In his first season with Texas, veteran manager Bruce Bochy has guided the Rangers into the AL Championship Series. Yordan Alvarez and the Houston Astros are one win from making it a Lone Star State affair.
Corey Seager and Adolis García homered early, Nathan Eovaldi pitched seven smooth innings in another playoff clincher and the Rangers completed a Division Series sweep of the Baltimore Orioles with a 7-1 victory Tuesday night in Game 3.
The Rangers, whose loss at Seattle on the last day of the regular season made them a wildcard team instead of the AL West champions, have since won all five of their postseason games. They are going to the ALCS for the first time since 2011.
“I saw a team that was really motivated,” said Bochy, who managed San Francisco to three World Series titles from 2010-14. “The offense, everybody was doing something to contribute.”
In Minneapolis, José Abreu hit a three-run homer in a four-run first inning against Sonny Gray and piled on with a two-run shot in the ninth, powering the Astros to a 9-1 victory that gave them a 2-1 lead over Minnesota in their ALDS.
Alvarez hit his fourth home run in three games and Alex Bregman had a homer and an RBI single for the defending World Series champions, who moved within one win of a seventh consecutive AL Championship Series appearance.
Cristian Javier struck out nine in five scoreless innings for the win.
Game 4 is on Wednesday at Target Field, with José Urquidy starting for the Astros against Joe Ryan. A decisive Game 5 would be on Friday in Houston.
Arizona can also advance on Wednesday as the wildcard Diamondbacks try for a stunning sweep of the 100-win Los Angeles Dodgers when their NL Division Series shifts to Phoenix for Game 3. It will be Arizona’s first home game this postseason, after opening 4-0 on the road.
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Atlanta play at Philadelphia in the other NLDS, with that best-of-five series tied at one game apiece.
Unless the NL East champion Braves go with an opener out of the bullpen – which manager Brian Snitker said is an option – it appears either 12-game winner Bryce Elder or 20-year-old rookie AJ Smith-Shawver will get the nod against Aaron Nola.