Matt Garza dominates Royals, keeps the Rangers in the hunt

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The once-strong Rangers have had a miserable September, entering tonight’s affair against the Royals with 14 losses in 18 games during the month. With recently-acquired starter Matt Garza on the hill, the Rangers made a strong effort in reversing their fortunes tonight.

The Rangers went up 3-0 early on Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie, scoring once in the first on an Elvis Andrus ground out, and twice in the third on Adrian Beltre’s RBI single to center and A.J. Pierzynski’s sacrifice fly. From there, Garza had all the run support he would need. The right-hander blanked the Royals over eight innings, finally relenting in the ninth when Eric Hosmer blasted a solo home run to left field. Overall, Garza allowed the one run on five hits and a walk while striking out five. Joe Nathan relieved Garza and recorded three easy outs for the 3-1 victory, his 40th save of the season.

With the loss, the Royals were eliminated from AL Central contention. For the Rangers, the victory ensures that the Athletics cannot clinch the AL West until tomorrow, following either their own win or a Rangers loss. Meanwhile, the Rangers remain a half-game behind the Indians for the second AL Wild Card. Alexi Ogando will start in tomorrow’s series finale in Kansas City. The Rangers return home for seven games to wrap up the season: three against the lowly Astros and four against the Angels.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.