Rangers lose first postseason game as Max Scherzer falters
(AP photo/Tony Gutierrez)
ARLINGTON — The Rangers knew that what happened Wednesday night was a possibility.
Max Scherzer knew it, too.
He was coming off the injured list and pitching for the first time since Sept. 12. Yeah, he threw a couple of simulated games, in empty ballparks against hitters from his own team and felt good about them, but they couldn’t match the intensity of a postseason game.
A pitcher needs to be at his best in October, and at times Scherzer was. Ultimately, though, he pitched like a guy who hadn’t been on a mound in more than a month.
The result was five Astros runs against him in four innings and an 8-5 Rangers loss that gave the Astros life in the American League Championship Series. The Rangers still hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series, which continues tonight at Globe Life Field.
“They got to me,” Scherzer said. “It was just execution and mistakes.”
Josh Jung swatted two two-run homers for the Rangers, who were no-hit into the fifth inning by Cristian Javier. Leody Taveras made the best play so far of the MLB postseason when he made a leaping catch in center field to rob Astros menace Yordan Alvarez of a homer to start the sixth inning.
Evan Carter, in his first game as the Rangers’ No. 3 hitter, collected a sixth-inning double, but that was his only hit in four at-bats. Adolis Garcia had the only other RBI for the Rangers with a single in the eighth.
The Rangers were out-hit, though, 12-6.
“We knew coming in we had our hands full,” Bochy said.
Scherzer wasn’t terrible. He had good zip on his fastball, and Astros hitters swung through several of his curveballs. But he made the mistakes that a rusty pitcher is prone to make, like hitting a batter in an 0-2 count and leaving too many pitches over the heart of the plate.
“There’s some bad in this, I get it,” Scherzer said. “That’s where you have to tune out and look at the good. What did I do well? I made some mistakes, I get it, and I got punished for it, but there were some good things I also did as well. It’s tough to take a loss in the postseason any time, but I’m not going to sit here and beat myself down.”
He hit Alvarez to start the second and compounded that with a one-out walk. After a single loaded the bases, Scherzer retired Jeremy Pena to bring up No. 9 hitter Martin Maldonado. Things looked promising, but a wild pitch allowed Alvarez to score the game’s first run and Maldonado collected a two-run single for a 3-0 lead.
Jose Altuve homered to start the third, and the Astros went double, groundout, single for another run in the fourth.
Bochy said that the Rangers were not second-guessing their decision to start Scherzer.
“He’s one of our guys,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “There’s no regret on that.”
The Rangers hadn’t even collected a hit by the time Scherzer exited.
They final did with two outs in the fifth as Nathaniel Lowe singled to left field. Jung followed with his first two-run homer, but the Rangers couldn’t any closer than three the rest of the way against Javier and three Astros relievers.
“They’ve got a really good staff,” Jung said. “You’re not going to go out there and score seven runs every game. That’s probably our first scuffle. That’s baseball.”
Left-hander Andrew Heaney will start Game 4 for the Rangers, who could use right-hander Dane Dunning in a piggyback system that helped them win Game 1 of the division series at Baltimore. Neither has pitched since, though both warmed up Monday during Game 2.
The Rangers did not use their key bullpen arms, including closer Jose Leclerc for the first time this postseason, and should be reloaded in the late innings if they can get there with a lead.
They have no doubt they will bounce back in Game 4.
“It’s something we’ve done pretty much all season,” Jung said. “We are where we are because of our resilience.”
Jeff Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org