached base four times — as many times as he had in the first five ALCS games combined.
But in the most clutch moments, it was Garver who came through.
The Rangers entered the night just 7-for-34 with runners in scoring position in the series. Garver and García helped increase those totals.
In the eighth inning, the Rangers led by a run when rookie Evan Carter legged out an infield single and stole second, getting in position for Garver to calm the Rangers’ nerves once again with a run-scoring double down the left-field line off Bryan Abreu, who was able to pitch after appealing his suspension for hitting García in Game 5.
The ninth inning Sunday encapsulated what got the quick-strike Rangers to this point. Josh Jung walked. Leody Taveras’ speed forced an error from Altuve. Semien ripped a single. Corey Seager got hit by a pitch.
Then, García placed the exclamation point on Texas’ seventh straight road win to start the postseason. Only the 1996 Yankees had a longer streak, winning eight straight road games en route to a World Series title.
Rangers rout Astros in Game 6 — Jeter, Big Papi and A-Rod react
On Monday, the Rangers will have to match those ‘96 Yankees for the chance to compete for the franchise’s first championship.
“Seems a little odd nobody is winning at home,” Garver said. “I would like for it to stay that way.”
Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and MLB as a whole for FOX Sports. He previously was the Dodgers’ editor of digital and print publications. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.
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