Culture / Sporting Life

Adolis Garcia, Rangers Delight In Shutting Up Houston Fans, Put All the Pressure on the Astros in Game 7

Bruce Bochy's Team Flashes Massive Heart as Houston Villains and Even the Defending Champs Have Never Faced a Win-Or-Else Game Quite Like This

BY // 10.23.23

HOUSTON — The only ones who’ve embraced being the villain quicker than Adolis Garcia are legendary NBA sharpshooter (and Spike Lee tormenter) Reggie Miller and perhaps Hans Gruber, the German mastermind in the original Die Hard movie. The Texas Rangers slugger gets booed relentlessly in every single at-bat he takes in the Houston Astros home, strikes out four times. . . and then hits a grand slam in bis final chance of the night.

In truth, the Rangers are already in firm control of this Game 6 by the time Garcia takes Ryne Stanek deep in the top of the ninth inning. Already leading 5-2. Already set up to force a Game 7. Already having shown some giant heart and proven everything they need to in this all-Texas American League Championship Series.

Garcia’s grand slam does not mean a lot in the game. It’s just a punctuation point on a 9-2 Rangers win that’s so much more tense than that deceiving final score. But that All Mighty Adolis Blast sure means a lot to his teammates.

For the Rangers, seeing Garcia take all the boos — essentially get the treatment that Houston Astros icon Jose Altuve receives everywhere but Minute Maid Park — and turn it into a monster moment is an instant boost. One that just may carry over to Monday night’s Game 7 where all the pressure is on the defending world champions.

“If there’s one guy I want to play in hostile conditions, I think it’s Doli,” Rangers designated hitter Mitch Garver says. “And he showed it tonight.”

The Rangers showed even more collectively, shaking off a heartbreaking Game 5 home loss — and Altuve’s home run for the ages — to force the Game 7 that few expected they could reach. A number of national baseball writers leave Minute Maid Park lamenting the fact that they have to change their flights, having already booked tickets for Monday, expecting the Astros to have wrapped this up,

Instead. Bruce Bochy’s team pushes the most proven postseason force of this century into a winner-take-all Game 7. No matter what happens on Monday night, these Rangers are already winners in so many ways.

“They’re amazing,” Bochy says of his never-say-die team. “They really are. They just don’t let adversity get to them. We’ve had injuries. Tough streaks. And they keep getting up. And that’s what it’s about in this game.

“You’ve got to bounce back. You’ve got to be resilient.”

Classic horror movie monsters are less resilient than these 2023 Texas Rangers. Just try and finish them off. . . and watch them somehow spring back to life. It’s easier to get rid of a colony of bats in an attic than these Rangers.

Now the Rangers have put all the pressure on the Astros in this Game 7. Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and Co. are the defending champions, the modern dynasty that the rest of the sports world loves to hate. There is a reason no Major League Baseball team has won back-to-back World Series since the 2000 New York Yankees of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Tino Martinez completed a three peat.

It is a lot harder to defend a crown than it is to chase one. There is a lot more pressure, more expectations, more dread of failure. If the Rangers lose tonight, it’s still considered a great season. If the Astros fall to the Texas little brother franchise they’ve beaten up on for years — including downing the Rangers in nine of 13 games during this regular season — with a World Series berth on the line, they’ll never hear the end of it.

The stakes aren’t just magnified for the Astros and manager Dusty Baker, who almost assuredly won’t be back as manager with a loss in this Game 7. They are on a whole other plane.

For these Astros to pull off their repeat championship drive now, they must win one of the single most pressure-packed games in franchise history, And then win four more in the World Series, likely against a Philadelphia Phillies team that looks like it’s on a mission of its own.

Talk about earned. Even these championship proven Astros never have been in a spot quite like this. It’d be a surprise if anyone in Houston is betting against them though.

For one thing, this is what the Astros do. No Houston team’s ever risen to the big moment more. The Astros also seem to hold the pitching advantage in Game 7.

Texas Rangers have certainly enjoyed their teams game at Minute Maid Park this postseason. Astros fans? Not so much. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Texas Rangers fans have certainly enjoyed their teams game at Minute Maid Park this postseason. Astros fans? Not so much. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

It will be 39-year-old Max Scherzer, one of the best pitchers of his generation and someone who struggled in his one start in the postseason and is still just coming off an injury, for the Rangers versus 26-year-old Cristian Javier, arguably the best playoff pitcher in baseball the last two Octobers, for the Astros.

Scherzer has the national hype. Javier has the lights-out stuff and El Reptil eerie calm composure. Bring on the best thing in sports — Game 7.

(Monday’s) Game 7,” Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, one of the few remaining Core Astros who were part of two Game 7 wins during that first 2017 title run. “Win or go home. I know everyone in here is excited for (Monday night).”

It is a lot harder to defend a crown than it is to chase one. There is a lot more pressure, more expectations, more dread of failure. If the Rangers lose tonight, it’s still considered a great season. If the Astros fall to the Texas little brother franchise they’ve beaten up on for years  with a World Series berth on the line, they’ll never hear the end of it.

Adolis Garcia vs. Yordan Alvarez For History?

This Game 7 will make a few Astros or a few Rangers baseball immortals in some ways. Game 7 heroes are remembered forever. The Rangers certainly won’t be surprised if it turns out to be Adolis Garcia, who now has five home runs in these playoffs, only one less than Astros superstar Yordan Alvarez.

No home team has won a game in this series and the Astros have lost 21 of their last 28 home games overall. To a man, these Astros dismiss that as one of those unexplainable flukes of baseball, insist it will have no bearing on this Game 7.

The Rangers? They surely delight in quieting an absolutely lit Minute Maid Park in this Game 6. Particularly when Garcia does it for good with that grand slam.

“I don’t know how you can boo someone for getting hit,” Rangers catcher Jonah Heim says. “But it is what it is. He kind of quieted them pretty quickly there. So it’s great to see.”

Of course, Astros fans aren’t really booing Adolis Garcia because he hit that three run blast off Justin Verlander in Game 5 and preened. They’re not booing him for getting hit. They’re jeering Garcia for his over-the-top, trying-to-start-a-fight reaction to getting hit by Astros reliever Bryan Abreu later in that game. Without that reaction, Abreu probably isn’t suspended by Major League Baseball.

But to the winners go the narratives. And the Rangers get to declare “Shush!” on this Game 6 night. And it is clear that Garcia’s grand slam makes them feel even bolder.

“I’ve never played outfield,” Rangers second baseman Marcus Semien, who quietly gets going himself in Game 6, says. “I know they get yelled at all night. I’m sure it was crazy (for Garcia). And then at the plate, it’s the ALCS and Houston Astros fans have been here many times.

“They tried to do everything they can to get in our heads. It’s a great swing by him to quiet everybody down.”

Shush, Astros. Shush.

“Really put an exclamation point on that last one,” Garver says of Garcia’s grand slam.

Fans showed their emotions as the Texas Rangers beat the Houston Astros 5-4 and lead the American League Championship Series two games to none at Minute Maid Park
Astros fans don’t want to shut out of winning at home. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

The Rangers earn these moments of exaltation. It’s not easy to win an elimination game against these Astros. No team could manage it in last year’s postseason. These Rangers do.

The usually steady, sure-handed playoff-proven Astros are the ones who blink. Jose Altuve even boots an easy out in the ninth inning, helping the Rangers pad their lead with a five spot in the inning.

As for what Adolis Garcia, the man himself, thinks? He isn’t made available to reporters after Game 6, a curious look for Major League Baseball and the Rangers considering how much baseball wants and needs to promote its showcase games, stars and moments.

The Kyle Tucker Factor

Kyle Tucker, the young Astros star who is now 5 for 35 with no home runs and one RBI in these playoffs, does come out to talk to reporters. Despite his struggles, Tucker seems as calm as ever.

“They were all right,” Tucker says when someone asks how he feels about his at-bats in this Game 6. “I felt a lot better in that last at-bat. I didn’t swing the bat or anything. But I felt better. Just feel wise.”

Tucker is talking about his walk in the eighth inning that loads the bases for the Astros with one out when Houston is still only trailing 4-2. If Tucker truly feels it in Game 7, everything will change for the defending champs.

“They tried to do everything they can to get in our heads. It’s a great swing by him to quiet everybody down.” — Rangers second baseman Marcus Semien on Adolis Garcia’s grand slam.

But this Game 6 is a night for the Rangers to feel good. A night where Adolis Garcia, the Instant Villain in Houston, embraces all the hate and sends it skyrocketing into the night. Right into a crowd of Astros fans.

Yes, the Rangers shut up Minute Maid Park on a night when many expected an epic raging clinching party. The question is: Will the reigning world champions, the surest big game force in sports today, let them do it again in Game 7?

Shush, Astros. Shush.. . ?

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