ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Corey Seager is still going deep in Texas during the postseason. This time he is doing it for the Rangers, who are streaking through October.
Seager and Adolis García homered early, Nathan Eovaldi pitched seven smooth innings in another playoff clincher and Texas completed an AL Division Series sweep of the Baltimore Orioles with a 7-1 victory in Game 3 on Tuesday night.
The Rangers, whose loss at Seattle on the last day of the regular season made them a wild-card team instead of the AL West champion, have since won all five of their postseason games. They are headed to the American League Championship Series for the first time since 2011.
“We had our work cut out going on the road against Tampa and Baltimore. Just shows the toughness with this ballclub and the deal with having to fly to Tampa,” said Texas manager Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco who is now going to his first ALCS. “Trust me, they wanted to win one more game in the worst way. Didn’t happen. … They put it behind them.”
Baltimore won an AL-high 101 games and was never swept in a series during the regular season, but the surprise AL East champions are done after a sweep at the most inopportune time. The Orioles have lost eight playoff games in a row over the past 10 seasons.
“Really proud of our group. They defied all the odds. Nobody gave us a chance,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. “These guys played their butts off for six months. We just didn’t play well for these last three, unfortunately.”
Seager pulled a 445-foot drive into the right-field seats in the first inning, and García’s three-run homer — one the All-Star slugger admired while taking a few slow steps out of the batter’s box — made it 6-0 in the second to chase Orioles right-hander Dean Kremer, the Israeli-American pitcher making his first career postseason start.
“We’ve just been playing good ball,” Seager said. “Can’t say enough about what our pitching staff has been able to do.”
It was the first Rangers playoff game at Globe Life Field, the stadium that was brand new in 2020 when it hosted much of MLB’s neutral postseason during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Los Angeles Dodgers spent most of that October there, and Seager was the MVP in both the NLCS and World Series. A year later, when Texas was coming off a 102-loss season, the shortstop signed a $325 million, 10-year deal with the Rangers — and he occupies the same locker he did during that most unusual postseason with limited attendance.
With a full house for his first home playoff game with the Rangers, after they had won the first two ALDS games in Baltimore following a Wild Card Series sweep at Tampa Bay, Seager sent the record sellout crowd of 40,861 into a frenzy when he connected in his first at-bat. He went deep seven times for the Dodgers here in 2020.
“That’s what he does. He’s done it before in the big moments,” said Marcus Semien, the second baseman who signed with Texas for $175 million over seven years the same week as Seager’s deal. “He picks his game up in the playoffs. It’ll be really fun to see what he can do as we move on.”
Nathaniel Lowe also homered for Texas, a solo shot in the sixth. Lowe had led off the Rangers’ five-run second inning with a lineout to left, but that came on the 15th pitch of the at-bat after fouling off nine two-strike pitches.
“I saw a team that was really motivated,” Bochy said. “The offense, everybody was doing something to contribute.”
Seager is one of five Texas hitters who started for the AL squad in this year’s All-Star Game. That is quite a lineup for Bochy, who was hired last offseason by Rangers general manager Chris Young, one of the manager’s former pitchers in San Diego.
Also an All-Star in his first season with the Rangers, Eovaldi has won both their series-clinching games this postseason. Those are the right-hander’s longest and best two starts since returning in September after missing seven weeks because of a right forearm strain.
Eovaldi threw 76 of 98 pitches for strikes without a walk while allowing only one run and striking out seven. He was serenaded with chants of his name as he walked off the mound after the seventh — and then was prodded out of the dugout by García to tip his cap to the crowd. Eovaldi also won the Wild Card Series clincher at Tampa Bay last Wednesday.
“I’ve never had a curtain call or anything like that, but our fans were bringing it all night long,” he said. “When I walked out at 6:30 tonight, they were chanting, the ‘Let’s go Rangers.’ I knew it was going to be a really good night for us.”
José Leclerc got the final four outs, the first one with the bases loaded in the eighth when he induced an inning-ending groundout by pinch-hitter Aaron Hicks, who in the ninth inning of Game 2 had hit a three-run homer off him.
Leclerc pitched a perfect ninth, setting off celebratory fireworks inside the ballpark when he struck out Jordan Westburg to end the game.
Kremer’s 1 2/3 innings marked his shortest outing all season. The 27-year-old wore a Star of David necklace as usual, with thoughts of extended family members in Israel, where war has been declared following a deadly incursion by militant group Hamas. His mother was at the game.
Kremer was 13-5 with a 4.12 ERA in 32 regular-season starts that included Baltimore’s two clinching games: Sept. 17 to secure a playoff spot, and 11 days later for the team’s 100th win to clinch the AL East.
“Offensively, we weren’t at our best the last two, three weeks of the season. That carried into the postseason where we had guys scuffling,” Hyde said. “They rolled in with a ton of momentum. I don’t think we rolled in with a ton of momentum offensively.”
FREE PASS COSTS O’S
With runners at second and third and two outs in the second inning, the Orioles opted to intentionally walk Seager. Mitch Garver, who hit a grand slam in Game 2, then hit a two-run double before García homered to make it 6-0.
Seager also drew another walk in the fourth inning, making him the first player with nine walks in a three-game postseason stretch. That is one more than Barry Bonds in San Francisco’s four-game NLDS loss to Florida in 2003.
Seager walked five times in Game 2 against Baltimore, the first player in postseason history with five in a single game.
Baltimore and Tampa Bay, the top two teams in the American League during the regular season, were outscored 32-12 by the Rangers. … The retractable roof at Globe Life Field was closed, just like for the last 57 regular-season games since May 21. At first pitch, it was cloudy and 78 degrees outside, but other factors come into play such as wind and humidity on whether to open the roof.
Orioles: Spring training in Sarasota, Florida, before the AL East champions open the regular season March 28 at home against the Los Angeles Angels.
The Rangers wait to see if they will be going to Houston or Minnesota for ALCS Game 1 on Sunday. The Astros have a 2-1 series lead going into Game 4 on Wednesday.
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