BALTIMORE — Mitch Garver hit a third-inning grand slam and the Texas Rangers won their fourth consecutive game to start this postseason, pushing the Baltimore Orioles to the brink of elimination with an 11-8 victory in Game 2 of the AL Division Series on Sunday.
The wild-card Rangers have outscored the Orioles and Tampa Bay — the top two teams in the American League in the regular season — by 25-11. Bruce Bochy moved within one win of his first AL Championship Series as a manager. He reached that round four times in the National League, winning three World Series titles with San Francisco.
Gunnar Henderson and Aaron Hicks homered for the AL East champion Orioles, who haven't been swept in a series of at least two games since May 2022. They're now in danger of doing that at a most inopportune time.
Hicks drove in five runs, including a three-run shot with one out in the ninth that brought the Orioles within three runs for the first time since before Garver's grand slam. But it was too little, too late.
Texas fell behind for the first time this postseason when the Orioles scored two runs in the first, but the Rangers answered with five in the second to knock out rookie Grayson Rodriguez. Garver, a backup catcher who hadn't played yet in the 2023 playoffs, hit his grand slam for a 9-2 lead.
Garver came up again with the bases loaded in the fifth but hit into a double play. Even that brought home another run.
Garver was in the lineup because it was “just time to get him out there” — to quote Bochy pregame. He hit .270 with 19 home runs in 87 games this year, and Bochy decided his power and batting eye made him worthy of the No. 3 spot in the batting order.
The 68-year-old manager was rewarded for that move, and there were plenty of other contributors for the Rangers.
Corey Seager became the first player to walk five times in a postseason game and scored twice. Baltimore pitchers walked 11, their most in a game since 2019, and six of those runners scored.
Texas became the first team in postseason history with seven hits and seven walks through three innings, according to Sportradar. The Rangers finished the game with 11 of each to go with their 11 runs.
Hicks, who missed a key sign in the ninth inning of Game 1, poked a bases-loaded single to right field in the first. But the bottom of the Texas batting order barely gave the Camden Yards crowd time to feel hopeful.
A walk, a single, and a two-run double by No. 9 hitter Leody Taveras tied the game. Marcus Semien grounded out to the mound, with first baseman Ryan Mountcastle needing to make a diving snag of Rodriguez’s wild throw. After a walk to Seager, Garver hit a dribbler in front of the plate that brought home a run, and he beat it out when Rodriguez — perhaps spooked by his poor toss earlier — lobbed the ball weakly to first.
Adolis García hit an RBI single up the middle, and Jonah Heim added a run-scoring single one out later to make it 5-2 and chase Rodriguez.
Danny Coulombe got out of the second for Baltimore, but Bryan Baker walked the bases loaded with one out in the third. Then Jacob Webb came in and allowed his second homer of the series — the drive by Garver that carried past the big wall at Camden Yards that the Orioles pushed back before the 2022 season.
Neither starting pitcher made it through the fifth. Cody Bradford got the win in relief of Jordan Montgomery, tossing 3⅔ scoreless innings.
Rodriguez took the loss. He was one of baseball's top prospects at the beginning of the season and posted a 2.58 ERA after the All-Star break, but he allowed five runs, six hits and four walks Sunday.
Down 9-2, the Orioles chipped away a bit. They scored twice in the fourth on an RBI single by Jorge Mateo and a sacrifice fly by Mountcastle. Henderson's solo homer in the fifth made it 10-5.
Mateo had four hits, including two doubles.
Baltimore has lost seven straight postseason games. The Orioles were swept by Kansas City in the 2014 ALCS, then dropped a winner-take-all game at Toronto as a wild card in 2016.
In a throwback to the pre-pitch clock era, this nine-inning game took 3 hours, 45 minutes.
Texas plans to start Nathan Eovaldi for Game 3. Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said Baltimore will announce a pitcher Monday.
Tuesday night will be the first home game for the Rangers since Sept. 24 and their first playoff game at Globe Life Field. The ballpark did host much of the 2020 postseason for other teams because of the coronavirus pandemic.