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Arizoana Diamondbacks batter Geraldo Perdomo is tagged out by Texas Rangers fielder Nathaniel Lowe

MLB World Series 2023

Dates: 27 October-4 November (full schedule below) Start times: 00:30 BST

Coverage: Watch game one live on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, BBC Sport website & app

This year’s World Series begins on Friday evening and will feature two wildcard teams for only the third time in Major League Baseball history.

The Texas Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays in their American League wildcard series, swept the top-ranked Baltimore Orioles 3-0 in the Division Series, and gritted it out 4-3 against defending World Series champions the Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series (ALCS).

They face an Arizona Diamondbacks side who likewise raced past the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers without dropping a game, but needed seven games to edge out the Philadelphia Phillies 4-3 and take the National League pennant.

Meanwhile, MLB has had another tinker with the rules. After the designated hitter rule was extended to both leagues in 2022, this season featured the introduction of a “pitch clock” to speed up games, which has been hailed as a general success.

With game one available to watch live on BBC Sport, here are some of the stories and talking points from the ‘Fall Classic’.

Schedule

Game 1 (in Texas): Fri 27 Oct – live on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, BBC Sport website & app

Game 5* (in Arizona) Wed 1 Nov

Game 2 (in Texas): Sat 28 Oct

Game 6* (in Texas) Fri 3 Nov

Game 3 (in Arizona) Mon 30 Oct

Game 7* (in Texas) Sat 4 Nov

Game 4 (in Arizona) Tue 31 Oct

*if required

All games start 8pm Eastern Time (early next morning UK time)

(01:00 BST Games 1-2, 00:00 GMT Games 3-7)

Home field advantage – or is it?

Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers, during the 2020 World SeriesGlobe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers, during the 2020 World Series

Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers, has already hosted World Series games – as a neutral venue in 2020 when MLB sought to minimise travel during a Covid-shortened season

With any seven-game play-off series requiring one team to play an extra game at home, MLB has tried several different methods used to determine who earns the so-called “home field advantage”.

The AL and NL champions used to receive it in alternate years until 2002. Then, until 2016, in an effort to drum up competitiveness in the midsummer All-Star Game between the AL and NL, the winner earned the advantage for their league.

Since then, it has simply gone to the team with the better record over the regular season – with the Rangers (won 90, lost 72) prevailing over the Diamondbacks (84-78).

But with both leagues now using a designated hitter and not requiring pitchers to bat in NL ballparks, there is less of a tactical dimension to home field advantage.

Indeed, the Rangers came through an ALCS against the Astros where all seven games were won by the visiting team – matching the 2019 World Series when the Washington Nationals beat the Astros in the same manner.

However, that did not stop a Korean pop band wearing the “wrong” Rangers shirts in Dallas this week…

Once, twice, three times a World Series manager

One of a number of catchers who have become successful managers, France-born Bruce Bochy has been a familiar face in MLB since the 1990s.

He took charge of the San Diego Padres while still in his 30s, leading them to the 1998 World Series where they were swept 4-0 by the all-conquering New York Yankees.

After moving up the West Coast to the San Francisco Giants, Bochy won three World Series in five years, in 2010, 2012 and 2014, retiring in 2019 and later taking charge of France’s national team.

But like the veteran movie hero recalled for one last job, Bochy answered the Rangers’ call a year ago, with great success.

Bochy is currently 10th on the all-time list of managerial wins – but as well as delaying his inevitable Hall of Fame election by a couple of years, his un-retirement has made him only the third manager to reach a World Series with three different franchises.

D-backs aim to party like it’s 2001

US President George W Bush throws out a ceremonial first pitch, while Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling pose with the World Series trophyUS President George W Bush throws out a ceremonial first pitch, while Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling pose with the World Series trophy

Bush’s first pitch in Yankee Stadium went down in baseball legend, while Johnson and Schilling shared the MVP honours

In 2001, the Diamondbacks surprised many by reaching the World Series in only their fourth season in MLB and for once, the perception of an American ‘underdog story’ was correct as they faced a Yankees side seeking a fourth successive world title.

The series was played against the backdrop of the 9/11 terror attacks on New York only weeks earlier, and the nation held its breath as President George W Bush, wearing a bulletproof vest under a Fire Department of New York tracksuit top, strode out alone to the mound to throw the ceremonial first pitch of game three at Yankee Stadium.

They need not have worried as Bush – who had himself owned the Texas Rangers for a spell in the 1990s – waved to the crowd and threw a perfect strike over the plate as the fans chanted “U-S-A”.

Home field advantage played a part as the home team won all seven games, with 4-3 winners Arizona indebted to star pitchers Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. 2023 will be only Arizona’s second appearance on the biggest stage.

Mad Max hits the road

Rangers right-hander Max Scherzer, who began his career with the Diamondbacks, sits third on the wins list for active pitchers with 214, behind only Justin Verlander (257) and Zack Greinke (225).

An eight-time All-Star and three-time winner of the Cy Young award for the best pitcher in each league, ‘Mad Max’ was a World Series hero in the Washington Nationals’ 2019 victory when he shrugged off back and neck spasms to start the decisive game seven.

However, he has since pitched for four teams in just over two years as the Nationals traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2021, before he joined the New York Mets as a free agent five months later.

The Mets began 2023 with a record high payroll and an enviable rotation, but a hugely underwhelming first half of the season led them to slash costs by sending their two ace starters to Texas – trading Scherzer to the Rangers and Verlander back to the Astros, with the Mets on the hook for a significant chunk of both salaries.

As in 2019, Scherzer was struck by injury, but battled back to start games three and seven in the ALCS. Has the script been written for another World Series ring before he turns 40 next year?

Can the ‘Snakes’ continue to bite?

When MLB handed Phoenix an expansion franchise in 1998, the name Arizona Diamondbacks was chosen in reference to a rattlesnake native to the region.

However, the D-backs have lacked much bite since their 2001 success, only reaching the postseason in four of the next 21 years, and having the joint worst record in MLB as recently as 2021 when they lost 110 of 162 regular season games.

But they have kept faith with manager Torey Lovullo since 2017, and while other teams have made bigger and flashier signings, Arizona have forged an effective unit.

Mid-season trade capture Paul Sewald has settled into the closer’s role to anchor an impressive bullpen, and the ex-Seattle Mariners reliever has excelled in the play-offs, converting six out of six save opportunities and not giving up a single postseason run.

At the plate, second baseman Ketel Marte enters the World Series on a 16-game postseason hitting streak, while outfielder Corbin Carroll has become the first rookie to combine 25 home runs with over 50 stolen bases. Rangers beware.

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Source: Yahoo Sports

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