ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Jose Altuve hit a three-run home run in the ninth inning and the Houston Astros eked out a 5-4 victory in a wild and volatile Game 5 on Friday after getting into another bench tussle with the Texas Rangers the AL Championship Series.
After winning all three matches at rival Texas, the defending World Series champions return home to Houston needing a win to clinch their third straight pennant. They lead 3-2 in the best-of-seven playoff heading into Game 6 on Sunday night.
“We’ve done it so many times. We never give up until the end,” Altuve said.
Adolis Garcia punctuated his towering three-run home run in the sixth with a slow trot and a sensitive swing of his bat after watching the ball pass the wall to give Texas a 4-2 lead.
When the batter came to bat again in the eighth with a runner on first, Bryan Abreu hit Garcia with a pitch on his left arm. An angry Garcia immediately turned around and faced catcher Martin Maldonado – the two also went head-to-head when Garcia touched home plate after his grand slam in Houston on July 26.
Both the benches and bullpens were cleared, although it did not appear that hits were thrown as the teams held on near home plate. As things calmed down, Garcia, Abreu and Astros manager Dusty Baker were sent off during a nearly 12-minute delay.
After the game, referee team chief James Hoye told a pool reporter that Abreu was ejected for intentionally throwing and Garcia was ejected for his role as an aggressor in the situation.
“The guy hits a three-run home run; He’ll be smoked there next time,” Texas manager Bruce Bochy said. “I would be upset too if I were Doli. But as I said, it just took too long to get everything back in order, and that frustrated me.”
Rangers closer Jose Leclerc gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Yainer Diaz to start the ninth for Houston and inserted pinch-hitter Jon Singleton at the bottom of the lineup. Altuve then scored a 0-1 equalizer over the left field fence, just past the glove of a leaping Evan Carter.
For Altuve it was the 26th postseason home run of his career, the second in major league history behind Manny Ramirez (29). The 5-foot-6 star second baseman played his 101st postseason game – all for the Astros.
“First of all, he wants to be up there. Secondly, he has a high level of concentration – because that’s what it takes in big moments like this: concentration, desire and relaxation all in one,” said Baker. “This guy is one of the baddest guys I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some great things.”
Garcia hit three-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth before Corey Seager hit a double, Carter hit a single and Garcia hit a three-pitch home run.
Nathaniel Lowe also went deep for the wildcard Rangers and equalized the score at 1-1 in the fifth round.
Ryan Pressly pitched two scoreless innings in the win after replacing Abreu after he was ejected. Pressly gave up consecutive singles to lead off the bottom of the ninth before retiring the top three batters in Texas’ lineup. Marcus Semien singled to shortstop, Seager flew to deep center and Carter struck out to end the game.
Alex Bregman hit an early home run for Houston, which is in its seventh straight ALCS and trying to reach its fifth World Series during that span.
The AL West champion Astros are 40-45 at Minute Maid Park this year, including 1-3 in the postseason. But they are 5-0 on the road and have won a total of 19 of their last 22 away games.
Houston went 9-1 at Globe Life Field this season, winning its last eight straight games and outscoring Texas 79-36 during that span.
Garcia, the Cuban slugger known as El Bombi, took a few slow steps out of the batter’s box after connecting and was about halfway down the baseline when the ball landed in the front row of seats a few feet behind the left-center wall. It was his fourth home run of the postseason.
That go-ahead run in the 42nd inning of this series was the first time the home team had ever taken the lead in the first five games.
Houston took a 2-1 lead in the sixth when Jose Abreu hit a 79 mph curveball from starter Jordan Montgomery and the sharply hit ball gave Seager a hard bounce at shortstop for an RBI single.
Josh Sborz entered the game with the bases loaded and one out, but prevented further damage with the help of a diving play by Semien at second base.
Verlander, in his 21st postseason start for Houston, retired 13 of his first 15 batters until Lowe went the other way and hit a 380-foot home run to left field. The 40-year-old right-hander allowed four runs and six hits over 5 2/3 innings.
A day after the retractable roof at Globe Life Park opened during a game for the first time since May 21, it was closed again on a sunny afternoon. The outside temperature at the first pitch was 91 degrees. With the roof closed, it was 74 degrees inside.
All-Star pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Framber Valdez will start Game 6, the same matchup as Game 2 when the Rangers won 5-4. Eovaldi struck out nine and allowed three runs in six innings in the win on Monday. Valdez had six strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings but allowed five runs (four earned).