To say the game for the 119th World Series was unexpected would be an understatement.
With powerhouse teams like the Braves and Dodgers – not to mention the defending World Series champion Astros, 101-win Orioles and defending National League champion Phillies – in this year’s playoff field , the D-backs and Rangers will emerge from the fray speaks to the annual potential for stunning playoff results.
But even though it may seem unexpected, this match is particularly exciting. And Arizona and Texas took remarkably similar paths to the World Series, sharing several common milestones during their respective journeys.
But it’s just the first in a long series of overlapping themes as the D-backs look to win their first World Series title since 2001 and the Rangers seek the first championship in franchise history. franchise.
Surprise stories from the start
Over the first half of the 2023 regular season, the Rangers and D-backs have each raised eyebrows in the baseball world with their rise to the top of their respective divisions.
After a 68-94 campaign in 2022, Texas won its 50th game on July 1 and led the AL West by five games against the powerhouse Astros.
Meanwhile, in the NL West, Arizona also won its 50th game of the season on July 1 and held a three-game advantage over the Dodgers, who had won the division in nine of the previous ten years.
Although the Rangers’ rise was perhaps less surprising than that of the D-backs – after all, Texas had signed Jacob deGrom and Nathan Eovaldi to bolster the starting rotation after completing two blockbusters during the offseason previous signing of midfield slugger Corey. Seager and Marcus Semien – it was still a notable rise given Houston’s hegemony of the AL West for so many years.
The D-backs perched atop the NL West was a shocking development. With young, dynamic players like NL Rookie of the Year favorite Corbin Carroll and veteran stalwarts like first baseman Christian Walker, as well as star right-handers Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly anchoring the rotation, the Arizona’s rise has captivated the baseball world.
Once you get there, it’s hard to stay there
The months of July and August proved to be trying for both teams. After improving to 50-33 on July 1, Texas lost six of the next eight games, then closed the month losing seven of nine.
In August, the Rangers caught fire, winning 14 of 16 games to open the month. But they continued their momentum, losing their eight straight games.
The D-backs, meanwhile, experienced a prolonged slump, losing 25 of their next 32 games, going from three games against the Dodgers to 12 1/2 games on August 11.
It was on this day, after a loss to the Padres in Phoenix, that manager Torey Lovullo had a frank team meeting, expressing his frustration and disappointment with the way the club was playing. From there, Arizona won 11 of 13 games to move back into playoff position.
The Rangers continued to struggle into September, but finished the season strong, winning 14 of their final 21 games.
Both teams claimed Wild Card spots, and both had to hit the road for the Wild Card Series. The D-backs had to face the NL Central champion Brewers in Milwaukee in a best-of-three set, while the Rangers traveled across the country to face the Rays.
Despite the disappointment of losing the AL West to the Astros on the final day of the regular season, the Rangers went to Tropicana Field and swept Tampa Bay. And at American Family Field, the D-backs stunned Milwaukee with a sweep.
Each club’s next task also involved going on the road: Arizona opened the NL Division Series at Dodger Stadium while Texas traveled to Camden Yards in Baltimore to face the AL champions East, the Orioles.
Topple Triple-Digit Winners
The Dodgers won 100 games in the regular season, and the Orioles – themselves a major surprise team – won 101. But that didn’t deter the D-backs (84 wins) or the Rangers (90).
Arizona pulled off an even bigger shock than the Brewers’ sweep, outscoring the Dodgers by 13 points in a sweep of Los Angeles. And the Rangers took care of business against the O’s, also improving to 5-0 in the playoffs with a three-game sweep.
The D-backs and Rangers relied on excellent defense to help them advance to the World Series.
Texas made sparkling defensive plays all over the diamond. On the infield, third baseman Josh Jung stole extra bases from the Astros’ Chas McCormick with a spectacular play in Game 2 of the ALCS. Semien made a stellar diving play of his own to take a hit from Houston’s Jeremy Peña in Game 5.
In the outfield, rookie Evan Carter made more than one great defensive play, including a jumping catch to left center to deprive Yordan Alvarez of extra bases. And perhaps the best play of all came in Game 3, when Alvarez was victimized again, this time by center fielder Leody Taveras, who reached over the wall to bring home a homer safe for withdrawal.
The D-backs also had their share of web gems in October. From an incredible leap by 38-year-old third baseman Evan Longoria to throw a double play in a huge moment against the Brewers in the NL Wild Card Series, to rookie catcher Gabriel Moreno showing off his rocket arm on the national stage , Arizona put together a nice defense that helped fuel an improbable playoff run.
Youth is served in the outfield
In addition to the aforementioned defensive contributions, Carter – who only joined the club after making his MLB debut in September – delivered big hits for Texas. In 12 playoff games in the ALCS, Carter is hitting .308/.449/.538 with six doubles and a home run.
Carroll, meanwhile, followed up a regular season performance that will likely earn him the NL Rookie of the Year award with a blazing start to his postseason career. In his first four games (two in the NL Wild Card Series and two in the NLDS), he was 7 for 14 with a double and two home runs.
Carroll cooled some, but when it mattered most – Game 7 of the NLCS against the Phillies – he dazzled by going 3-for-4 with a steal and two RBIs in the D-backs’ win. won the pennant.
The returning children make history
From the time the League Championship Series became a best-of-seven affair in 1985, until last year, only four teams had won Games 6 and 7 on the road to clinch a series berth world (Royals 1985, Braves 1991, Marlins 2003). and 2004 Red Sox).
Then the D-backs and Rangers each did that this year, marking the first time both World Series entrants won Games 6 and 7 on the road to get there.
Arizona fell into an 0-2 deficit losing the first two games of the NLCS at Citizens Bank Park before storming back to win two of three at home in the desert. But the “Answer-Backs” faced the daunting task of defeating the defending NL champions in a ballpark that gave them the greatest home-field advantage in MLB postseason history.
That’s no problem for the D-backs, who got some terrific hits and pitches to shock the baseball world.
The Rangers were coming off a devastating loss in Game 5 of the ALCS at Globe Life Field, when Jose Altuve launched a ninth-inning home run to bring the Astros to a victory and a 3-2 series lead at their back to Houston.