After Arizona’s heartbreaking loss in the World Series opener, the “Answerbacks” as they’re now known did just that in Game 2, posting a strong wire-to-wire win to claw even in the Fall Classic. The lineup handled every pitcher the Rangers sent at them, racking up 16 hits on the night. The first seven innings were all Merrill Kelly for Arizona. He held a vice grip on the game from the jump and tamed the Rangers lineup through seven efficient innings, walking none and accomplishing the feat in just 89 pitches. The bullpen held up to secure the 9-1 win.
World Series Game 2
(Series tied, 1-1)
Pitching prevailed early in the game for both sides. Kelly and former Yankees arm Jordan Montgomery matched zeroes for the first three innings. Kelly retired the first nine without allowing a base runner. Monty’s velocity was noticeably diminished, but the crafty lefty used sequencing and location to piece together a decent outing before the Rangers’ bullpen faltered. The visitors struck first against Montgomery, though, on a big swing by the young catcher acquired from Toronto, Gabriel Moreno.
Tommy Pham doubled after him — Pham’s finally getting on track when it matters most after a rough postseason up to the World Series. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. singled to knock in Pham, and they took a two-run lead to the bottom of the fourth with their starter locked in.
Evan Carter singled for the Rangers’ first hit but otherwise Kelly pitched a spotless fourth. He needed just 42 pitches to cut through the Rangers lineup through four innings and hardly broke a sweat all night. 2023 All-Star Geraldo Perdomo extended his postseason hitting streak to six with a single in the fifth and stole second base to give Corbin Carroll a chance at an RBI, but Carroll popped up to keep it at 2-0 halfway through.
Mitch Garver got the Rangers on the board by elevating a home run to lead off the fifth, golfed off his shoe tops no less. All the Rangers hitters (sans Marcus Semien) seem to be getting hot at the same time, including lower-profile names like Garver.
Pham continued his banner day with a double in the sixth, but was picked off second in an inexplicable lapse in awareness, somewhat marring a four-hit game. Remarkably, Montgomery didn’t strike a batter out in his six-plus innings of work, instead relying on soft contact to contain the speedy Diamondbacks.
Kelly spun a quick sixth, striking out the side. He’d end with nine strikeouts on the night. Other than the solo home run, more admirable by Garver and less of a mistake from Kelly, the veteran righty was superb and never gave the bullpen reason to stir through seven innings.
Bruce Bochy let Montgomery face Thomas to start the top of the seventh and the lefty promptly doubled. Longoria singled him in and the decision burned Bochy and the Rangers. The situation played out extremely similarly to ALCS Game 6 in which Bochy let Nathan Eovaldi start the seventh only to give up a hit. It worked out the first time, not so much the second time.
The most that can be said is that it’s not like the Rangers’ bullpen covered themselves in glory, either, so it might’ve been a lose/lose situation. Andrew Heaney replaced Montgomery and couldn’t strand the runner at second — Carroll singled Longoria in to make it 4-1 Diamondbacks.
Bochy then went to Dane Dunning, who ended things at two runs in the inning with the damage done. Kelly cruised through the seventh, adding two strikeouts for good measure before calling it a day with nary a run allowed.
Chris Stratton entered for the visitors’ eighth and yielded Pham’s fourth hit of the night, a single. He then recorded two outs before being lifted in favor of Martín Pérez. National hero Ketel Marte singled off Pérez to plate two more and give the bullpen more cushion to work with.
Rookie Andrew Saalfrank relieved Kelly and continued to add to his postseason body of work with a scoreless inning. The Diamondbacks added two runs in the ninth for good measure and let Saalfrank start the ninth with an eight-run lead. He was lifted after recording one out in the final inning, and Luis Frías closed things down to secure the win.
Sunday will be the series’ first travel day as the teams make their way to Chase Field for Game 3 tomorrow night in Phoenix. The likely pitching matchup will be Max Scherzer vs. Brandon Pfaadt in a veteran-versus-rookie clash.