Monday, March 4 2024

ARLINGTON, Texas — It had already been a good game when the Arizona Diamondbacks brought in closer Paul Sewald to try to close out World Series Game 1 against the Texas Rangers. The Rangers had jumped ahead, the Diamondbacks had rallied, the two starting pitchers had swapped fortunes, a star had authored a signature play.

All of that, as it turned out, was the opening act for an unforgettable show.

Rangers shortstop and foundational $325 million man Corey Seager, batting as the tying run after Sewald walked the leadoff man in the ninth, belted the first pitch he saw deep into the right-field stands.

In extra innings, a whole turn through the lineup later, Rangers outfielder and larger-than-life avatar Adolis García smoked a walk-off home run in what suddenly felt like the inevitable, fireworks-filled conclusion of an action movie.

In a World Series in which the matchup was supposedly the plot twist, Seager and García refocused the shot with two monster swings, revealing Friday’s Game 1 as a stunning, historic, comeback victory for Texas. How stunning? How historic? And yet, it felt inevitable?

Let’s try to give Game 1 its due in World Series lore as the smoke fades into the rafters at Globe Life Field — since there were actual fireworks, too.

How stunning was the Rangers’ comeback?

Before we completely move past the obstacles like the Rangers did, it’s worth noting that Diamondbacks closer Paul Sewald had been lights-out this postseason. He hadn’t allowed a run of any sort this month — hadn’t allowed a run since Sept. 15, in fact. He hadn’t blown a save since Aug. 26. The Arizona bullpen just got done shredding the Phillies’ pennant hopes and had once again proceeded through manager Torey Lovullo’s preferred script with no damaging hiccups.

By the time Seager strolled to the plate in the ninth, the Rangers had only an 11.4% chance of winning, by FanGraphs’ win expectancy.

“You’re kind of counting it backwards, and you’re thinking in a very positive way,” Lovullo said afterward. “So the shock factor was very high, but I sat back down and reminded myself: This is the World Series for a reason. The best players are here on the stage, and the best players do big-time things.”

How rare were Corey Seager’s and Adolis García’s homers?

García’s blast, an 11th-inning, opposite-field number off the Diamondbacks’ Miguel Castro, was:

  • the first walk-off homer in a World Series Game 1 since Kirk Gibson’s famous shot in 1988.

  • the first walk-off blast in any World Series game since Max Muncy’s homer that ended the 18-inning marathon that was 2018 World Series Game 3 (off Friday’s Rangers starter, Nathan Eovaldi, by the way).

  • only the 17th walk-off homer in World Series history. We’re watching the 119th World Series, so that means it’s a once-every-seven-years type of occurrence.

But it was not just the walk-off. In combo, Seager’s and García’s over-the-fence heroics get more mind-boggling.

The Rangers are the first team to hit both a game-tying homer in the ninth and a walk-off homer in extras of a playoff game since Raul Ibañez did both for the New York Yankees in the 2012 ALDS. The Rangers are the first to do it in the World Series since … the Diamondbacks’ Byung-Hyun Kim gave up homers to the Yankees’ Tino Martinez and Derek Jeter in the 2001 game that made Jeter “Mr. November.”

Don’t expect that painful echo for Diamondbacks fans to create nearly the same pang in the Arizona clubhouse. As Lovullo said afterward, “I don’t think any of these players were old enough to possibly remember what was going on at that time.”

How historic is García’s postseason?

Rangers fans, however, can hopefully relish relegating some of their own painful history into the rearview mirror. After García’s RBI single early in Game 1 tied him with the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2011 hero, David Freese, for the most RBI in a single postseason — a record set against, of course, the Texas Rangers — García’s home run in the 11th put him alone on top, with 22.

Third on that list, by the way? Seager, in his incendiary 2020 postseason played in the bubble at Globe Life Field.

Even if the Rangers don’t go on to win this series, knocking that gut-wrenching 2011 experience off the top of a playoff leaderboard will save Texas fans some twinges in future Octobers. As bonus points, García joined the Rangers from the Cardinals for cash as they effectively shuffled him off the roster.

The home run also gave García — who torched the Houston Astros in the ALCS, got plunked by Bryan Abreu and then torched them some more — a long ball in five consecutive postseason games. He’s only the fifth player in MLB history to pull that off and the fourth whose streak occurred completely in one season. If he goes deep in Game 2, García will tie Daniel Murphy’s all-time mark of six straight postseason games with a homer, set during his torrid 2015 playoff run with the New York Mets.

García also has an RBI streak going, having driven in a run in seven straight postseason games. He’s only the seventh hitter to reach that mark and the third to do so in a single postseason. The all-time mark is eight, set by Ryan Howard in 2009 and Alex Rodriguez from 2007 to ‘09.

But it somehow felt inevitable?

All of that screams, “No one should have expected this!” Yet the Rangers were on the verge of making some less glamorous history if they hadn’t broken through in Game 1. They worked an astounding 10 walks off the Arizona pitching staff, including the Leody Taveras free pass that they finally cashed in with Seager’s homer. Had Seager not come through, the Rangers might’ve become just the second team in World Series history — and seventh in postseason history — to lose a game in which they tallied 10 or more bases on balls.

For Rangers manager Bruce Bochy, that ledge was palpable, even if it all ended well.

“We had some chances out there, couldn’t quite get that big hit,” he said. “But late, we did. We get the big home run.”

The Rangers themselves thought they had exactly the hitters who could be expected to tackle the difficult situation of hauling them to victory in the World Series, down two runs in the ninth.

“Listen, right now, that list is very small,” Rangers rookie Evan Carter said after the game. “And honestly, there’s probably two people in this room right now that I would want up there at the top of that list, for sure.”

Seager. García. Of course. What have they done to convince Carter — a brilliant rookie who only debuted Sept. 8 and has risen to the No. 3 spot in the Rangers’ order — that anything else would happen?

“I’m not surprised at all when stuff like that happens at this point,” he said.

Was Game 1 a surprise ending? Apparently not. We can safely say, however, that it was a memorable one.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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