HOUSTON (AP) — Rangers slugger Adolis García went through the full range of emotions during a record-setting performance in the AL Championship Series, from that anger after getting plunked to the wide and constant smiles when celebrating a pennant.
García was named MVP of the ALCS after setting a record for RBIs in a postseason series with 15 and extending his home run streak to four games by going deep twice in Game 7 as Texas beat the Houston Astros 11-4 on Monday night. He’s also the first player with RBIs in six straight games within a postseason series.
“I think that these types of games, when there’s a lot of emotions, the fans out there, they are rallying for their team, it fuels me,” García said. “It’s motivation that helps me out when I’m playing.”
The Cuban slugger known as “El Bombi” stretched his RBI streak with a single in the first inning of the pennant-deciding game. He added an opposite-field solo homer to right in the third, a two-run single in the fourth and then went deep again in the eighth to push the Rangers to an 11-3 lead.
“You can’t really deny that October has that type of emotion, has that type of situation around it,” he said. “For myself, I just try to keep myself focused on the task at hand, try to perform, try to control the things that I can, and have the success that we can have.”
It was an eventful series for García, who hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the sixth inning of Game 5, spiking the bat and taking a slow trot punctuated with a stomp on the plate after putting the Rangers ahead. In his following at-bat, he was hit on the top of the left arm by a 98.9 mph fastball from Bryan Abreu.
When García immediately turned and got into the face of catcher Martin Maldonado, the benches and bullpens cleared and the game was delayed about 12 minutes before order was restored. Umpires determined that Abreu intentionally threw at the slugger, who was also ejected for his aggressive reaction. Abreu was suspended two games, a punishment delayed until the start of the next regular season after Abreu appealed.
Houston won that game 5-4 on Jose Altuve’s three-run homer in the ninth.
García — amid a chorus of boos from the Houston crowd — then struck out in his first four at-bats in Game 6 on Sunday night, before hitting a grand slam in the ninth inning of a 9-2 win that forced the deciding game. He was the first player ever in an MLB playoff game to go deep after striking out four times earlier in a game — something he also did in a regular-season home game Sept. 3, with four Ks against Minnesota before a walk-off homer in the ninth inning.
He began ALCS Game 7 with hits in his first three at-bats, just missing another homer when his first one ricocheted off the very top of the left-field wall.
The 15 RBIs broke the previous postseason record held by Nelson Cruz, who had 13 for the Rangers in the 2011 ALCS against Detroit the last time they went to the World Series. His 20 RBIs in these playoffs are the most ever by a player before the start of the Fall Classic, and one shy of David Freese’s mark for most RBIs in a postseason overall that he had for St. Louis when they were the champions in 2011.
“He’s a bad man, isn’t he?” shortstop Corey Seager said. “To be able to come into this atmosphere and get booed every at-bat and do what we did was really special. It was really fun to watch.”
The 30-year-old García was the MVP of Cuba’s top professional league in 2015, then was allowed by the Cuban government to play in Japan in 2016. But he never went home after four games for the Yomiuri Giants, instead defecting and eventually signing as a minor league free agent with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2017.
The Rangers acquired García for cash considerations in December 2019 after he was removed from the roster by the Cardinals, who also that offseason traded Randy Arozarena, who went on to be the ALCS MVP for Tampa Bay in 2020.
“It was a really beautiful experience, really, the one I had in Japan. … Once I was in Cuba and knew I was leaving, I always had my sights set to playing baseball in the United States,” García said.
And now, like his fellow countryman and All-Star, García is an ALCS MVP and going to get to play in the World Series.
“It really means a lot. Personally I know the struggle that I went through. The struggles that we go through when we’re trying to leave, play outside baseball,” García said. “And I know everything I had to go through and the struggle just to get where I am today, so I’m really grateful for that.”
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