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2023 World Series Preview: Diamondbacks vs. Rangers

| Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Major League Baseball’s postseason has been all over the map this year. There have been a surprising amount of blowouts, questionable managerial moves and upsets galore. Whether you agree with the still relatively new postseason format or not, this October has undoubtedly been chaotic, which usually makes for an entertaining product.

Now, though, is the ultimate showdown. The World Series has rarely disappointed in recent years and figures an intriguing matchup of teams that aren’t exactly used to winning on this stage. For one, that legacy will continue. True joy, and a championship pennant that will fly forever, await the other.

Texas Rangers: 90-72, No. 2 AL West, No. 2 AL Wild Card

AL Wild Card Series: Beat Tampa Bay 2-0, ALDS: Beat Baltimore 3-0, ALCS: Beat Houston 4-3

What a weird season it’s been for the Texas Rangers. They started the season as hot as anyone, then lost ace Jacob deGrom for the season. They mostly kept winning, then replaced deGrom with another New York Met in Max Scherzer … who promptly went down with an injury. The losses started piling up in the dog days of summer, and it looked like they might miss the postseason outright. They stabilized late to avoid that fate but missed a golden opportunity by ceding control of the division to the Houston Astros on the last day of the regular season.

Yet that seems to have galvanized the Rangers. They won their first seven games of the postseason, knocking out the top two teams in the American League in the first two rounds. After being left for dead following three straight home losses in the American League Championship Series, the Rangers scored 20 runs over the final two games to reach their first Fall Classic since 2011.

As that last sentence indicates, the Rangers can score runs with the best of them. The Rangers offense is led by a three-headed monster of ALCS MVP Adolis García, 2020 World Series MVP Corey Seager and 2021 AL MVP finalist Marcus Semien. Semien has struggled so far in the postseason, but García has homered in four straight games and Seager is so fearsome the Orioles all but refused to pitch to him in the Division Series. All launched at least 29 home runs and drove in at least 96 runs in the regular season.

There’s plenty of depth in the lineup behind them, though. Josh Jung also hit 23 round-trippers in the regular season and has been a consistent force in October. Rookie Evan Carter has picked up right where he left off from an excellent September debut, hitting .308 through the first three rounds. Minnesota Twins cast-off Mitch Garver has honed his power stroke and has more RBIs in the postseason than any Ranger except for García. Nathaniel Lowe and Jonah Heim are capable of producing big swings as well. Center fielder Leody Taveras and Semien headline an outstanding defense as well.

Texas indeed sured up its starting rotation at the deadline. But even though Scherzer returned in the ALCS, he hasn’t been the most impactful addition. That honor belongs to Jordan Montgomery, sporting a 2.16 ERA in four stellar postseason starts. Nathan Eovaldi once again owns October, pitching to a nearly identical mark with gaudy strikeout numbers.

Like most teams, their depth is a bit sketchy, especially in the bullpen once you get past flame-throwing righties Jose Leclerc and Josh Sborz. But with the steady hand of Bruce Bochy guiding them, the Rangers have gone from 102 losses two years ago to the cusp of their first championship in their 63 seasons of baseball.

Arizona Diamondbacks: 84-78, No. 2 NL West, No. 3 NL Wild Card

NL Wild Card Series: Beat Milwaukee 2-0, NLDS: Beat Los Angeles Dodgers 3-0, NLCS: Beat Philadelphia 4-3

If it’s surprising to see the Rangers on this stage, it’s downright stunning that they’re meeting the Arizona Diamondbacks. In fairness, Arizona did follow a very similar path as Texas. The Diamondbacks dominated the NL West at the start of the season, just barely found themselves on the right side of a Wild Card dog fight, swept their first two postseason series and won Games 6 and 7 on the road against the reigning league champion. It’s also been a minute since they’ve been here — a minute that’s lasted 22 years, to be exact.

The Diamondbacks are a bit of a tricky team to evaluate. Arizona took advantage of the new rules in baseball this year for most of the regular season, building an athletic team full of speed that played tremendous defense. In the postseason, though, they’ve run less and crushed dingers more. Ketel Marte is establishing himself as an elite postseason player, breaking the all-time record by hitting in his first 16 career postseason games. Youngsters Gabriel Moreno and Alek Thomas are doing the same. They and Marte are the only three Diamondbacks with an OPS above .800 and have delivered in clutch moments as well.

There’s plenty more to Arizona’s lineup as well. Corbin Carroll should run away with the NL Rookie of the Year Award after hitting 25 homers and swiping 54 bags in the regular season. He stumbled in the NLCS but was a key cog in Arizona’s road to that round. Power-hitting and deft-fielding first baseman Christian Walker is following a similar narrative. Left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. delivered a bounce-back regular season and is a power threat as well. Arizona’s offense can beat teams in several ways, which makes it all the more difficult to shut down.

Even if you can, the 1-2 punch of Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly can almost win games on their own. Gallen did have a tough go in the NLCS but his track record over the last two years more than speaks for itself. Kelly faltered a bit in Game 2 but gave Arizona five innings of one-run ball with their backs against the wall in Game 6. If highly touted rookie Brandon Pfaadt keeps his postseason brilliance going, Arizona is that much scarier, even if they will likely go win another bullpen game in Game 4.

That bullpen has three outstanding right-handers — closer Paul Sewald, setup man Kevin Ginkel and the funky arm slot of Ryan Thompson. Thompson can and will pitch multiple innings at a time which makes life easier for manager Torey Lovullo. Southpaws Andrew Saalfrank and Joe Mantiply have had their good and bad moments so far in October. How they handle Seager and Lowe could decide the series.

The Verdict

This is a really hard series to handicap. Both teams are very well-rounded but not necessarily elite at one thing. They have one player destroying everything thrown at them (García for Texas, Marte for Arizona), a couple of others doing a lot of damage and some other big names that need to get going. Their first two starters are outstanding, but everything that comes after them is more questionable.

Ultimately, the Rangers just have too much depth for me to pick against them. The bottom of their lineup is more potent, their bullpen runs a bit deeper and picking against even a rusty Scherzer in the World Series feels like a bad idea. It’s incredible that these 2021 cellar dwellers are here. Ultimately, though, the Rangers reign supreme. Rangers in six.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Andrew McGuinness

Andrew McGuinness is a senior in Siegfried Hall and Sports Editor of The Observer. He is from Haddonfield, New Jersey, and loves all of his Philly sports teams, even if they don't always love him back. Reach out below or on Twitter (@_AndrewMcG) to talk sports or TV shows, especially if they're Stranger Things, Survivor, Abbott Elementary or/and Severance.

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