Rangers break through for franchise's first World Series title

AP photo by Godofredo A. Vásquez / The Texas Rangers celebrate after their 5-0 win in Game 5 of the World Series against the host Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night in Phoenix. The Rangers wrapped up the best-of-seven series to win the first MLB title in their franchise's 63-season history.
AP photo by Godofredo A. Vásquez / The Texas Rangers celebrate after their 5-0 win in Game 5 of the World Series against the host Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night in Phoenix. The Rangers wrapped up the best-of-seven series to win the first MLB title in their franchise's 63-season history.

PHOENIX — Corey Seager took a mighty hack and barely connected, sending a dribbler through an open area on the left side of the infield for his team’s first hit in the seventh inning.

The Texas Rangers shortstop and World Series MVP provided plenty of power throughout a stellar October run, but it was a little good fortune that finally sparked the lineup Wednesday night and sent the franchise on its way to its first Major League Baseball championship.

Considering the heartache the team went through 12 years ago in one of the all-time gut punches in MLB history, Texas was certainly due.

Nathan Eovaldi pitched six gritty innings, Mitch Garver broke a scoreless tie with an RBI single in the seventh, and the Rangers won the first championship in their franchise's 63-season history by beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-0 in Game 5 to wrap up the best-of-seven World Series.

Marcus Semien homered in a four-run ninth, and the Rangers, held hitless for six innings by Zac Gallen, finished a record 11-0 on the road this postseason after capping the Fall Classic with three straight wins in the desert.

“Everything I’ve ever worked for is for this moment,” Semien said. “Gallen was unbelievable tonight. But we came through. Once Corey got the first hit, everybody kind of woke up. Pitching was unbelievable.”

In his first season with Texas, manager Bruce Bochy won his fourth title 13 years to the day after his first, which came in 2010 when the San Francisco Giants beat the Rangers. He also won rings with the Giants in 2012 and 2014, managing that franchise from 2007 to 2019. He was out of baseball for three years before returning to the dugout — and returning to winning it all.

“I was sitting in a recliner there in Nashville, just enjoying myself,” said the 68-year-old Bochy, who came out of retirement to take over the Rangers.

Bochy is the sixth manager to win four MLB titles, joining Casey Stengel (seven), Joe McCarthy (seven), Connie Mack (five), Walter Alston (four) and Joe Torre (four). All of them are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and when Bochy’s career is over, it seems a given there will be a place for him in Cooperstown, New York.

The win helped exorcise some unpleasant memories for Texas fans, who watched as their team came agonizingly close to a title in 2011, needing just one strike on two occasions before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals.

One night after the Rangers built a 10-run lead by the third inning in Game 4, they finished off baseball’s third all-wild card World Series by outlasting Arizona in a white-knuckle pitchers’ duel.

Gallen carried a no-hitter into the seventh before giving up an opposite-field single to Seager, whose weak grounder found a hole. Rangers rookie Evan Carter, all of 21 years old, followed with a double to right-center field. Garver then delivered the first run, pumping his fist as a hard-hit grounder got through the middle of the infield to score Seager. Garver had been 1-for-17 in this series before his huge hit.

With the Rangers clinging to that 1-0 lead, Josh Jung and Nathaniel Lowe singled off Paul Sewald to start the ninth. Jung scored on Jonah Heim’s single, and Lowe came all the way around from first base when center fielder Alek Thomas let the ball get past him for an error.

Two outs later, Semien’s two-run homer made it 5-0. It was the 13th time Texas scored at least three runs in an inning this postseason.

Meanwhile, on the mound, Eovaldi wriggled out of trouble all night before Aroldis Chapman and Josh Sborz finished it.

“I kind of joked around: I don’t know how many rabbits I have in my hat,” said Eovaldi, who improved to 5-0 with a 2.95 ERA this postseason. “I didn’t really do a great job tonight in attacking the zone. But our defense, incredible again.”

Sborz struck out four batters in 2 1/3 innings of one-hit relief for his first postseason save. He threw a called third strike past Ketel Marte to end it, making Texas the first team to win a World Series game despite having no hits or runs through six innings.

“We go into hostile territory everywhere we went,” Sborz said. “And we just stayed calm, did our job and played the way we played all year.”

Marte went 0-for-2, ending his postseason-record hitting streak at 20 games. He walked three times, though, and has reached base safely in all 21 postseason games of his MLB career.

  photo  AP photo by Godofredo A. Vásquez / Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy holds up the Commissioner's Trophy after his team beat the Arizona Diamondbacks to win the World Series on Wednesday night in Phoenix.
 
 

The Rangers' history dates to 1961, when they were the expansion Washington Senators. They moved to Texas for the 1972 season. Now, after five stadiums, roughly two dozen managers and 10,033 games, they're champions.

It wasn’t easy, and that certainly includes this year.

Texas led the American League West for most of the year, but they coughed up the division title on the final day of the regular season to the rival Houston Astros. The Rangers weathered an early season-ending injury to ace pitcher Jacob deGrom and a significant one during the year to Seager before red-hot slugger Adolis García and three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer went down in Game 3 of the World Series.

Players such as trade-deadline acquisition Jordan Montgomery, replacement closer José Leclerc and backup outfielder Travis Jankowski picked up the slack throughout for these resilient Rangers, capping a quick and impressive turnaround under general manager Chris Young after Texas lost 102 games in 2021 and went 68-94 last year for its sixth consecutive losing season.

A disheartening 1-0 defeat in the regular-season finale to the host Seattle Mariners left the Rangers with the No. 5 seed in the six-team AL playoffs and sent them across the country to open the postseason against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Florida, part of a two-week trip that took them to four cities — two on each coast. But after sweeping the top two teams in the AL based on regular-season wins this year — they took down the fourth-seeded Rays in the best-of-three wild-card round, then eliminated the Baltimore Orioles, who won the East Division and led the league with 101 victories, in a best-of-five AL Division Series — Texas got its revenge against Houston, winning a hard-fought AL Championship Series in which the road team won all seven games.

That sent the Rangers to their first World Series in 12 years.

“We’ve just got a group of winners,” Lowe said. “When the bus driver’s driving slow, we tell him, 'Hey, man, you know you’re driving a group of winners,’ so we believed it through and through. Maybe we struggled at home, but we got it done on the road, and we’ve got a special group.”

Finally, the Rangers had to get past the Diamondbacks, who won just 84 games during the regular season and squeaked into the playoffs as the National League's No. 6 seed but beat the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies in a remarkable postseason run that finally fizzled.

“I’m sorry I didn’t do my job to get us there,” said 58-year-old Arizona manager Torey Lovullo, pausing as his voice cracked with emotion. “But I will. We all will.”

Lovullo, who was on staff for the Boston Red Sox when they won the 2013 World Series, took over in Arizona in 2017. The Diamondbacks were in the World Series for just the second time, having won the 2001 title.

After MLB expanded its playoffs to 12 teams in 2022, the Rangers became the first team to win 13 postseason games en route to a World Series title. Texas also became the first club in any of the four major professional sports in North America to win 11 road games in a single postseason, according to OptaSTATS.

  photo  AP photo by Brynn Anderson / Mitch Garver celebrates after hitting an a RBI single for the Texas Rangers against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the seventh inning of Game 5 of the World Series on Wednesday night in Phoenix.
 
 

The Rangers have been eyeing this moment since Dec. 1, 2021, when they committed more than a half-billion dollars to sign Seager, Semien and pitcher Jon Gray, who delivered a crucial three-inning relief performance in Game 3. Big spending doesn’t always lead to titles — just ask the New York Mets, New York Yankees and San Diego Padres this year — but for the Rangers, it worked.

Gallen was one of the best pitchers in the majors this season, starting for the NL in the MLB All-Star Game in Seattle. But the 28-year-old hadn’t been as sharp in the playoffs, with a 2-2 record and 5.27 ERA over five starts.

That changed Wednesday. With some help from his defense, the bespectacled right-hander was at his best, mowing down the first 14 hitters he faced before walking Lowe.

Eovaldi wasn’t quite as sharp, but he matched Gallen’s zeroes on the scoreboard despite issuing five walks, his most in an outing since 2013.

The Diamondbacks had some juicy opportunities to score in the first five innings but couldn’t convert, going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Eovaldi made it through six, giving up four hits and striking out five on 97 pitches.

“He was a traffic cop tonight,” Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said.

Seager, who also led the Los Angeles Dodgers to a championship in 2020, joined pitchers Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax and slugger Reggie Jackson — all of them Hall of Famers — as the only players to win two World Series MVP awards.

"I don't think you can ever fathom that," Seager said. "It's a pretty special group to be part of. "

Former U.S. President George W. Bush — a one-time Rangers owner — sent a congratulatory message after the victory.

“I congratulate the owners, the managers and coaching staff, the front office, and the entire organization,” the statement read. “And of course, I congratulate the players of this awesome team on winning the first World Series in our club’s history. This was baseball at its finest, and Laura and I are proud of this team.”

Five MLB franchises remain without a World Series championship: the Brewers, Mariners, Padres, Rays and Colorado Rockies.

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