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Elephant Rumblings: Rangers take Game 1 in “Battle for Texas”

Jordan Montgomery outdueled Justin Verlander in a riveting series opener.

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Championship Series - Texas Rangers v Houston Astros - Game One Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Good morning, Athletics Nation!

The semifinals of the MLB playoffs kicked off last night with a spicy ALCS matchup between the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros. Though the Astros entered the series as the betting favorites — on top of being the reigning World Series and AL West champions — it was the Rangers who took Game 1. Surprisingly, it was on the back of Jordan Montgomery who outpitched future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander.

Though Houston’s ace mostly pitched well, he had a rocky 2nd inning that he was fortunate to get out of allowing just one run. The rally started with a double from rookie Evan Carter, who’s brought his hot late-season debut right into the postseason. A couple of quick pitches later, former A’s catcher and now All-Star Jonah Heim knocked Carter in with a one-out single to give the Rangers the 1-0 lead. Verlander allowed another single and a walk but squeezed himself out of the inning by getting Marcus Semien to pop out to the infield. He later let the Rangers double their lead, giving up a solo homerun to Leody Taveras in the top of the 5th.

Meanwhile, Montgomery, who’s been forced to lead the Rangers staff with DeGrom out for the season and Scherzer still working his way back, once again proved he’s up to the task. Nearly outdoing his Rangers playoffs debut against an even tougher opponent, the 30-year-old southpaw slayed the mighty Astros with 6 13 innings of shutout ball. Texas’ embattled bullpen finished the job, with Josh Sborz, Aroldis Chapman, and Jose Leclerc adding on another 2 23 scoreless innings to close the game and secure the 2-0 shutout.

The series continues tomorrow with Nathan Eovaldi taking on Framber Valdez for Game 2.

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