Game 2 featured Nathan Eovaldi starting for the Rangers against the Astros’ Framber Valdez. The Rangers came in hot, winning all five of their postseason matches preceding ALCS Game 2 against the Astros.
Valdez struggled early allowing singles in the first to Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Adolis García, Mitch Garver, and Nathaniel Lowe. To make matters worse, Valdez committed both a fielding and throwing error. By the bottom of the first, the Astros were down four to nothing.
If that was not bad enough, in the top of the third Valdez threw a cookie to Rangers' catcher Jonah Heim who deposited the pitch into the Crawford Boxes for a solo shot.
Baker pulled Valdez arguably too late. It took the Astros eight innings just to match the four runs the Rangers achieved through their first inning of offensive production.
Meanwhile, it took the Astros' lineup until the end of the third inning just to bat around once through the lineup. Serving as a lone bright spot through the first three frames, Yordan Alvarez pulverized a 95-mph fastball that was left over the heart of the plate by Nathan Eovaldi. The Rangers’ right-hander surrendered another solo home run to Alex Bregman in the fourth off a poorly located splitter. Nevertheless, Eovaldi remained in control.
Astros' opportunities wasted
After the two solo shots from Houston, Eovaldi managed to wiggle out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fifth with no outs. For a team trying to make it back to the World Series, that just can’t be excusable.
In the inning, Brantley and McCormick singled. Rangers' third baseman Josh Jung made an error on a routine grounder allowing Pena to reach on a fielding error. The bases were loaded. Dusty Baker pinch hit Yainer Diaz for Martín Maldonado, who would come in to catch the rest of the game for Houston. And still—the Astros could not manage to get a run on the board.
Eovaldi would give up three runs through five innings, and struck out nine. Josh Sborz came into relieve Eovaldi and held down the lead. Sborz pitched a scoreless seventh inning, with lefty Aroldis Chapman following suit until Alvarez took Chapman deep in the bottom of the eighth. Rangers' manager Bruce Bochy pulled Chapman for José LeClerc who faced six batters without giving up a hit to close out the contest.
The Astros’ offense combined for 10 strikeouts, six hits, and went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. The score indicated a much closer game than the Astros' offense actually contributed to. Minus Alvarez, Brantley, a solo shot from Bregman, and the consistent bullpen performance, the Astros were essentially dominated in Game 2 by a hungry Rangers' squad.
Three bright spots from Game 2 of the ALCS
The 6-5 slugger not only knocked two balls over the fence, he also hit his sixth long ball of the playoffs, tying Giancarlo Stanton for most home runs through the first six games played in a single postseason. Alvarez went 2-for-3 with 2 RBIs and a walk—good for a blistering .390 batting average and a .440 on-base percentage heading into Game 3.
Astros' bullpen coming through
After Dusty Baker pulled Framber in the third inning, Rafael Montero, J.P. France, Phil Maton, Bryan Abreu, and Ryan Pressly combined for over six innings of zero runs-allowed relief. This gave Houston a shot to come back, but the damage was done. The Astros’ offense could not muster more than four runs in nine innings of action.
Brantley being Brantley
Michael Brantley finished the day strong going two-for-three, with a walk and an RBI double. On the bright side, Game 2 showed increasing evidence that the Astros gambling on penciling Brantley into the postseason lineup is the right move after the five-time All-Star missed a substantial portion of the regular season due to injuries. Brantley’s professional plate appearances through the 2023 playoffs have been top-notch. So far this postseason, the left-handed veteran is hitting .357 with a .438 on-base percentage.
Law of averages?
What’s going for the Astros? For some reason, this Astros roster plays better on the road. Through all regular season games, the Astros featured a +129 run differential and were 21 games over .500. So if the law of averages holds, this team stands to make a competitive showing in Arlington for Games 3 and 4.
Game 3 of the ALCS is slated to begin at 7:03 PM CDT on Wednesday in Arlington.