Monday newsletter time: All eyes on Max Scherzer as he gets Game 7 for Rangers
(AP photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)
HOUSTON — As a crowd swelled around various players in the Rangers’ clubhouse Monday night, Max Scherzer was all alone at his locker. A few intrepid beat writers made their way toward him.
He quickly put an end to any thoughts that he would be talking. He wasn’t rude, but he was firm.
Scherzer appeared to already be in prep mode for Game 7.
The Rangers are giving the three-time Cy Young winner the start as they try to go to the World Series for the third time in club history. He will have to be better than he was in Game 3, when he allowed five runs in four innings as the Rangers lost for the first time this postseason.
Manager Bruce Bochy said afterward that Scherzer had good stuff, with zip on his fastball and a good curveball. The slider wasn’t as good as it usually is, but his first start since Sept. 12 served as a chance for him to knock the rust off and get a feel for what he needed to improve.
“Regardless of what he did last start, he’s ready,” second baseman Marcus Semien said. “He does the most homework I’ve ever seen a starting pitching do on every opponent.”
The Rangers watched Nathan Eovaldi improve to 4-0 this postseason after allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings. They need a similar effort from Scherzer and from the offense, though it would be nice for them to score more runs earlier than having to sweat things out in the late innings.
It’s been a sweat all season with the bullpen, which has made the last two months tense and drama-filled.
Nothing in sports is more dramatic than a Game 7, and the drama will be heightened with Scherzer on the mound.
“He’s been in the situation before,” Eovaldi said. “He knows how to go out there and compete and pitch. I think he’s definitely going to be a lot better than his last outing.”
The 1985 ALCS turned in the Red Sox’s favor in Game 5, when they came back to beat the Angels in 11 innings and then won the next two games at home to advance to the World Series.
Boston reliever Steve Crawford found himself in a tense situation in Game 5, and he didn’t hold back afterward when explaining how nervous he was in his first appearance in the series.
“If there was a toilet on the mound, I would have used it,” he said.
If Rangers right-handers Josh Sborz and Jose Leclerc were nervous Sunday in the seventh and eighth innings of Game 6 of the 2023 ALCS, they didn’t show it.
Sborz and Leclerc each made critical pitches in a tight game and with the Minute Maid Park crowd howling.
First up was Sborz, who was summoned to replace Nathan Eovaldi after a one-out single by Jose Altuve and the Rangers up 3-2. Sborz would face the lefty-hitting Michael Brantley and was quickly behind in the count after two pitches that sailed high.
The ball and his hand were moist, Sborz said, because of humidity in the ballpark. He got a new ball and some resin, and later got Brantley to bounce into a key inning-ending double play.
Leclerc replaced Sborz in the eighth with the Rangers up 4-2 but with the potential tying run at the plate with one out. Leclerc walked another lefty-hitter, Kyle Tucker, before winning a more favorable matchup against the right-hitting Mauricio Dubon on a soft liner to shortstop Corey Seager.
Leclerc still had work to do with pinch-hitter Jon Singleton, who fell behind in the count 1-2 before working a full count. He fouled off two Leclerc fastballs but missed a cutter on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.
The inning was done and so were the Astros after the Rangers plated five runs in the ninth, four on Adolis Garcia’s crowd-silencing grand slam.
Some fans were beside themselves Friday as Bochy let the struggling Semien bat with runners at first and second and no outs in the ninth inning of Game 5. Needing only a run to tie, the smallball crowd wanted Semien to bunt the runners to second and third for Seager.
The same scenario presented itself Sunday, and Semien again didn’t bunt.
The reason the Rangers didn’t bunt in either situation is really simple: A bunt would leave first base unoccupied, and the Astros would then take the bat out of Seager’s hands by intentionally walking him.
He’s the Rangers’ best hitter. Of course, they want him to get cuts in.
As long as Seager has a chance to hit, the Rangers aren’t going to give the Astros a chance to not pitch to him.
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Game 6: Clutch
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Evan Carter t-shirt from In the Clutch (use RANGERSTODAY for discount)
Rangers fans after the team survived to force Game 7. Enjoy.
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Jeff Wilson, email@example.com