PHOENIX — On Dec. 1, 2021, hours before Major League Baseball owners would ban players, the Texas Rangers held a series of press conferences to introduce their new $500 million center field. Marcus Semien and Corey Seager both left contenders to sign with a franchise that hadn’t posted a winning record in five seasons. Money influenced their decision. And so – the players said – the vision put forward by Rangers officials came to fruition.
“We laid it out, we were honest, we were very transparent,” Texans general manager Chris Young said that day. “We were a 102-loss team. We didn’t run away from that. But we have a vision, we have a plan, and this is how we’re going to make it happen. Does that scare you? Are you afraid? Do you want to be a part of this? Do you want to do something special? Never before in Texas Ranger history?
History has come to a close, with their 11-7 upset of the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 4 of the World Series on Tuesday. The Rangers are one victory away from winning their first championship. The path did not follow a straight line. Texas lost more than it won in 2022, a slide so serious that owner Ray Davis fired manager Chris Woodward and longtime president of baseball operations John Daniels. But Young stayed. So did Semien and Seager, who have stabilized this club all summer and bolstered the Texans’ offense in Tuesday’s game at Chase Field.
Semien hit a triple in the second and a three-run homer in the third. In the middle, Seager hit a two-run home run. The Rangers killed off Arizona’s attempt to run the bullpen. Texas hung five runs on various Diamondbacks relievers in the second and scored five more runs in the third. The lineup seemed unfazed by the loss of emerging star outfielder Adelis Garcia. His replacement, Travis Jankowski, kept the second-inning rally going with a single and hit a double in the third.
Texas outfielder Andrew Heaney authored five innings of one-run baseball. He protected the Rangers in Game 5. The rematch will be between Arizona player Zach Gallen and Texas player Nathan Eovaldi. The Rangers will now have three chances to pick up another win, one that eluded the club the last time it reached this stage, against St. Louis in 2011. Those Rangers have been one hit away on two separate occasions. The series left scars. This group could make up for some of that hurt, as former Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre suggested earlier in the series.
“I’m going to feel like it’s taken a little bit away from us because we didn’t get it done and these guys did it for us,” Beltre said. “So I would be very happy with that.”
The Texans spent the afternoon revamping their roster. The Rangers won Game 3 but lost two key players to injury. Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, suffered from back spasms. Garcia, the outfielder who was recently named Most Valuable Player in the American League Championship Series, strained his oblique muscle. Scherzer’s back didn’t ease up on Tuesday. Young explained before the game that Garcia felt pain when trying to swing.
Scherzer’s absence may only matter if this series reaches Game 7. Garcia’s absence deprived Texans manager Bruce Bochy of a baseball player with an excellent arm in right field. García launched a walk in Game 1. He pinch-hit Arizona first baseman Christian Walker at the plate to short-circuit the Game 3 walk. “You hate to lose your cleanup hitter,” Bochy said before the game. “But it happened.”
The Diamondbacks had their own problems. Manager Torey Lovullo’s roster lacked a reliable fourth baseman. He had to rely on his painkillers. This approach worked in Game 4 of the final round against Philadelphia, a team more willing to chase pitches outside the strike zone than the Rangers. Lovullo was asked before the game if he would rather use a starting pitcher than play roulette with his relievers. “Drysdale, Gibson, Koufax, Godin, you name it,” he said.
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Instead, Lovullo got Joe Mantipelli. The lefty reliever handled the first and then surrendered a leadoff double to Texans rookie Josh Jung in the second before ceding the pitch to right-hander Miguel Castro. Jung took third base on a groundout. When a changeup from Castro crossed the plate and deflected off catcher Gabriel Moreno, Jung drove home on a wild pitch for the first run of the game.
The Rangers did not stop there. Unable to locate his fastball or changeup, Castro walked outfielder Leody Taveras. In came Jankowski, who replaced Garcia in right field. Jankowski lofted a single up the middle. Semien then pulled a slider down the left field line. Arizona outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. tripped in the corner while trying to secure the baseball. The two-run triple forced Lovullo out of the dugout.
Three innings later, Lovullo elected not to intentionally walk Seager, who hit huge home runs in Game 1 and Game 3. Lovullo sent left-hander Kyle Nelson into the fray. At least the decision backfired on Nelson’s second pitch, not his first. Nelson pinned the slider. Seager hit the baseball an estimated 431 feet, beyond the center field fence for a five-run lead.
The bottom fell out for Arizona in third place. Nelson gave singles to Jung and first baseman Nathaniel Lowe. Walker fouled a grounder that loaded the bases. Jankowski hit two hits off Arizona State’s newest starter, right-hander Luis Frias. Semien pushed the advantage to double digits with his next putt. Semien destroyed a fastball to the top of the zone for his first home run of the postseason.
The blowouts from Texas left the game but it was decided. The Rangers can enjoy the final innings of Game 4 knowing what Game 5 represents. The vision Texans officials proposed to Semien and Seager, a vision that may have seemed fanciful in the days leading up to the lockout, could come to fruition in just one day.
Rosenthal: With Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, the Rangers have proven that spending money works — when it’s done well
(Photo: Rob Tringali/MLB Images via Getty Images)
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