A World Series matchup that no one could have predicted even a month ago (let alone on Opening Day) rightfully began with a ton of excitement. The Texas Rangers hosted the Arizona Diamondbacks for Game 1 of the World Series last night in Arlington. Even as I say it out loud, it doesn’t sound quite right; alas that’s where we are.
But from the perspective of simply a baseball fan, we can only hope that this first game was a prelude of things to come. Texas and Arizona really churned out a Fall Classic opener to remember.
World Series Game 1
Texas Rangers 6, Arizona Diamondbacks 5 (11 innings)
(Rangers lead series, 1-0)
We don’t normally begin at the end, but when it’s as fantastic a baseball moment as this one, we can’t resist. Simpy put: the legend of Adolis García continues.
The ALCS MVP won this game in walk-off fashion by hitting a home run in not his third, not his fourth, but his fifth consecutive playoff game. García has already set a record for most RBI in a single postseason with 22, passing David Freese of the 2011 Cardinals (to boot, just shy of the 12-year anniversary of the fateful night when Freese ruined championship hopes in Texas).
For you historians out there, this was the first walk-off homer in a World Series Game 1 since the famous Kirk Gibson bomb, way back in 1988 for the Dodgers against the A’s. García wasn’t limping like Kirk in this one, though he had been drilled in his previous at-bat.
García was in a position to accomplish this in the first place thanks to the heroic efforts of another staple of this team, Corey Seager.
The Rangers trailed at home for most of the evening and came within two outs of dropping Game 1. But then Seager was able to accomplish what no one had done in this postseason: get to the D-backs’ closer, erstwhile Mets righty Paul Sewald.
Sewald got himself into trouble by walking No. 9 hitter Leodys Taveras to lead off the ninth, and even though he induced a lineout from Marcus Semien, he had to contend with a man who already has a World Series MVP on his resume. Seager was sitting fastball up and absolutely demolished this one, leaving no doubt about its final destination.
Per ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, there have been 476 games in World Series history where a team has led by multiple runs in the ninth. The leading time has only lost nine of them — three are now the Diamondbacks. As Yankees fans will fondly recall, the other two came during the 2001 World Series on the backs of Tino Martinez, Derek Jeter, and Scott Brosius.
These were the high points of this game, but now let’s look back at how we got to this place, with the D-backs controlling the outlook for much of this one.
Funny enough, this has been my 15th postseason recap featuring a Zac Gallen start, or at least it feels that way. The Arizona ace maintained the same level of performance and script he has, for the majority of them: a shaky first, a decent level of settling down afterward, and ultimately a strong albeit unspectacular outing, doing just enough to avoid complete disaster.
After a scoreless top of the first, Gallen took the hill against the powerful Rangers order and got batted around a bit. Texas took a two-run lead on the back of an RBI double from Evan Carter and another knock from García.
That lead would be shortly held, though, as old friend Nathan Eovaldi ran into issues of his own in the third. It was the bottom of the order that set the table, with back-to-back singles from Alek Thomas and Evan Longoria. Then came the rookie sensation Corbin Carroll, who tripled both runs in to tie things up.
Carroll would later come around to score on a fielder’s choice, handing the D-backs, their first World Series lead in over two decades.
The Rangers would quickly respond, but in the end, be left with a bitter waste over a wasted opportunity in the bottom of the third inning. With two outs in the frame, Seager walked, Carter doubled, and García also walked, which loaded the bases for Mitch Garver, who promptly also walked, driving in a run to make it a 3-3 game.
There’d be no further scoring in the frame, as Gallen was able to get Jonah Heim to end the threat, with Texas leaving a bases-loaded opportunity on the bale. And in one of those classic momentum shifts, Arizona came right back with a solo homer in the next frame from Tommy Pham.
In the fifth frame, Ketel Marte continued his remarkable postseason run, and with an RBI double to make it 5-3.
This was the 17th straight game with a hit for Marte in the postseason, tying what is a MLB record, which he’ll look to take sole possession of in Game 2.
Both starters had their fair share of struggles, allowing a combined eight runs, but the two bullpens came in and kept things quiet for most of it. Who could possibly know that the one reliever to falter would be probably the most reliable one among both teams, in Paul Sewald?
The only other run allowed by a relief man in this one was the one from former Yankees righty Miguel Castro in the 11th, on the walk-off shot from Garcia.
It’s all hands on deck at this point. That much goes without saying, but with 11 relief men used, the two teams will look to Merrill Kelly and Jordan Montgomery to provide some quality length in Game 2.