Montgomery shuts out Astros, Taveras homers as Rangers get 2-0 win in Game 1 of ALCS

The Texas Rangers celebrate after Game 1 of the baseball AL Championship Series Sunday in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve reacts after being called out after failing to touch second before returning to first on a fly ball during the eighth inning of Game 1 of the baseball AL Championship Series against the Texas Rangers Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vasquez)

HOUSTON — Jordan Montgomery outdueled Justin Verlander and the Texas Rangers received a big boost from their youngest player to open the AL Championship Series with a 2-0 win over the Houston Astros on Sunday night.

Montgomery pitched five-hit ball over 6 1/3 innings, Leody Taveras provided a two-run lead with his solo homer in the fifth and the Rangers remained perfect in the postseason at 6-0.


Evan Carter, a rookie who just turned 21 on Aug. 29, doubled and scored in the second and made two nifty defensive plays in left field. He’s shined this postseason after not making his major league debut until Sept. 8.

“He just has so much confidence,” Texas manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s got the youthful enthusiasm and he’s just excited to be here. He’s not in awe of anything, just no fear in this kid since he’s come up.”

In the ALCS for the first time since back-to-back appearances in 2010-11, the Rangers swept the Rays in the Wild Card Series and the Orioles in the Division Series. The winning streak followed loses in their previous six playoff games against Toronto in the ALDS in 2015 and 2016.

“We just found a way to get a couple of runs across the board,” Bochy said. “That was the difference in the game, obviously. But our guy was really good, Monty, terrific job he did. And he got in a couple of jams there and found a way to get out of it.”

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Monday in Houston.

The defending champion Astros, in the ALCS for a seventh straight year, had a tough time getting anything going against Montgomery. The top four batters in Houston’s lineup were 2 for 12 with five strikeouts against the left-hander. Slugger Yordan Alvarez struck out against him three times.

“Overall, just didn’t do enough tonight, offensively,” Houston third baseman Alex Bregman said. “I thought J.V. threw the ball tremendously, but we need to string together some better at-bats.”

Houston’s offensive woes came after it hit 16 homers and outscored the Rangers 39-10 in a three-game sweep in September. Things were much different in the first postseason meeting between these in-state rivals as they managed just five singles.

“Sometime you’ve got to say: ‘Hey, the guy threw a great game tonight against us, excellent game,’” manager Dusty Baker said. “And they say good pitching beats good hitting, but when you don’t hit, everybody wants to know what’s wrong. There’s not a whole bunch to say. He threw a real good game against us.”

Montgomery has been great in the last month, allowing just two earned runs over 27 innings in his last four starts of regular season, and posting a 2.08 ERA in three postseason starts.

Verlander allowed two runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings to mark the first time this postseason where both starters pitched into the seventh. It was the 36th postseason start for Verlander and the MLB-record 14th time he’s started a playoff series opener.

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