With Houston trailing by two runs with no outs in the top of the ninth, who else but Altuve met the moment and parked a three-run home run to left field and gave Houston the lead for good.
In the most important game thus far in this American League Championship Series, the Astros rallied to a 5-4 win, stunning the Rangers with a third straight win at Globe Life Field. Houston now holds a 3-2 series lead going back to Minute Maid Park for Game 6. Neither team has prevailed in its home park thus far.
Houston led for much of Game 5 until Adolis García lofted a go-ahead three-run home run himself in the sixth inning, giving the Rangers a 4-2 advantage. The animated All-Star emphatically slammed his bat following the blast, pumping up his teammates with the celebration and giving Texas its first lead in the series since Game 2 in Houston. In García’s next at-bat, Astros reliever Bryan Abreu drilled him near his shoulder with a fastball.
While it’s unlikely Abreu hit García on purpose, the slugger and the umpiring crew believed differently.
Once García was hit, he immediately pointed a finger in Astros catcher Martin Maldonado’s face. The Houston backstop shook his head while García kept jawing at him. In the backdrop of the diamond, both benches and bullpens emptied. Chaos ensued as the two playoff rosters congregated in a heap at home plate. García was eventually pulled off the field with the help of Astros slugger Yordan Álvarez.
In the aftermath, Abreu, García and Astros skipper Dusty Baker were all ejected from the game. Umpires decided Abreu hit García with intent, and Baker was livid at that decision. He put up a long argument, including a violent throwaway of his own cap, before settling back down in his usual spot on the bench.
Following a 12-minute delay in the action, Baker was forced by home plate umpire Marvin Hudson to leave his post in the dugout. Baker eventually retreated.
Altuve and the Astros fighting back in the ninth inning made Baker’s temper tantrum worth it. Ryan Pressly closed out the ninth, but not before allowing the first two Texas batters to reach safely and garnering a couple of loud outs.
The long and dramatic final innings were in stark contrast to the first half of the game.
Justin Verlander challenged the Rangers with his four-seam fastball — 52 of his 82 total pitches were heaters — but drew only five swings and misses from it. Still, he kept shoving. It was a change of strategy for Verlander, who only threw the fastball 47% of the time in Game 1 of the ALCS. The veteran had hoped the pitch would serve him well. Instead, it led to his demise.
In his third time facing Verlander, and his sixth time seeing the fastball, García lofted the pitch high up toward the Globe Life Field dome. Verlander almost fell backward off the mound as he watched it sail. But then the ball traveled farther than it did higher, all the way into the left-field seats for a go-ahead, three-run home run.
García, one of MLB’s most entertaining hype men, instantly turned to his dugout as he slow-walked to first base. He shouted at his teammates, slammed his bat on the ground with authority, and only then did he start his trot around the bases.
“I’m just trying to get that boost of energy to the team,” Garcia said before Game 6. “No matter what situation, we’re winning or we’re down in the game. I’m just trying to get that boost for the team until that final out.”
Perhaps, in this pivotal Game 5, García’s bold antics came back to hurt him and the Rangers. Certainly, the blowup at Maldonado only served as motivation for the Astros when they came back in the ninth inning. His ejection also allowed Texas closer José Leclerc, who entered in the eighth for the third out before returning for the final three, to get cold.
Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.
Get more from Major League Baseball Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more