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Adolis Garcia Is The Engine

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 23: Adolis Garcia #53 of the Texas Rangers celebrates after hitting a solo home run against Jose Urquidy #65 of the Houston Astros during the eighth inning in Game Seven of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 23, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Well, at least the Houston Astros got to use Bryan Abreu. That should keep them warm and snuggly during the long winter months while they drag the gravel and glass shards of this truncated season through the abandoned playgrounds of their minds.

But Abreu's fame is inextricably tied to and now emphatically eclipsed by that of Adolis Garcia, the centerpiece of the World Series–bound Texas Rangers. His last 12 plate appearances encapsulate the weird Ranger phenomenon as well as anything Bruce Bochy grumblesplains between now and Friday night.

He homered off Justin Verlander in the sixth inning of Game 5 to give the Rangers a 4-1 lead, then got hit with a fastball by Abreu in the eighth that the mall cops adjudged to be intentional. Garcia got tossed for accosting Houston catcher Martin Maldonado, Abreu got tossed and suspended in a season to be named later, and the series ... well, it turned. Of course Garcia had to strike out four times in Game 6 to confuse matters, but then he hit a grand slam off Ryne Stanek in the ninth inning of a game already decided, thus allowing Bochy to preserve the sliver of his bullpen considered effective for Game 7.

He didn't need it. In the first, Garcia lined a run-scoring single to make it 2-0, stole second, and then scored himself on Mitch Garver's subsequent base hit. He homered to lead off the third, smacked a two-run single in the fourth, and homered again in the eighth, driving in enough runs on his own to beat the Astros and propel the Rangers to a deeply underconceivable World Series appearance they hope will go better than the 2010 and 2011 attempts.

Texas is an odd team. On the one hand, the Rangers have been profligate spenders, especially on starting pitchers and core infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. On the other, Garcia gets paid a skosh less than $750,000. They hired Bochy from the back deck of his vacation home because of his résumé and wizardry with bullpens, yet the Rangers' bullpen is an ongoing piefight. Their batting order was frightening for 120 games and then decidedly ordinary down an unsettled stretch. They are, in short, a perfectly representative team for 2023, where the teams that won the most are watching at home and the ones that had to scrap and scrape for their right to October are best positioned for November.

And two days after Garcia got by Abreu and caused a better-than-usual baseball kerfuffle (the scene of Garcia being led from the scrum and calmed down by Houston's Yordan Alvarez was particularly comedic), the Rangers scored 20 runs in two road games and conga-lined the best team of the last decade. They operate outside the rules of equilibrium, laugh at archaic notions like momentum, and when things get funky, they get, well, Garcia.

Not just him alone, mind you, but he is the showiest car in the garage, and the one who changed a series the Astros seemed to have won. He didn't change it immediately, to be sure, but he's the one you remember now.

And Abreu? He pitched the sixth, giving up a two-run home run to Nate Lowe that made it 10-2. Hey, he got an inning of work; a small victory for a cold winter.

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