Getting a grip on Game 7

Of course it was going to come down to this.

Game 7, tonight, Minute Maid Park, with a World Series berth at stake.

Nothing new for the Houston Astros. They’ve been in five of the last seven Fall Classics.

A little strange for the upstart Texas Rangers, who have nobody in their clubhouse who was around when that club did enjoy/endure some postseason drama more than a decade ago.

The Rangers, who at the outset of this MLB season were not thought to be a serious playoff contender, moved to the brink of the American League championship Sunday night with their 9-2 triumph, broken open in their last at-bat.

They posted their third win in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series – all on the road, breaking hearts deep in the southeast corner of Texas.

The road team is unbeaten in this series. Houston swept all three games in Arlington.

The Astros are now 40-46 on their homefield this season and postseason. Go figure.

Houston and Texas both went 90-72 in the MLB regular season. They are both skippered by future Baseball Hall of Fame managers, Dusty Baker and Bruce Bochy, guys who know how to win World Series – and over 2,000 MLB games, a milestone reached by only nine other managers ever.

Baker managed his first World Series winner just last year with the Astros. It was his third appearance in the Fall Classic running a club, plus he played in three. The toothpick-chewing senior citizen has managed five different teams to postseason.  Bochy is on the verge of his fifth World Series appearance, three with San Francisco (all three ending in glory) and another with San Diego.

Plenty of regret, but no shame in losing tonight.

For Texas, it would be the end to a fantastic season, better than the most optimistic Rangers fan could have dreamed. On the other side, Astros fans would be crushed to lose four times at home and fail to get back to the Series.

Does any of that mean anything to the guys in uniform who will settle things tonight? Not much. They’re playing for their legacies, for their teammates, for their bank accounts. As for the admiration of their fan bases, that feels great until it doesn’t.

They want it. They can live without it. But obviously, a ballpark full of fans hasn’t helped either team lately.

What will be the decisive factor?

The big fly don’t lie. Teams that outhomer their opponents are 19-3 in the 2023 postseason.

Which team can put it into the hands of fans in the outfield seats most often will prevail. That’s the nature of MLB these days. With the rules changes implemented for this season, it seemed baserunning and base hits were more impactful than in a long time in the grand ole game, but not lately.

This is only the third Game 7 in an ALCS in the last 11 years. If you’re like me, Switzerland in this matchup, enjoy it. If you’re staunchly a ‘Stros fan, or a rabid Rangers’ backer, it’s going to be intense.

My hunch? Somebody will jump out to an insurmountable lead.

My hope? Extra innings.

My TV? Won’t be tuned to Monday Night Football, or The Voice.

My pick? I’m taking Houston, which should not be encouraging for Astros’ fans.

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