Jordan Montgomery shut down the Houston Astros and Leody Taveras homered as the Texas Rangers did just enough against Justin Verlander to get a 2-0 victory in the opener of the AL Championship Series Sunday night.
Montgomery pitched five-hit ball over 6 1/3 scoreless innings and Taveras provided a two-run lead with his solo homer in the fifth. Evan Carter, a 21-year-old rookie, doubled and scored in the second and made two nifty defensive plays in left field.
The Rangers, in the ALCS for the first time since back-to-back appearances in 2010-11, improved to 6-0 this postseason after sweeping the Rays in the Wild Card Series and the Orioles in the Division Series. The winning streak followed loses in their previous six playoff games versus Toronto in the ALDS in 2015 and 2016.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is today in Houston.
The playoff-tested Astros, in the ALCS for a seventh consecutive year, had a tough time getting anything going against Montgomery. The top four batters in Houston’s lineup were 2 for 12 with five strikeouts against the left-hander. Slugger Yordan Alvarez struck out against him three times.
Houston’s offensive woes came after it hit 16 homers and outscored the Rangers 39-10 in a three-game sweep in September.
Things were much different in the first postseason meeting between these in-state rivals as they managed just five singles.
Montgomery has been great in the last month, allowing just two earned runs over 27 innings in his last four starts of regular season, and posting a 2.08 ERA in three postseason starts.
Verlander permitted two runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings to mark the first time this postseason where both starters pitched into the seventh. It was the 36th postseason start for Verlander and the MLB-record 14th time he’s started a playoff series opener.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner threw 27 fastballs without getting a single swing and miss.
Josh Sborz walked Jose Altuve starting the eighth and was replaced by Aroldis Chapman. The Rangers turned a double play when Carter made a great grab on the track on a ball hit by Alex Bregman and Altuve was called out for not retouching second base when he retreated to first after Carter’s catch.
Altuve initially called safe, but the Rangers challenged the play, and it was overturned in a video review. Alvarez following with an inning-ending groundout.
Jose Leclerc struck out one in a perfect ninth for the save and the Rangers’ second shutout of the playoff.
Carter got things going for Texas with a hustle double on a grounder with one out in the second before scoring on a single by Jonah Heim. John Jung singled with two outs, Taveras walked to load the bases and Verlander limited the damage by retiring Marcus Semien on a fly ball.
Verlander had retired eight in a row when Taveras drove a hanging slider 398 feet into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth.
The Astros had opportunities to score in the third and fourth innings. Martín Maldonado walked with one out in the third before a two-out single by Bregman. But they were both stranded when Alvarez struck out.
Three straight singles by Chas McCormick, Mauricio Dubónand Jeremy Peña loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth. Montgomery wriggled out of the jam again when he struck out Maldonado to end the inning.
Heim walked to open the seventh and a two-out single by Taveras chased Verlander. Hector Neris took over and retired the next two batters.
Carter robbed Bregman of a hit with one out in the first. He sprinted before leaping to make the catch and crashing into the scoreboard wall in left field and knocking out one of squares.