HOUSTON — Outpitched by his counterpart of the Texas Rangers, left-hander Jordan Montgomery, Houston Astros right-hander Justin Verlander didn’t appear overly concerned in the aftermath of a 2-0 loss in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Sunday.
Participating in their seventh consecutive ALCS, the longest such streak in AL postseason history, the Astros have shown resilience plenty of times previously. Their inability to solve Montgomery made for a micro issue, but it didn’t leave the 2022 World Series champions feeling any sense of hopelessness despite falling into a 1-0 hole in the best-of-seven series.
Houston won’t have to wait long for a chance to even things, as it plays host to the Rangers on Monday in Game 2 of the ALCS.
“We lost Game 1 in the World Series last year,” Verlander said. “We’ve lost Game 1 of some playoff series before. And that’s the great thing about this team.
“Obviously, nobody is sitting in the locker room right now happy. But it’s very matter of fact. We just got punched. How do you answer?”
Left-hander Framber Valdez (0-1, 10.38 ERA in postseason) is the scheduled starter for the Astros in Game 2. He allowed five runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings in a 6-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins in Game 2 of the AL Division Series.
The loss dropped Valdez, who finished 12-11 with a 3.45 ERA across 31 regular-season starts, to 7-3 with a 3.82 ERA over 14 career postseason appearances (13 starts).
Valdez is 7-5 with a 2.90 ERA over 16 career appearances (13 starts) against the Rangers. In three starts against Texas this season, Valdez finished 1-2 with a 4.32 ERA.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (2-0, 1.32) has the starting assignment for the Rangers on Monday. He has allowed one run in each of his two starts this postseason, with Texas clinching series against the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles with Eovaldi on the bump. Eovaldi has recorded 15 strikeouts against 11 hits and zero walks in 13 2/3 innings this postseason.
Eovaldi is 3-4 with a 4.42 ERA over 10 career regular-season starts against the Astros. He was the pitcher of record in a 14-1 loss to Houston on Sept. 5 after surrendering four runs on five hits — including two home runs — and one walk with one strikeout while recording only four outs.
Eovaldi finished 1-1 with a 4.32 ERA in two starts against the Astros this season, including a 5-2 win at Minute Maid Park after he tossed seven shutout innings while allowing two hits and issuing four walks.
The Rangers showcased a blueprint for how they plan to attack Astros left-handed slugger Yordan Alvarez, who recorded a 1.783 on-base-plus-slugging percentage with four home runs in the ALDS against the Twins.
Montgomery recorded three strikeouts of Alvarez by working inside with fastballs before finishing him off with curveballs. Alvarez produced an .892 OPS against left-handed pitching during the regular season but finished 0-for-4 against Montgomery and southpaw reliever Aroldis Chapman, who got Alvarez to roll a harmless ground ball to first baseman Nathaniel Lowe to conclude the eighth.
“Yeah, obviously he’s a really good hitter, so you kind of have to do a little bit of everything to him,” Montgomery said. “But we kind of worked the fastball in and out and threw some curveballs for strikes and expanded and made some big pitches when we needed to.”