PHOENIX — Corey Seager took a mighty hack and barely connected, sending a dribbler through an open area on the left side of the infield for his team’s first hit in the seventh inning.
The Texas Rangers shortstop and World Series MVP provided plenty of power throughout a stellar October run. But it was a little good fortune that finally sparked the offense and sent the Rangers to their first title.
Considering the heartache this club went through 12 years ago in one of the all-time Fall Classic gut punches, Texas was certainly due.
Nathan Eovaldi pitched six gritty innings, Mitch Garver broke a scoreless tie with an RBI single in the seventh and the Rangers won the first World Series championship in their 63-season franchise history by beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-0 in Game 5 on Wednesday night.
Marcus Semien homered in a four-run ninth and the Rangers, held hitless for six innings by Zac Gallen, finished a record 11-0 on the road this postseason after capping the Fall Classic with three straight wins in the desert.
“Everything I’ve ever worked for is for this moment,” Semien said. “Gallen was unbelievable tonight. But we came through. Once Corey got the first hit, everybody kind of woke up. Pitching was unbelievable.”
In his first season with Texas, manager Bruce Bochy won his fourth title 13 years to the day after his first, which came in 2010 when the Giants beat the Rangers. He also won rings with San Francisco in 2012 and 2014.
“I was sitting in a recliner there in Nashville, just enjoying myself,” said the 68-year-old Bochy, who came out of retirement to take over the Rangers.
Bochy helped exorcise some unpleasant memories for Texas fans, who watched as their team came agonizingly close to a title in 2011, needing just one strike on two occasions before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals.
One night after the Rangers built a 10-run lead by the third inning in Game 4, they finished off baseball’s third all-wild card World Series by outlasting Arizona in a white-knuckle pitchers’ duel.
Gallen carried a no-hitter into the seventh before giving up an opposite-field single to Seager, whose weak grounder found a hole. Rangers rookie Evan Carter – all of 21 years old – followed with a double. Garver then delivered the first run, pumping his fist as a hard grounder up the middle scored Seager.
Garver was 1 for 17 at the plate in the Series before his huge hit.
With the Rangers clinging to that 1-0 lead, Josh Jung and Nathaniel Lowe singled off Paul Sewald to start the ninth. Jung scored on Jonah Heim’s single, and Lowe came all the way around from first base when center fielder Alek Thomas let the ball get past him for an error.
Two outs later, Semien’s two-run homer made it 5-0. It was the 13th time Texas scored at least three runs in an inning this postseason.
Meanwhile on the mound, Eovaldi wriggled out of trouble all night before Aroldis Chapman and Josh Sborz finished it.
“I kind of joked around: I don’t know how many rabbits I have in my hat,” said Eovaldi, who improved to 5-0 with a 2.95 ERA this postseason. “I didn’t really do a great job tonight in attacking the zone. But our defense, incredible again.”
Sborz struck out four in 2 1/3 innings of one-hit relief for his first postseason save. He threw a called third strike past Ketel Marte for the final out, and jubilant Texas players rushed toward the mound to celebrate after becoming the first team to win a World Series game despite having no hits or runs through six innings.
It’s the first title for the Rangers, whose history dates back to 1961 when they were the expansion Washington Senators. They moved to Texas for the 1972 season.
Now, after five stadiums, roughly two dozen managers and 10,033 games, the Rangers are finally champions.
It didn’t come easy – at all.
Texas led the AL West for most of the year, but coughed up the division crown on the final day of the regular season to rival Houston. The Rangers weathered an early season-ending injury to new ace Jacob deGrom and a significant one to Seager in April as well before red-hot slugger Adolis Garca and three-time Cy Young Award winner Max
Scherzer went down in Game 3 of the World Series.
Yet still, players like trade-deadline acquisition Jordan Montgomery, replacement closer Jos Leclerc and backup outfielder Travis Jankowski picked up the slack throughout for these resilient Rangers, capping a quick and impressive turnaround under general manager Chris Young after Texas lost 102 games in 2021 and went 68-94 last year for its sixth consecutive losing season.
A disheartening 1-0 defeat in the regular-season finale at Seattle left the Rangers with the No. 5 seed in the American League playoffs and sent them across the country to open the postseason at Tampa Bay, part of a two-week trip that took them to four cities – two on each coast. But after sweeping the Rays and AL East champion Orioles, the AL’s two winningest teams, Texas got its revenge against 2022 World Series champion Houston, winning a hard-fought AL Championship Series in which the road team won all seven games.
That propelled the Rangers to their first Fall Classic in 12 years. Once there, they became the first team to win the World Series without committing an error since the 1966 Baltimore Orioles.
Texas will celebrate with a parade in the Arlington entertainment district near its stadium on Friday.
“We’ve just got a group of winners,” Lowe said. “When the bus driver’s driving slow, we tell him, Hey man, you know you’re driving a group of winners,’ so we believed it through and through. Maybe we struggled at home, but we got it done on the road, and we’ve got a special group.”
Finally, the Rangers had to get past the young and surprising Diamondbacks, who won just 84 games during the regular season but beat the Brewers, Dodgers and Phillies in a remarkable postseason run that finally fizzled.
“I’m sorry I didn’t do my job to get us there,” manager Torey Lovullo said, pausing as his voice cracked with emotion. “But I will. We all will.”
With some help from his defense, the bespectacled Gallen mowed down his first 14 hitters before walking Lowe.
Eovaldi wasn’t as sharp, but still matched Gallen’s zeros on the scoreboard despite walking five, his most in an outing since 2013.
Arizona had some juicy opportunities to score in the first five innings, but couldn’t convert, going 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
Eovaldi made it through six, giving up four hits and striking out five on 97 pitches.
“He was a traffic cop tonight,” Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said.
Seager, who also led the Los Angeles Dodgers to a championship in 2020, joined Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson as the only players to win two World Series MVP awards.
Bochy is the sixth manager to win four titles, joining Casey Stengel (seven), Joe McCarthy (seven), Connie Mack (five), Walter Alston (four) and Joe Torre (four). All of them are in the Hall of Fame and when Bochy’s career is over, it seems a given he’ll be enshrined in Cooperstown as well.
MONEY WELL SPENT
The Rangers have been eyeing this moment since Dec. 1, 2021, when they committed more than a half-billion dollars to sign Seager, Semien and pitcher Jon Gray, who delivered a crucial three-inning relief performance in Game 3. Big spending doesn’t always lead to titles – just ask the Mets, Yankees and Padres this year – but for the Rangers, it worked.
Marte went 0 for 2, ending his postseason-record hitting streak at 20 games. He walked three times, though, and has reached base safely in all 21 career postseason games.
LONG AND WINDING ROAD
After baseball expanded its playoffs to 12 teams in 2022, the Rangers became the first team to win 13 postseason games. Texas also became the first club in any of the four major professional sports in North America to win 11 road games in a single postseason, according to OptaSTATS.
BOUND FOR COOPERSTOWN
Bochy’s cap, Seager’s helmet, Carter’s batting gloves, Semien’s jersey and Eovaldi’s spikes are among the World Series memorabilia items being donated to the Hall of Fame.
THEN THERE WERE FIVE
Colorado, Milwaukee, San Diego, Seattle and Tampa Bay are the franchises that remain without a World Series championship. The Diamondbacks won their only title in 2001.