Rangers grab early lead, hold off Astros in Game 2

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It was a close one on Monday in Houston, but in the end, the Rangers kept doing the only thing they’ve done this postseason: win. Texas is 7-0 in the playoffs and up 2-0 in the ALCS.

Texas Rangers at Houston Astros, ALCS Game 2: Rangers 5, Astros 4 (Texas leads 2-0)

Game summary:

Usually when Yordan Alvarez has a multi-homer game, it spells good things for the Astros. Well, on Monday, the designated hitter accounted for three of Houston’s four runs, including two homers, and it wasn’t enough to help the Astros beat the Rangers.

Texas withstood everything Alvarez & Co. did on offense to take a 2-0 lead in the ALCS with a 5-4 victory in Game 2. Rangers starter Nathan Eovaldi was a major part of that, as he scattered five hits across six innings, and the Rangers used a five-single, four-run first inning to escape Minute Maid Park with the victory.

Eovaldi pulled off some magic tricks in a stress-filled fifth inning. Adolis Garcia hit an RBI single and did a cartwheel. Mitch Garver and Nathaniel Lowe tacked on RBI singles of their own, and Jonah Heim’s third-inning solo home run proved to be the difference.

Houston had three homers – two from Alvarez and a solo shot from Alex Bregman – and an RBI double from Michael Brantley. After Aroldis Chapman allowed Alvarez to get the Astros within one run in the eighth, José Leclerc was sent to the mound to finish the game.

Leclerc got the final out by challenging José Altuve, who hit a long fly ball to center that was easily caught to seal the win.

Impact player:

Rangers starter Nathan Eovaldi never allowed the Astros’ bats to get comfortable Monday. Through six innings, he allowed five hits, one walk and three runs while striking out nine batters.

In the second inning, Eovaldi conceded a solo shot to Yordan Alvarez. In the fourth, Alex Bregman took him yard. And in the sixth, Michael Brantley scorched an RBI double to score Alvarez. Brantley was the only Houston player to record more than one hit against Eovaldi on the day.

Still, the Alvin, Texas, native saved his best work for the fifth inning.

Key moment:

The toughest moment of Eovaldi’s day came in the fifth inning. With the Rangers nursing a 5-2 lead, he allowed singles to Brantley and Chas McCormick. Then Jeremy Peña hit a routine ground ball to third base, and Josh Jung whiffed as he tried to field it.

All the runners were safe, and Houston had three men on with no outs. Texas pitching coach Mike Maddux came out of the dugout for a meeting with Eovaldi. He gave the pitcher an extended breather, and Eovaldi collected himself.

The Astros’ faithful were yelling at the top of their lungs as Yanier Diaz came in to pinch hit with hopes of cutting into the deficit. Instead, Eovaldi got him chasing a curveball out of the zone for strike three. Then came Altuve, whom Eovaldi made quick work of in four pitches. Finally, Bregman grounded out to third.

This time, Jung corralled the grounder to end the inning and the threat.

What’s next?

The series is headed to Arlington. After a travel day Tuesday, Game 3 begins at 8:03 p.m. ET Wednesday. The Rangers will give the ball to Max Scherzer for his first start of this postseason, looking to take a 3-0 series lead. The Astros’ starter has yet to be announced.

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