Max Scherzer pitched for the first time in more than a month on Wednesday. It didn’t go well.
The Rangers’ ace had plenty of rust as the Houston Astros tagged him for five earned runs in an 8-5 victory in Game 3 of the ALCS. After a two-game sweep at home, the defending champs ended their series deficit at 2-1, with Game 4 scheduled for Thursday in Arlington.
Scherzer has been sidelined since September 12 due to a strain in his shoulder blade. He threw 68 pitches in a simulated game last week. Gives hope to manager Bruce Bochy He was ready for ALCS action.
He looked good in the first innings, needing only eight pitches to retire the side. But the Astros scored three runs in the second, and then Jose Altuve hit a solo home run in the third to extend Houston’s lead to 4-0.
Scherzer did it in four innings, surrendering five earned runs on five hits and one walk. He drove in four runs with a single home run allowed to Altuve. It’s been a rough trip for the three-time Cy Young winner after nearly five weeks off.
The game is not over at that point – far from it. After being held hitless by Christian Javier for 4 2/3 innings, the Rangers scored two runs in the fifth on Josh Jung’s two-run home run. Javier’s first runs allowed in 20 1/3 postseason innings.
Then in the sixth, Rangers shortstop Leody Taveras robbed Yordon Alvarez of one of the plays of the postseason for a home run with a catch over the center-field wall.
The defensive gem helped keep the Rangers within striking distance as both offenses did the damage in the late innings. But the Astros rallied against the Rangers in the seventh (two runs each) and eighth (one run each) to keep their lead intact and avoid falling into an 0-3 hole.
The Astros struck out Scherzer in a scoreless second inning. Scherzer induced a pop-up from Jeremy Pena for the second out. But it went downhill from there.
With Martin Maldonado out, Scherzer threw an 0-1 pitch into the dirt. It got away from catcher Jonah Heim, allowing Yordon Alvarez to score from third on a wild pitch. With the run, the Astros took their first lead of the series.
One pitch later, Maldonado hit a Scherzer fastball into left field, scoring Mauricio Dubon and Kyle Tucker. Maldonado then tried to extend the win with a double, but the damage was done. The Astros had a 3-0 lead they would never relinquish.
It was a strong team effort from the Astros, whose bats rose on the road after scoring four runs in Houston.
But the honor here goes to Altuve, who ended a three-game hitless slump with his first home run since Game 1 of the ALDS against the Minnesota Twins.
The fourth-inning shot capped Scherzer’s rough start and helped get Houston’s offense rolling. Altuve finished 2-of-5 at the plate with a home run, two RBI and a run scored.
Alvarez had a strong night going 2-for-4 with a run and two RBI. And Javier was strong in his start, getting the win in 5 2/3 innings pitched while allowing two earned runs on three hits with one walk and two strikeouts.
Game 4 begins Thursday at 8:03 p.m. The starters are yet to be announced. The Astros are looking to even the series, while the Rangers hope to get back to their winning ways and take a 3-1 series lead.
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