HOUSTON — No player competing in the 2023 American League Championship Series embodies the Lone Star State more than Astros closer Ryan Pressley, who was born in Dallas, has a tattoo of the state on his back and is rarely seen not wearing Cowboys boots off the field.
Heck, Presley’s wife, Kat, is a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader who grew up in Houston. It doesn’t get more Texas than that.
When it comes to Space City vs. Metroplex, there’s no doubt where Pressley’s loyalties lie — he’s hopeful the Astros can finish out the Rangers’ season in the coming days in an ALCS as big as Texas. The Astros will have home-field advantage in the best-of-seven series, starting with Game 1 on Sunday night at Minute Maid Park.
“It’s going to be loud, but I think the crowd will be 50-50 when we’re there. [in Arlington]Presley said. “It’s going to be fun. I’m excited to be able to get back out there and play some baseball.”
If the Astros are to get past the Rangers and advance to their third straight World Series — and fifth in seven years — Pressley will be called upon for some big hits, but he proved he’s up to the challenge in October.
Pressley’s 13 postseason saves are the fifth-most in MLB history, behind Mariano Rivera (42), Kenley Janssen (20), Brad Lidge (18) and Dennis Eckersley (15). No one has saved more games in the postseason without a save than Pressley, who was 6-for-6 in last year’s run to the World Series title.
“I think it’s just another game,” Pressley said. “You try to keep things as simple as possible when you’re out there. You don’t want to try to do too much or over-think things. It’s the same game, as I said earlier this year. It’s just a lot of people watching.”
Presley, 34, was drafted by the Red Sox in 2007 out of Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas, and would have attended Texas Tech if he had not signed with Boston. He began his career as a starter before moving to relief. He pitched five seasons for the Twins before the Astros acquired him in 2018 to shore up their bullpen.
In his first game with Houston on July 28, 2018, the Rangers’ Rougned Odor rocked him for a homer.
“I thought, ‘I could have done this in Minnesota,’” Pressley said.
The Astros were wooed by Pressley’s spin rate on his curveball, as well as his fastball. He changed the way he used his pitches and moved into the closer’s role in 2020. He became one of the most dominant and accomplished relief pitchers in baseball.
Pressley earned his 100th save with the Astros on July 25 against the Rangers, becoming the fourth player in club history to reach that mark. Only Billy Wagner (225), Dave Smith (199) and Lidge (123) have more saves in an Astros uniform.
“Like my dad always told me, just keep your head down, and then when you look up at the end of your career, you’ll see what you’ve done,” Presley said. “I never thought I’d get to 100 saves. I mean, you have to be good for a long time to do that. And you’re on a team like that, and they’re just winning. And then the staff surrounding you, it makes you that much better. I never thought I’d get there “But I’m glad I did it.”
Since joining Houston, Pressley has been named to two All-Star teams and posted the longest scoreless appearance streak in major league history – 40 games – from August 15, 2018, to May 24, 2019. He has also been scoreless in 36 of his 43 career appearances. postseason with the Astros, including the final three games in their playoff win over the Phillies in the World Series last year.
“There is no greater feeling in the world than seeing every one of your teammates [rushing] “You should celebrate,” Presley said. “So I will never forget that for the rest of my life, especially seeing the ball go into the goal [Kyle] Tucker’s glove too. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
Earlier this year, Presley reached 10 years of service and was gifted with — what else? – A pair of custom-made shoes. The shoes feature the Astros logo on the toe of one shoe and the Twins logo on the toe of the other shoe. The back of the shoe featured the 2019 and ’21 All-Star Game logos.
“I probably wear shoes about 99 percent of the time,” he said. “It’s very special to get something like this. Obviously I don’t think I’ll ever wear it. This will be something I have in my man cave, and I hope a lot of people will ask about it when they come over.”
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