The Rangers Shut Out the Diamondbacks in Game 5 To Win Their First World Series

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The last of the extant pre-divisional era franchises to not have won the World Series has finally hoisted their own trophy, as the Texas Rangers shut down the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5-0, to score the team’s first championship. Texas’ starter, Nathan Eovaldi, was shaky in the early going, but every last one of Arizona’s runners were stranded on the basepaths, and the shelling of Paul Sewald in the ninth sealed the deal with insurance runs.

If you just watched the starting pitchers, Eovaldi and Zac Gallen, for the first five innings on Wednesday night, you might be surprised that the series didn’t find its way back to Texas. The Rangers entered Game 5 having won all five of Eovaldi’s starts this postseason, but it was Gallen who looked to have the advantage early on. Eovaldi’s control was spotty. He allowed five walks over five innings, the most free passes he’s issued in a decade, going back to when he was a hard-throwing Marlins prospect who had trouble putting away batters.

Indeed, things started off quite rough for Eovaldi, with Corbin Carroll, the likely NL Rookie of the Year, walking on four straight pitches and then stealing second. Carroll got to third on a Ketel Marte grounder, but would advance no farther, as grounders from Gabriel Moreno and Tommy Pham left the task incomplete. This was a pattern for Eovaldi all night, as he got in more jams than a fly at a breakfast buffet. Arizona got at least one runner into scoring position in every inning until the sixth, Eovaldi’s sole 1-2-3 frame. But the Rangers starter escaped all those sticky situations, while Arizona went an abysmal 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position on the night. All in all, the Diamondbacks stranded 11 runners, including leaving the bases loaded in the fifth; in postseason history, only three teams have ever put up worse numbers in shutouts:

Postseason Teams with Most LOB in Shutouts
Team Date Runners LOB Round Game
Baltimore Orioles 10/15/1997 14 ALCS 6
Cincinnati Reds 9/30/2020 13 NLWC 1
Los Angeles Dodgers 10/7/1981 13 NLDS 2
St. Louis Cardinals 10/22/2012 12 NLCS 7
Arizona Diamondbacks 11/1/2023 11 WS 5
Washington Nationals 10/10/2012 11 NLDS 3
Oakland Athletics 10/16/1990 11 WS 1
Chicago White Sox 10/8/1983 11 ALCS 4
Milwaukee Brewers 10/8/1981 11 ALDS 2
Philadelphia Phillies 10/10/1980 11 NLCS 3
Baltimore Orioles 10/14/1969 11 WS 3
Los Angeles Dodgers 10/6/1959 11 WS 5
St. Louis Cardinals 10/11/1943 11 WS 5
Phialdelphia Athletics 10/4/1930 11 WS 3

The inability to drive in baserunners had to be particularly galling for the Arizona, a team with an offense seemingly designed to play successful station-to-station baseball rather than pummel opponents into submission. The Snakes only ranked 22nd in home runs in 2023 but took advantage of baseball’s liberalized baserunning rules, finishing with the second-most stolen bases in baseball and the third-best percentage of runners advancing on balls in play. Arizona also lead baseball in sacrifice hits with 36, and Moreno took it upon himself to attempt one in the third (his first attempt in the majors and first successful sacrifice as a pro) with runners on first and second as the Diamondbacks struggled to score their first run. While Moreno’s bunt was a good one and advanced both runners, giving away the out didn’t result in a crooked number on the scoreboard.

After Eovaldi’s clean sixth inning, his last in the game, Arizona failed to advance even to second base again. Rangers pitchers combined to strike out 10 Diamondbacks, a mark the team’s offense avoided more than all but three teams in 2023 (the Astros, Nationals, Guardians). Aroldis Chapman relieved Eovaldi in the seventh and Josh Sborz finished things off over the final two frames.

On the other side of the pitching ledger, Gallen spent the early innings making a case for being the protagonist in a redemption storyline. Entering Game 5, Gallen had only thrown a single quality start in five postseason attempts, with the team losing three of those games. Unlike in his last two starts, though, he was able to keep his knuckle-curve in the game plan and held the Rangers hitless into the seventh inning. In what was surely a blow to the fans of slow hooks, Gallen allowed three hits to start the seventh, the final one a Mitch Garver single that drove in Corey Seager, who won his second World Series MVP trophy a couple of hours later. Kevin Ginkel cleaned up that mess, limiting the damage to a single run, though he skirted the edge of disaster in an eighth inning during which Texas loaded the bases with just one out.

Entering the ninth, Texas was up 1-0, but then the dams broke. Sewald, a stretch run acquisition for the Diamondbacks who paid off wonderfully, had a great run for most of the postseason, striking out 11 and only giving up three hits in his eight playoff appearances entering the Series. But relievers are baseball’s best example of Harvey Dent’s observation from 2008’s The Dark Knight: they all live to become the villain of the story. Sewald’s only prior outing in the World Series had resulted in a Game 1 blown save, and he proved to be no more effective on Wednesday. Three hits and an Alek Thomas throwing error later, Arizona was down three runs instead of one. Marcus Semien’s homer added another two insurance runs.

This time, there was no David Freese to doom the Rangers, and the Diamondbacks went quietly in the ninth to put an end to their surprising postseason run. Before Wednesday, the Rangers were the last team from the pre-divisional era to have not won a World Series, at least when only considering teams that actually existed in the 20th century; I’m well aware that neither the Hartford Dark Blues or New Haven Elm Citys ever won a World Series, smartypants! Formed on the ashes of the 1961 incarnation of the Senators, a team nickname synonymous with being lovable losers, the Rangers didn’t even come close to winning it all until the 21st century.

While the idea that teams change how they build their rosters based on whoever won the last World Series has always been a silly notion, the Rangers do offer some lessons for prospective contenders. Unlike a lot of other successful clubs, Texas never really went through an extended phrase of tanking; while they had some pretty awful seasons, their attempts at a “skinny rebuild” sought to skip the bleakest phase of a tear down. The Rangers always tried to put a quality product on the field, even when they had little chance of doing so.

Seeing players like Adolis García and Jonah Heim become key parts of their championship team is another good lesson. Neither player was headed to stardom, but the Rangers gave both ample opportunity to flip the script. While you should obviously covet superstars — and the Rangers’ moves in free agency show they certainly did — giving players every chance to prove people wrong offers a ton of potential upside. (While it didn’t happen in Texas, Semien was another example of this, a former prospect widely believed to be a flop until his 2019 breakout.)

Texas also saw success in acting like the trade deadline mattered. Where many contenders only tinkered around the edges at the deadline, the Rangers brought in Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery. Without those two, it may have been the Mariners making the postseason, not the Rangers.

For the Diamondbacks, this is hardly the end. While there were things to like about the team going into the season — ZiPS gave them a nearly a one-in-three shot to make the playoffs and wasn’t alone in liking them — this was a bit early for Arizona to peak. None of the team’s top three pitching prospects (Brandon Pfaadt, Ryne Nelson, and Drey Jameson) are finished products, Jordan Lawlar only got a September cup of coffee before making the postseason roster, and Druw Jones is still a few years away. Arizona ended up outlasting every team in baseball but one, and that’s no small feat. The team’s core remains intact for 2024 at least, and there aren’t any backbreaking guaranteed contracts that would prevent the Snakes from agreeing to extensions with Gallen and Merrill Kelly and filling some of the team’s holes.

But 2024 can wait a day longer while the champagne dries. Come back soon baseball — I already miss you.





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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JJ Perkinsmember
3 months ago

Omg