PHOENIX — On the first day of December 2021, just hours before Major League Baseball owners lock out players, the Texas Rangers held a series of press conferences to introduce their new $500 million middle infield. Both Marcus Siemian and Corey Seager left the Rivals to sign with a franchise that hadn’t posted a winning record in five seasons. Money influenced their decision. And so – the players said – was the view put forward by Rangers officials.
“We’ve laid it out, we’re real, we’re very transparent,” Texas general manager Chris Young said that day. “We are a 102-loss team. We didn’t run from it. But we have a vision, we have a plan, how we are going to accomplish this. Does it scare you? are you afraid Would you like to be a part of this? Do you want to do something great that has never been done in Texas Ranger history?”
After beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 11-7 in Game 4 of the World Series on Tuesday, history was almost upon them. The Rangers are one win away from capturing their first championship. The path does not go in a straight line. Texas lost more than it won in 2022, a skid that saw owner Ray Davis fire manager Chris Woodward and longtime president of baseball operations John Daniels. But Young remained. Siemian and Seager, who anchored the Texas offense all summer, were the laughing stock at Chase Field on Tuesday.
Siemian delivered a two-run triple in the second and a three-run homer in the third. In between, Seager hit a two-run home run. The Rangers destroyed Arizona’s attempt to run a bullpen game. Texas hung five on the Diamondbacks relievers in the second and scored five more in the third. The lineup isn’t rattled by the loss of rising star outfielder Adolis Garcia. His replacement, Travis Jankowski, continued the second-inning rally with a single and scored two runs in the third.
Texas starter Andrew Heaney pitched five innings of one-run baseball. He saved the Rangers’ bullpen for Game 5. It will be a rematch between Arizona starter Jack Galen and Texas starter Nathan Ewaldi. The Rangers have three more chances to collect a win since the club last reached this point in 2011 against St. Louis. The Rangers were within a strike on two separate occasions. Left a series of scars. The team could make up for an injury that suggested Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre earlier in the series.
“I’m going to feel like it took a little weight off us because we didn’t do it, those guys did it for us,” Beltre said. “So I would be very happy about that.”
Texas spent the afternoon updating its roster. The Rangers won Game 3, but lost two top players to injury. Three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer has been dealing with back pain. Garcia, an outfielder who was recently crowned MVP of the American League Championship Series, strained an oblique muscle. Scherzer’s back didn’t budge on Tuesday. Garcia felt pain while trying to swing, Young explained before the game.
Scherzer’s absence could only matter if the series reaches a seventh game. Garcia’s absence robbed Texas manager Bruce Bochy of a slugger with a great arm in right field. Garcia launched a walkoff dinger in Game 1. He cut down Arizona first baseman Christian Walker at the plate to short-circuit a Game 3 rally. “You hate to lose your cleanup hitter,” Bochy said before the game. “But it happened.”
The Diamondbacks had their own problems. Manager Torrey Lovullo lacks a reliable fourth starter on his roster. He should lean on his relievers. This approach worked in Game 4 of the last round against Philadelphia, a team more willing to chase pitches out of the strike zone than the Rangers. Lovullo was asked before the game if he’d rather use a starting pitcher than play silly with his relievers. “Drysdale, Gibson, Koufax, Gooden, you name it,” he said.
Instead, Lovullo had Joe Montibley. The lefty reliever handled first, then surrendered a leadoff double to Texas rookie Josh Jung. Jung took third base on a groundout. Jung raced home on a wild pitch for the first run of the game when a changeup from Castro eluded the plate and past Gabriel Moreno.
The Rangers didn’t stop there. Unable to find his fastball or changeup, Castro struck out outfielder Leoty Taveras. Up came Jankowski, who replaced Garcia in right field. Jankowski rolled a two-out single up the middle. Next, Siemian ripped a slider down the left-field line. Arizona outfielder Lourdes Curiel Jr. fumbled in the corner trying to protect the baseball. A two-run triple forced Lovullo out of the dugout.
Down by three runs, Lovullo intentionally didn’t want to walk Seager, who delivered massive home runs in Game 1 and Game 3. At least the result was behind Nelson’s second pitch rather than his first pitch. Nelson hung a slider. Seager hit the baseball 431 feet over the center field fence for a five-run lead.
It fell to third-place Arizona. Nelson delivered singles to Jung and first baseman Nathaniel Lowe. Walker flopped a grounder that loaded the bases. Jankowski, the freshman Arizona reliever, doubled to right-hander Luis Frias. Siemian pushed the advantage into double digits with the next at-bat. Siemian destroyed a fastball in the top of the zone for his first home run of the postseason.
Blasts from Texas left the game. The Rangers could have known Game 5 represented the final innings of Game 4. The vision that Texas officials suggested to Semyon and Seager, a vision that seemed fanciful in the days before the shutdown, could come to fruition in just a day.
(Photo: Rob Tringali / MLB Photos via Getty Images)
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