HOUSTON — The first six games of the American League Championship Series between the Astros and Rangers have provided enough entertainment value to span many Octobers. There were heartbreakers, nail-biters, heroic wins and crushing losses.
And there’s still one more left to play.
This ALCS between the two Texas teams — call it the Lonestar Series, the Silver Boot, take your pick — has exceeded the initial expectations from when these clubs first met for Game 1 more than a week ago. The rivalry is very much alive. The intensity level is through the roof. Expect more of that tonight in a decisive, winner-take-all Game 7 to decide the AL pennant. Cristian Javier gets the ball for Houston; the Rangers will go with Max Scherzer.
“It’s intense,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said after Texas’ 9-2 win in Game 6. “There’s no getting around it. People ask you, ‘Are you having fun?’ Yeah, it’s fun, you try to enjoy it, but it’s intense out there. That’s what I came back for, to be in this situation. It’s exciting. I’m proud of these guys, how they came in here and put together a great ballgame.”
In the home clubhouse, Astros players expressed confidence and optimism looking ahead to Game 7. The home team has lost every game in the series, and Houston is hoping to buck that trend.
“Minute Maid was rocking tonight,” Alex Bregman said. “That was awesome to see. We love playing here in front of our fans, and we can’t wait to get here tomorrow.”
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Tonight’s game is live now, televised in the U.S. on FOX and FS1.
All series are available in the U.S. on MLB.TV with authentication to a participating Pay TV provider. Games are available live internationally (except in Canada). Full game archives will be available approximately 90 minutes after the game ends.
Who are the starting pitchers?
Rangers: RHP Max Scherzer
Scherzer was rusty in his Game 3 outing and first start since mid-September, allowing five runs over four innings in the Rangers’ 8-5 loss. The stakes are significantly higher this time, and Texas will need some version of Postseason Scherzer from years prior. He has the experience — Game 7 will be his 29th postseason appearance — and he has the track record, having compiled a 3.80 ERA over those 28 games (23 starts). This will be Scherzer’s fifth start in a postseason winner-take-all game, tying Roger Clemens and Gerrit Cole for the most all time. Scherzer’s team has won three of those starts, tied for the most with Clemens, Charlie Morton and Bret Saberhagen.
Astros: RHP Cristian Javier
“El Reptil” was nails in his most recent outing in Game 3 of the ALCS, yielding two runs over 5 2/3 innings with one walk and three strikeouts. Javier had his share of ups and downs during the regular season, but he is nearly unbeatable in the postseason. He has allowed two runs over 10 2/3 innings this year, and in his career he has a 2.08 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in the postseason. Javier was 10-5 with a 4.56 ERA over 31 starts in the regular season.
What are the starting lineups?
Rangers: Bochy has played around with the bottom half of the lineup over the past few games of the ALCS, but with Javier on the mound and the Rangers back at Minute Maid Park, he opted to stick with rookie Evan Carter in the three hole, Mitch Garver in the five hole and Josh Jung and Leody Taveras bringing up the eight and nine spots.
Astros: A game after his team was held to two runs and six hits by the Rangers on Sunday night, Astros manager Dusty Baker made a handful of lineup tweaks for Game 7, bumping Bregman and Yordan Alvarez up to second and third in the order, respectively, while dropping Michael Brantley down to fifth. Chas McCormick earns the start in center over Mauricio Dubón.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Rangers: It’s no surprise, but Bochy said all hands are on deck for Game 7, even long man Andrew Heaney, who pitched the ninth in the Game 6 win after the Rangers extended their lead to seven runs. Josh Sborz and Jose Leclerc both had relatively heavy workloads, but Bochy won’t think twice about putting his best guys on the mound with the World Series on the line.
Astros: Bryan Abreu, one of Baker’s best relief pitchers, will be available, which was one of the biggest questions entering this game. Abreu appealed a two-game suspension handed down by MLB on Sunday for hitting Adolis García with a pitch in Game 5, and although the suspension was upheld it was deferred to 2024. That means Abreu is an option out of the bullpen in Game 7, although he threw 20 pitches in one inning in Game 6. Beyond Abreu, it will be all hands on deck.
Rangers: With Scherzer and Jon Gray both being activated from the injured list for the ALCS, the Rangers are in relatively good health at this point. Reliever Jonathan Hernández was again left off the roster due to a right lat strain, an injury that Bochy said was sustained during Game 162, when Hernández tossed one perfect inning with two strikeouts in Texas’ 1-0 loss to Seattle.
Astros: Relief pitcher Kendall Graveman is battling right shoulder discomfort and is not on the ALCS roster.
Who’s hot, who’s not?
Rangers: García falls under the category of “hot,” even though he struck out in his first four at-bats in Game 6. García had the swing of his life in at-bat No. 5, a grand slam that put the game out of reach for the Rangers to send this to a Game 7. Garver was 3-for-4 with a double, a home run and two runs scored in Game 6.
Robbie Grossman was 0-for-2 with a strikeout in Game 6 to drop his postseason average to .111.
Astros: Alvarez was 2-for-3 in Game 6 and is batting .436 in the postseason. He has recorded multiple hits in five straight games, the longest streak of multihit games in Astros postseason history.
Jeremy Peña was 0-for-3 in Game 6 and is batting .194 this postseason. Kyle Tucker is batting .143 (5-for-35).