MLB playoffs: Jordan Montgomery, Evan Carter lead Rangers to ALCS Game 1 victory over Astros

The Rangers are 6-0 this postseason after beating the Astros on Sunday in Houston

For the first time in the 2023 MLB playoffs, both starters went at least six innings Sunday, as Jordan Montgomery and Justin Verlander kept the scoring low in Game 1 of the ALCS.

But the Texas Rangers struck first and prevented the Astros from responding, riding a gem from Montgomery to a 2-0 win and a 1-0 series lead in the ALCS.

Texas Rangers at Houston Astros, ALCS Game 1: Rangers 2, Astros 0 (Texas leads 1-0)

Game summary:

After a tight AL West race came down to the final day of the season in favor of the Astros, the Rangers have wrested home-field advantage in this best-of-seven series.

After a scoreless first inning, Jonah Heim got the scoring started in the second, with a one-out single to score Evan Carter for a 1-0 Rangers lead. In the fifth, Leody Taveras added an insurance run with a no-doubt solo home run off of Justin Verlander that doubled the Texas lead to 2-0.

They were the only two runs Verlander allowed in 6 2/3 innings. But they were enough, as Montgomery was outstanding through 6 1/3 shutout innings of his own and the Rangers' bullpen held on from there.

The Astros threatened in the eighth, once they got to the Rangers' bullpen. Josh Sborz issued a leadoff walk to José Altuve, prompting manager Bruce Bochy to call on Aroldis Chapman to face Alex Bregman.

Bregman responded by launching a slider to the deepest part of left-center field at Minute Maid Park. But Carter was waiting. He made the catch against the wall, then had the presence of mind to target Altuve with a throw back to the infield.

Altuve made it back to first base, but he didn’t touch second on his way back after rounding toward third. Replay review confirmed that he didn’t touch, and so he was ruled out for the second out of the inning. Chapman finished the inning cleanly before closer José Leclerc recorded a 1-2-3 ninth to secure the win.

Key moment:

The Astros’ best chance arrived in the fourth inning, when they posted three straight two-out singles to load the bases. The third – a laser to left field from Jeremy Peña – failed to score Chas McCormick after McCormick was held at third base.

Martín Maldonado took the plate with a chance to get Houston on the board. He fouled off two Montgomery pitches en route to a 1-2 count, but he couldn’t catch up to the fourth pitch. Maldonado swung and missed at a fastball high in the zone to end the inning, and the Rangers’ shutout remained intact.

Impact player:

Montgomery brought his best stuff to the mound Sunday while pitching 6 1/3 shutout innings. An Astros lineup that plated 18 runs in three wins over the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS had no answers for the wily Rangers veteran.

The Astros opened the game with a pair of loud outs from José Altuve and Alex Bregman on deep fly balls to the warning track. Montgomery then struck out Yordan Álvarez to end the inning and was in a groove from there.

When the Astros threatened, Montgomery worked out of jams. Houston twice had multiple runners on base with two outs. Montgomery notched inning-ending strikeouts both times, including another against reigning ALCS MVP Álvarez in the third.

Álvarez finished with three inning-ending strikeouts in three at-bats against Montgomery.

In his 6 1/3 innings, Montgomery allowed five hits and one walk while striking out six on an efficient 90 pitches, improving on his already stellar postseason. Through three playoff starts, he has a 2.08 ERA, 13 strikeouts and two walks in 17 1/3 innings.

What’s next?

Game 2 begins at 4:37 p.m ET Monday. Texas will hand the ball to Nathan Eovaldi, while Houston will send Framber Valdez to the mound looking to get a split at home.