As Marcus Semien’s two-run home run in the ninth inning floated to the fans in the left-center-field seats, the Texas Rangers knew. Howls emanated from the first-base dugout. Semien’s whole body seemed to let out a cry of relief as he extended his arms passing first base. Corey Seager, in the on-deck circle, saw firsthand the finishing touches of what he started in the opener of the World Series.
The Rangers’ 5-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 5 of the World Series handed Texas its first championship in franchise history. The team with a combined 196 losses between 2021-22 now stands tall on baseball’s mountaintop in 2023. Fittingly, ending a 62-year title drought required the Rangers to go an MLB-record 11-0 on the road in the postseason.
“This is baseball nirvana,” a red-faced and misty-eyed Max Scherzer said, as he reflected on the boozy clubhouse scene in front of him.
Scherzer and Seager both won their second career championships after this World Series run. Seager became the fourth player to earn a second World Series MVP, but he’s the first to do so in each league and he joined Reggie Jackson as the only players to win it for multiple teams.
The superstar shortstop posted an 1.137 OPS in the Fall Classic and homered three times, including the game-tying shot in the ninth inning of Game 1. But on Wednesday, he made a difference on offense by poking a single with a 67 mph exit velocity through the wide-open space between shortstop and third base. That broke up Zac Gallen‘s no-hitter in the seventh inning. Moments later, Seager scored the game’s first run, nine outs from victory.
Breaking the Rangers’ championship drought was a drawing point for Seager when he agreed to a 10-year, $325 million contract with Texas in Dec. 2021 after spending the first seven years of his career with the Dodgers.
“I won in L.A,” he said. “They hadn’t won in 30 years and I saw what it did to a fan base. When I found out they had never won here, that was something that intrigued me, to be able to start at the bottom and try and build something and compete. To be able to do it, it’s really satisfying.”
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That satisfaction was on full, unabashed display in Texas’ celebratory clubhouse. Within seconds, the plastic-covered floor was soaked in Coors Light and champagne puddles. Within minutes, Creed’s “Higher” blared from the sound system. Nathaniel Lowe and Josh Jung slapped their hands together and kept them intertwined as they shouted, “Forever, forever, forever!” Journeymen outfielders Travis Jankowski and Robbie Grossman were unsure which finger the championship ring was supposed to go on. A chant of “C.Y.! C.Y.!” broke out for Chris Young as players drenched the general manager in booze.
“It’s the best title you can get as an athlete: champion,” Rangers catcher Jonah Heim said.
In one corner of the room was Semien, who played in all 162 games of the Rangers’ regular season, and then in all 17 games of their postseason. Somehow, he was still standing. Semien’s 835 plate appearances broke the MLB record for a single season (regular and postseason). Between the ALDS and ALCS, the second baseman also welcomed his fourth child with wife Tarah Murrey. Semien’s nose-to-the-grindstone mindset this year was an indefatigable effort that his teammates won’t forget.
So, he was asked the question on everyone’s mind: Are you tired?
“This is baseball,” Semien said. “We’re not playing football or basketball. We’re playing baseball. We go out there and do something special every single day.”
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Gallen’s efforts won’t be forgotten anytime soon, either. He opened with 4.2 perfect innings and didn’t allow a hit until the seventh of this elimination game. He entered the pivotal outing with a 5.27 ERA and 6.33 FIP over five previous postseason starts. Perhaps he was just saving it for the most important game of his career, as he emptied the tank with an exceptional performance.
The All-Star right-hander induced a variety of fly balls, groundouts and strikeouts to keep the Rangers’ overpowering offense off balance. It wasn’t until his 15th batter of the night, Nathaniel Lowe, that Gallen allowed a runner on base by surrendering his only walk of the night. With the D-backs’ backs against the wall, skipper Torey Lovullo could not have asked more from his ace. It was the Arizona offense that squandered myriad chances.
“I kinda joked around, I don’t know how many rabbits I had left in my hat,” Eovaldi told FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal afterward.
Eovaldi’s performance epitomized the high-wire act the championship Rangers traversed all year.
In the fourth inning, Evan Longoria‘s pop fly dropped just inside the first-base foul line in shallow right field, allowing the 38-year-old to plod into second for a two-out double. The veteran right-hander then froze Geraldo Perdomo with a 94 mph fastball that painted the black. Perdomo threw his bat away, believing he’d drawn a walk, as Texas position players jogged off the field.
From the first inning through the fifth, the D-backs put at least one runner in scoring position in each frame, only to go 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position against Eovaldi. He finished with six scoreless innings despite surrendering four hits and five walks. All the while, the Chase Field jumbotron encouraged the home team to create chaos with a flashing graphic. The “Answerbacks” had responded to adversity all October — all season, in fact — but finally ran out of solutions as the calendar turned to November. As the D-backs retreated into their melancholy clubhouse, blue confetti littered their field.
“You just never want it to stop,” Lovullo said. “It’s like your favorite roller coaster that you never want to get off of. And you want to be the last team standing. You want to be in the middle of a pile and have everybody pile on top of you. That’s the best feeling in the world.”
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And, after more than five decades in Texas, the euphoria finally belongs to the Rangers. They overcame an eight-game losing streak in August and losing the AL West title on the final day of the regular season. They overcame losing all three of their home games in the ALCS to the defending-champion Astros. They overcame a season-ending injury to expected ace Jacob deGrom and World Series injuries to Scherzer and ALCS MVP Adolis García. Bruce Bochy, managing in his fifth World Series, said this club experienced the most adversity out of all his pennant winners. But the Rangers picked each other up, found ways to wiggle out of their hard times and won the whole thing anyway.
“We weathered the storm,” pitching coach Mike Maddux said. “In April, May, June, s—, we’re not going to lose another game. And then we hit August, and hell, we might not win another game. Every team has that. We knew going in we were going to have a tough slate from June to the All-Star break. We’re playing 30 games in 31 days in three different time zones. We knew that was going to be a tough stretch. We said that in spring training. We limped into the All-Star break, but we came out blazing afterward.
Source : Fox Sport