The Opener: Rangers Triumph, Garver, NLCS Game 7

Three items on the morning docket, including one half of the World Series matchup being finalized…

1. Rangers win the AL pennant:

The Rangers held a 3-0 lead after the first half-inning of Game 7, and an 8-2 lead after the top of the fourth.  Ergo, there ultimately wasn’t much drama as Texas vanquished the Astros by an 11-4 final in the deciding game of the American League Championship Series.  While many of the Rangers’ bats were cooking in the game, the club was led once again by Adolis Garcia, who went 4-for-5 with a pair of solo home runs.  Garcia captured ALCS MVP honors for hitting .357/.400/.893 with five homers and 15 RBI over 30 plate appearances in the seven games, setting a new MLB record for most RBI in a single postseason series.

The road team won all seven games in the unusual series, as the Rangers had to fight back from a 3-2 series deficit by winning both Games 6 and 7 in Houston.  Texas has to hope this road-team trend doesn’t continue, as the Rangers will now hold homefield advantage in the World Series over whichever team comes out of the National League.  The Rangers are 0-2 in their two previous trips to the Fall Classic (in 2010 and 2011), and are still looking for the first championship in franchise history.  As for the Astros, the disappointing loss might auger some major change heading into 2024, as manager Dusty Baker has indicated that he might be retiring.

2. Mitch Garver’s status:

One downside for the Rangers was a possible injury to Mitch Garver, who was hit in the ribs by a Bryan Abreu pitch in the sixth inning. Garver was in obvious discomfort after the HBP but remained in the game and scored on Nathaniel Lowe’s home run, though he was replaced by a pinch-hitter in his next at-bat.  Garver seemed to be feeling okay when interviewing with Ben Verlander following the game, though the designated hitter underwent some x-rays.

There hasn’t yet been word on the outcome of those tests, but needless to say, there will be some nervousness in Arlington unless Garver is cleared for the World Series.  Acting as the Rangers’ regular DH throughout the playoffs, Garver has hit .294/.368/.529 with two homers in 38 PA, continuing his hot hitting from the regular season.

3. NLCS Game 7:

With one league champion decided, we get to enjoy some more nail-biting Game 7 action tonight when the Phillies host the Diamondbacks in the final game of the National League Championship Series.  Trailing 3-2 in the series heading into yesterday’s Game 6, the D’Backs stayed alive with a 5-1 victory, built on the strength of a three-run rally in second inning.  Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Tommy Pham each hit solo homers, and Ketel Marte continued his bid for NLCS MVP by going 2-for-5 for his fourth multi-hit game of the series.

Brandon Pfaadt (5 2/3 scoreless innings) and Ranger Suarez (5 1/3 shutout frames) each looked very sharp in Game 3 of the NLCS, and they’ll face off again as the scheduled starters for Game 7.  That said, both teams figure to have relatively quick hooks, as pretty much every pitcher on either roster will be available for some usage in the winner-take-all showdown.  On a historical note, this will be the first time in the Phillies’ 141-year franchise history that the club will play a Game 7 of a playoff series.

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