Rangers Romp to World Series Behind Adolis García’s Dominant Performance

Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball games don’t have a single protagonist. Baseball series don’t have a single protagonist either. The vagaries of a nine-man lineup, four-man rotation, and eight-man bullpen mean that the most important moments of a series feature semi-random matchups. Bryce Harper doesn’t get to bring the ball up, call for an isolation, and try to hit a game-tying home run. You can’t game plan a high-leverage at-bat for your star. It’s just probability; the big moments can’t possibly find the same guy every time, which is what makes baseball such a team sport.

Okay, now that I’ve said that: This game was Adolis García’s game, and this series was his series. He’s been at the center of everything ever since the start of the ALCS, but particularly for the past three games. First, Bryan Abreu hit him with a pitch that emptied the benches in Game 5 and eventually led to a memorable Astros comeback from García’s own three-run homer. He came back on Sunday determined to extract vengeance, and eventually succeeded. He took 16 swings at 22 pitches, first racking up four strikeouts but then hitting a majestic, game-breaking grand slam. On Monday, he was right in the middle of things again.

In the first inning, García stepped into Cristian Javier’s nightmare: Corey Seager demolished a high fastball for a 1-0 lead, Evan Carter walked and stole second, and García was at the plate threatening to break the game open before the Astros even batted. Javier threw him a fastball roughly six inches above the top of the strike zone. But García was up there to swing, not take, and he smashed a single off the face of the left field wall to score Carter. It was more of a double and a running error if I’m being honest; García, intent on celebrating his success against the Astros to the fullest, took a leisurely look at the rapidly receding baseball before he realized it wouldn’t leave the park. He scurried to first at half speed, chagrined, before stealing second immediately.

By the time García stepped to the plate again, a new pitcher was in the game. Javier didn’t last the first inning; he allowed five baserunners out of six batters faced and then hit the showers early. That meant García had a new opponent in Hunter Brown. A new pitcher meant a new plan: García took the first five pitches he saw, getting to a 3-2 count and noting that Brown was either throwing a fastball up and away or a curveball off the plate. The 3-2 pitch was another fastball up and away, and García decided he’d had enough of waiting. He muscled it just fair over the right field wall for a 4-1 lead.

At that point, the game was hardly over. The Astros weren’t about to go quietly into the night; they chased Max Scherzer from the game in the third inning and narrowed the gap to 4-2. They brought in J.P. France to replace Brown, and France immediately gave García another chance for a memorable moment. France got bitten by the BABIP gods; he gave up a walk and three soft line drives, the last a looped Carter double, to bring García to the plate with a 6-2 lead and two runners on base. García was locked in by now. He took a slider low, took a curveball high, and then smacked one that was juuuuuuust right for a two-run single.

Things kept going from there. With the game well in hand at 10-3 in the eighth, García got one last chance at the plate. He was in swing mode, ready to unload on whatever he saw. He’d already made an out, his first of the game, with two wild swings at sliders in his last at-bat. But José Urquidy might not have gotten the memo, because he dialed up a first pitch curveball right down the middle. García took a mighty hack – and hit the ball preposterously high in the air, a moonshot that barely cleared the left field wall. It would have been a home run in just two of the 30 parks in the majors, but come on, this was his night – of course it was going out.

This will forever be remembered as García’s series. He drove in a ludicrous 15 runs across the seven games, an all time single series record. He was at the center of a benches-clearing fracas, and he made sure the Astros remembered it by burying them under nine RBI over the next two games. He was named series MVP after the game and roundly deserved it. But this being baseball, plenty of other characters also figured into Game 7’s outcome.

Jordan Montgomery might have had a case for MVP if it weren’t for García’s late-series outburst. He threw 11.2 solid innings across starts in Games 1 and 5, then returned on two days of rest to stymie the Astros for another two-plus innings on Monday. Josh Sborz faced six batters and retired five of them. Seager was locked in right from the first pitch he saw, finishing 3-for-5 with a walk and a home run. Carter and Jonah Heim reached base multiple times. Nathaniel Lowe cracked a two-run homer. When all was said and done, eight of the nine Texas starters reached base at least once, wearing down eight Houston pitchers.

The winners didn’t have the only impressive performances of the night. As you might have heard, Yordan Alvarez had a pretty good series. He batted five times in Game 7 and went 3-for-4 with a walk and a triple, his sixth straight game in the series with multiple hits. Alvarez’s masterful ALCS deserves some mention, even as his team got absolutely buried at the end. He’s one of the best hitters in baseball, and he hit another gear this October. He finishes the postseason with a 297 wRC+ on a .465/.510/.968 batting line. It’s nearly impossible to win MVP when your team loses, and Garcia was a deserving winner as I said, but Alvarez put his mark on the series anyway thanks to an unending stream of hits.

For the Astros, this ALCS loss will sting for quite a while. They lost a close series to a big rival, and did so in heartbreaking fashion. Even worse, Dusty Baker made some strange decisions that left runs on the table in this one, at a time when the team absolutely couldn’t afford to do so. Brown looked solid in his two innings of work and spent the year as a starter, so I’m not quite sure why he got pulled. France, on the other hand, went eight batters and only recorded two outs; by the time Baker pulled him, the game was essentially over. And coming back is harder when Martín Maldonado has to take key at-bats; he batted twice with a runner in scoring position, with Houston trailing by multiple runs both times. Yainer Diaz is clearly a better option here, and Baker eventually did go to him, but the Astros skipper let valuable run scoring opportunities slip away first.

Getting back to the victors, Texas’ postseason work isn’t done. The World Series starts on Friday in Arlington, and regardless of who the Rangers face, they’ll have their work cut out for them. But for now, it’s a celebration. More than that, it’s Adolis’ celebration. You can’t control who comes up in the biggest spots, it’s true. But every time he had a chance to deliver in Game 7, he did, until his own success made his subsequent successes less important. This is the kind of playoff series we’ll remember years from now. Not because it went seven or because the road team won every game, and not because of late lead changes or a comeback from a 3-2 series deficit, but because it’s the series where Adolis García drove in all the runs and stared the Astros down while he did.





Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

87 Comments
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offthewall
4 months ago

Evan Carter has been phenomenal since they arrived in Arlington. They were amazing in the pennant race, and they have been fantastic in the playoffs. They cannot possibly maintain their .435 BABIP up long term, but they surely could keep it up another 4 to 7 games. If they do that, they will be a hero in Texas even if they regress to a more reasonable BABIP next year.

We assume Carter is more akin to James Outman or Brandon Marsh than Mickey Mantle. But so far in 2023, they are playing much more like Mantle than Marsh.

OddBall Herrera
4 months ago
Reply to  offthewall

Trolling attempt?

Chip Lockemember
4 months ago

The poster’s entire existence on this site is a trolling attempt.

offthewall
4 months ago

We aren’t “trolling” at all. We just think Carter, while they are a very good ball player, will have a career more similar to Outman or Marsh than Mantle. They have hit like Mantle so far, but their BABIP is sky high. We don’t think they can keep that up long term.

OddBall Herrera
4 months ago
Reply to  offthewall

Gotcha, trolling attempt, moving on

68FCmember
4 months ago
Reply to  offthewall

Is it really necessary to clarify that Carter isn’t the next coming of Mantle? I think it can be assumed that any player isn’t the next Mantle until they play like Mantle for multiple seasons. Even Trout isn’t the next Mantle. Carter’s unsustainable wOBA so far wouldn’t even make Mantle’s top 8 seasons.

offthewall
4 months ago
Reply to  68FC

Necessary? Clearly not. But was it necessary to ask if our comment was necessary? Also clearly not. None of our comments or your comments on this or any website are necessary.

Carter might wind up being a star, but they have their work cut out for them if they aspire to be like Mantle. That’s for sure.

Carson Kahlamember
4 months ago
Reply to  offthewall

I’m more just baffled that you’re comparing him to guys that strikeout over 30% of the time, that’s just fundamentally not who Carter is. Also there is a very wide margin between Mantle and those two.