Leading up to this World Series, there were complaints in some corners about the matchup between the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks. These are two wild-card teams who exist outside of baseball’s traditional major markets. They’re not clubs we’re accustomed to seeing in October.
Looking past that, though, these teams were quite compelling on paper. And in Friday’s Game 1 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, they certainly delivered on that.
Adolis Garcia hit an opposite-field walk-off home run in the 11th inning to give the Rangers a 6-5 victory to open the 2023 Fall Classic.
“It’s going to be a really good series,” Garcia told Fox sideline reporter Ken Rosenthal moments after sending the home crowd into a frenzy.
Here are some takeaways from the gripping contest.
Rangers’ Magic Continues
Garcia is having a post-season for the ages as he cements his superstar status in the league. Fresh off almost single-handedly murdering the Houston Astros in the ALCS en route to winning MVP honours, the Cuban outfielder continued his epic October with Friday’s blast.
That was the story of the game. However, it’s not possible without the heroics of teammate Corey Seager.
Just look at Seager’s reaction less than a second after completing his game-saving swing.
This was about as dramatic a moment as October baseball can offer. The Rangers were down two runs in the bottom of the ninth, facing Diamondbacks closer Paul Sewald. With one out and a runner on first base, their win probability stood at just 10.3 per cent.
Then Seager unloaded on a first-pitch fastball high in the zone to tie the contest at 5. It was a genuine rocket — the ball left his bat at 112.6 mph and travelled an estimated 418 feet. It was the 17th post-season homer of the star shortstop’s career and easily the most important of them all.
Give Marte His Flowers
With his RBI double in the fifth inning, Arizona second baseman Ketel Marte has now hit safely in 17 straight playoff games, tying Hank Bauer, Derek Jeter and Manny Ramirez for the longest post-season hitting streak of all time.
Marte has largely flown under the radar over his nine-year career, but has earned national attention this October by building his streak and winning NLCS MVP honours in the process.
That comes on the heels of a resurgent regular season in which the talented infielder posted 4.2 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs. That mark was his best since 2019, when he posted 6.2 fWAR.
He’s a talented player who’s fun to watch and if there are some baseball fans guilty of not being familiar with Marte, their excuses won’t fly anymore now that he’s performing on the biggest stage.
“[He’s] just a special player,” teammate Corbin Carroll told reporters earlier this week. “There were times this year where it was like, ‘How do you even pitch this guy?’ He is kind of back in that mode right now. It’s special to watch.”
Big Nate Falls to Earth
Nathan Eovaldi had been money for the Rangers during his first four starts of the post-season, allowing just seven runs across 26 innings (2.42 ERA). He earned the victory in each of those games, including a stirring performance in Game 6 of the ALCS in Houston to keep the Rangers’ season alive.
On Friday, though, the right-hander finally looked human.
He opened the game on fire, retiring the first six hitters he faced — four via strikeouts — but ran into trouble in the third inning when the Diamondbacks struck for three runs, highlighted by Carroll’s two-run triple.
Tommy Pham homered off Eovaldi in the next frame and Marte added a run-scoring double in the fifth to extend the Arizona lead.
In total, he allowed five runs on six hits over 4.2 innings, walking one and striking out eight. Game 1 of the World Series is obviously an inopportune time for Eovaldi to endure his worst-ever post-season start, but the Diamondbacks’ offence deserves credit here. They put constant pressure on the right-hander, drove up his pitch count and were able to deliver key hits with runners on base.
However, the Rangers’ bullpen did more than just pick Eovaldi up — Dane Dunning, Cody Bradford, Jon Gray, Will Smith and Jose Leclerc combined to toss 6.1 scoreless in relief. The collective allowed just two Diamondbacks to reach base, quietly paving the way for the offence to come back and eventually capture the win.