Rangers’ Stars Stun Snakes in Thrilling World Series Game 1

Adolis Garcia
USA Today

For 25 outs, the Diamondbacks’ plan had worked to perfection. Zac Gallen had worked through five gritty innings, Corbin Carroll and Ketel Marte had given Arizona a lead to hand to the bullpen, and the relief corps had weathered a relentless Rangers lineup. As Paul Sewald entered in the ninth inning with a two-run lead, it looked like the Diamondbacks were on the verge of stealing a victory in Game 1 of the World Series. Corey Seager had other plans. On the first pitch he saw from Sewald, Seager launched a one-out, two-run bomb into the right field stands to tie the game at five.

With the game sent to extra innings, the momentum suddenly swung toward the Rangers, whose potent lineup could end the game quickly, even without the benefit of the Manfred Man on second base to start each inning. After a minor threat was quelled in the 10th, who else but Adolis García had the final word, blasting an opposite field, walk-off home run in the 11th to send Globe Life Field into a state of jubilation.

García has been playing out of his mind this postseason, and that hot streak continued into the World Series; he’s now homered in five straight games, broke the record for most RBIs in a single postseason with his walk-off blast, and is just three dingers shy of the home run record Randy Arozarena set in 2020. At this point, you can’t game plan around him or Seager; you simply have to figure out a way to win knowing those two will do their damage.

Think back to earlier this week when Seager ambushed a Cristian Javier fastball for an early solo home run in Game 7 of the ALCS. That blast came on a 1–0 count against a pitcher known for his flat, riding fastball. Sewald’s four-seamer is even flatter than Javier’s, but Seager still managed to get on top of the pitch. The location of both pitches was nearly identical — up in the zone and a little in — and the result was the same.

Seager has done a lot of work over the last few seasons to combat these high-and-tight heaters; on pitches located three inches or higher over the middle of the strike zone, he has improved his wOBA from .358 in the first seven years of his career to.425 over the last two seasons. Sewald’s average pitch vertical location over the last two years has been just a hair shy of three inches over the zone midpoint. Just as he was ready for Javier’s flat fastball, Seager was geared up to meet Sewald’s four-seamer on the barrel, swinging as if the pitch were a few inches higher than where his eyes told him it would be.

There isn’t anything so technical that García is doing during his hot streak; he’s simply swinging out of his mind and making loud contact every time he puts the bat on the ball. His chase rate and whiff rate in the postseason are both up compared to the regular season, but his hard hit and barrel rates have risen sky high as well. He’s up there looking to crush everything he sees, and that aggressive approach has paid dividends so far.

All the work of those two superstars has somewhat overshadowed the outstanding October that Evan Carter is having. He raised his postseason slash line up to .311/.436/.556 with two doubles in Game 1, including the hit that scored the Rangers’ first run of the night in the first inning. He just turned 21 a couple months ago, but he’s already joined some lofty company as one of the best young players to compete in a World Series. He would come around to score the second run of the game on a single from, who else, García, staking Texas to an early 2–0 lead.

For their part, the Diamondbacks looked up to the task of toppling Texas and came out firing in the third inning. Alek Thomas reached on an infield single to get things started, and Evan Longoria followed with a sharp single. After Geraldo Perdomo bunted the two runners into scoring position, in stepped Carroll, fresh off his slump-breaking performance in Game 7 of the NLCS. He whacked a liner into left-center field that got down and rolled all the way to the wall thanks to a poor route from Leody Taveras. Two runs scored on the triple, and Carroll’s speed helped Arizona take the lead on a fielder’s choice in the next at-bat.

Gallen labored through the bottom half of the third after getting two quick outs via swinging strikes. He walked Seager, allowed a second double to Carter, and then walked consecutive batters to knot the game at three. He escaped that jam by inducing a weak fly out, then cruised through his final two innings in the game. His final line wasn’t pretty, but he mostly avoided trouble: five innings pitched with three runs allowed on four hits, four walks and five strikeouts.

The Diamondbacks struck back quickly in the top of the fourth thanks to a Tommy Pham solo home run, then manufactured another run in the fifth inning. Perdomo led off that inning with a single, stole second base, and scored on a double by Marte, who extended his hitting streak to 17 games, tying the postseason record. The aggressive baserunning was a feature of the early innings despite the Rangers’ reputation as a team that’s been able to shut down the running game this season. Arizona collected four stolen bases through the first six innings of the game, putting their baserunners in motion any chance they had.

Nathan Eovaldi was chased from the game in the fifth inning after allowing the fifth run to score. But from that point on, the Texas bullpen shut down the Diamondbacks; five relievers combined to allow just two baserunners over the final six innings of the game. That’s a huge reason why Seager had the chance to tie the game in the ninth.

The narrative surrounding this World Series (and a lot of this postseason) has been surprisingly negative, with many people focused on the shortcomings of the format and some outspoken pundits complaining about the quality of the teams on baseball’s biggest stage. Game 1 hopefully put all the concerns about how compelling this series would be to bed. It was a thrilling affair between two dynamic teams. I know I’m excited to see if the Diamondbacks can bounce back from this heartbreaking loss, and if García and Seager can continue to carry the Rangers as they seek their first championship in franchise history.

Jake Mailhot is a contributor to FanGraphs. A long-suffering Mariners fan, he also writes about them for Lookout Landing. Follow him on Twitter @jakemailhot.

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6 months ago

One of the best games I’ve ever seen. Wow. I was really hoping for an Austin Hedges walk-off dinger.