ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Corey Seager and Adolis García homered early, Nathan Eovaldi struck out seven over seven innings in another series-clinching start and the Texas Rangers completed an AL Division Series sweep of the Baltimore Orioles with a 7-1 victory Tuesday night.
The Rangers, whose loss at Seattle on the last day of the regular season made them a wild-card team instead of the AL West champion, have since won all five of their postseason games. They are going to the American League Championship Series for the first time since 2011.
Baltimore won an AL-high 101 games and was never swept in a series during the regular season, but the AL East champions are done after a sweep at the most inopportune time. The Orioles have lost eight playoff games in a row over the past 10 seasons.
Seager pulled a 445-foot drive into the right-field seats in the first inning, and García’s three-run homer — one the All-Star slugger admired while taking a few slow steps out of the batter’s box — made it 6-0 in the second to chase Orioles right-hander Dean Kremer, the Israeli-American pitcher making his first career postseason start.
It was the first Rangers playoff game at Globe Life Field, the stadium that was brand new in 2020 when it hosted much of MLB’s neutral postseason during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Los Angeles Dodgers spent most of that October there, and Seager was the MVP in both the NLCS and World Series. A year later, the shortstop went to Texas on a $325 million, 10-year deal and occupies the same locker he did during that most unusual postseason with limited attendance.
With a full house for his first home playoff game with the Rangers, Seager sent the record sellout crowd of 40,861 into a frenzy when he connected in his first at-bat. He went deep seven times for the Dodgers here in 2020.
Nathaniel Lowe also homered for Texas, a solo shot in the sixth. Lowe had led off the Rangers’ five-run second inning with a lineout to left, but that came on the 15th pitch of the at-bat after fouling off nine two-strike pitches.
Seager is one of five Texas hitters who started for the AL squad in this year’s All-Star Game. That is quite a lineup for Bruce Bochy, the three-time World Series-winning manager with San Francisco who was hired by the Rangers last offseason and is now going to his first AL Championship Series.
Also an All-Star in his first season with the Rangers, Eovaldi has won both of their series-clinching games this postseason. Those are the right-hander’s longest and best two starts since returning in September after missing seven weeks because of a right forearm strain.
Eovaldi threw 76 of his 98 pitches for strikes without a walk while allowing only one run. He was serenaded with chants of his name as he walked off the mound after the seventh — and then was pushed out of the dugout by a teammate to tip his cap to the crowd. He also won the Wild Card Series clincher at Tampa Bay last Wednesday.
José Leclerc got the final four outs, the first one with the bases loaded in the eighth when he induced an inning-ending groundout by pinch-hitter Aaron Hicks, who in the ninth inning of Game 2 had hit a three-run homer off him.
Leclerc took over for hard-throwing Aroldis Chapman, who gave up a single and then a pair of two-out walks. Leclerc pitched a perfect ninth, setting off celebratory fireworks inside the ballpark when he struck out Jordan Westburg to end the game.
Kremer’s 1 2/3 innings marked his shortest outing all season. The 27-year-old wore a Star of David necklace as usual, with thoughts of extended family members in Israel, where war has been declared following a deadly incursion by militant group Hamas. His mother was at the game.
Kremer was 13-5 with a 4.12 ERA in 32 regular-season starts that included Baltimore’s two clinching games: Sept. 17 to secure a playoff spot, and 11 days later for the team’s 100th win to clinch the AL East.
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With runners at second and third and two outs in the second inning, the Orioles opted to intentionally walk Seager. Mitch Garver, who hit a grand slam in Game 2, then hit a two-run double before García homered to make it 6-0.
Seager also drew another walk in the fourth inning, making him the first player with nine walks in a three-game postseason stretch. That is one more than Barry Bonds in San Francisco’s four-game NLDS loss to Florida in 2003.
Seager walked five times in Game 2 against Baltimore, the first player in postseason history with five in a single game.
Orioles: Spring training in Sarasota, Florida, before the AL East champions open the regular season March 28 at home against the Los Angeles Angels.
The Rangers wait to see if they will be going to Houston or Minnesota for ALCS Game 1 on Sunday.