For the first time in franchise history, the Rangers — formed as the expansion Washington Senators (Part II) in 1961 before moving to Arlington in ‘72 — are champions. And the team that had been MLB’s oldest without a World Series title did it the hard way, entering the postseason as the fifth of six American League seeds and then going an unprecedented 11-0 on the road.
It was a marvelous run, propelled by the historically productive bats of World Series MVP Corey Seager and AL Championship Series MVP Adolis García and skippered by a likely Hall of Famer in Bruce Bochy, who came out of retirement to become just the sixth manager in history with at least four World Series wins.
“That’s a credit to [general manager] Chris Young and the ownership, Ray Davis,” Bochy said. “They were determined to get winning baseball back to the Texas Rangers. And when we met, that’s what we talked about. And they did everything they said they were going to do.”
Though the Rangers made it look easy in this Fall Classic, their season was anything but.
Texas invested a gargantuan sum of money in Jacob deGrom, only for its imported ace to blow out his right elbow after six starts. The Rangers added Max Scherzer at the Trade Deadline, and he got hurt, too. They got off to a roaring 40-20 start but ran into more injury trouble affecting the likes of Seager, Josh Jung, Heim, Nathan Eovaldi, Mitch Garver and others, then they hit several summer snags, including a 4-16 rut from mid-August to early September that threatened to pull them out of the playoff picture. They recovered from that to grab the AL West’s top spot late in the season, only to lose it to the rival Astros in a tiebreaker after they dropped three of the season’s final four games in Seattle. Their seeding sent them on the road to face the 99-win Rays, then the 101-win Orioles, then the October-tested Astros.
The Rangers beat ‘em all. Then they convincingly silenced the Snakes, even after losing García to a left oblique injury in Game 3.
“They’re an amazing franchise,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “They were the best team. They beat us fair and square.”
The Rangers showed their mettle in what was, for eight innings, an ultra-tight tilt.
Gallen and Eovaldi staged a World Series-worthy pitchers’ duel that was a welcomed tonic after the bullpen-palooza that had played out the previous night. They also proved that zeroes come in many forms.
For Gallen, it was efficient, almost effortless out after out after out. He became the first pitcher in World Series history to pitch six no-hit innings with his team facing elimination.
“It was everything that he could possibly give us and then some,” Lovullo said. “He answered the bell. He came out fighting, and he was slugging it out.”
In the other corner stood Eovaldi, who had to sweat his way to success. He had baserunners abound, allowing four hits and five walks in six innings. But the D-backs went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position against him to strand all nine of those runners. They had two aboard with none out in the third, when No. 3 hitter Gabriel Moreno questionably put down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners, and nothing came of it.
“The leadoff walk to start the game, having traffic [in innings] one through five, it wasn’t easy,” Eovaldi said. “And I was able to make the big pitches when I really needed to.”
Unable to erupt against Eovaldi, the D-backs left themselves vulnerable to anything short of perfection by their ace.
Gallen finally bent in the seventh, and it began in an ironic way. Seager broke up the no-no, but he didn’t do it in the style that suited him all series. Rather, it was a softly hit grounder to the opposite side — a ball that would have been harmless if third baseman Evan Longoria hadn’t been shifted toward shortstop. The ball reached the outfield grass, and the Rangers had life.
“[Seager] was definitely going to be the one to knock it open for us,” said Rangers left fielder Evan Carter. “For sure.”
Reflecting a theme of this series, the Rangers seized the moment in a way the D-backs did not. Carter ripped a double to put two runners in scoring position. And after a consultation on the mound with pitching coach Brent Strom, Gallen gave up a ground-ball single up the middle to Garver to bring Seager home with the game’s first run.
Though Gallen recovered to strike out Jung and October relief hero Kevin Ginkel came on to record the last two outs of the seventh and escape a bases-loaded jam of his own making in the eighth, the D-backs were made to pay for their early inability to cash in at the plate. The Rangers came out swinging in the ninth against Arizona closer Paul Sewald with consecutive singles from Jung and Nathaniel Lowe. Heim ripped a single to center field that Gold Glove finalist Alek Thomas misplayed. The ball scooted under his glove and toward the wall, as Jung and Lowe hustled home and Heim streaked to third.
Two outs later, Semien went deep for the second time in as many nights to make it 5-0. Josh Sborz’s perfect ninth completed what was, by that point, a foregone conclusion.
When Marte took a called third strike for the last out, breaking his record 20-game postseason hit streak, all that was left was to corral that precious pill that had briefly escaped Heim’s mitt.
“He called him out, and I wanted to celebrate with Sborz and forgot the ball was in my glove,” Heim said. “But I recovered, made the play, and we got it.”