When the Texas Rangers lost to the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 World Series, acute pain was quickly followed by a collective feeling that, after a decade of not making the playoffs, fortunes were starting to turn around. That feeling was compounded the next year, when the Rangers followed up a solid regular season with another World Series appearance. Visions of a nascent dynasty were cut short when Nelson Cruz missed a catch in right field that would have sealed the title but instead crushed hearts.
Maybe the team is cursed. The Rangers haven’t won a World Series in the team’s lengthy history, beginning as the Washington Nationals in 1961 and then moving to Arlington in 1972. That’s 62 years, marking the longest active drought among any team except Cleveland. And you never want to be in a race to the bottom with Cleveland.
To the front office’s credit, they’ve never been shy about spending money on the roster. Last year saw pricey newcomers Corey Seager and Marcus Semien join, but the team finished with an abysmal record and placed fourth in the AL West. This year, more money flowed, including $185 million over five years to starting pitcher Jacob deGrom, who promptly injured his elbow and spent the season on the bench. You can forgive a Rangers fan for being skeptical that 2023 would be any different.
And yet, here we are, from the Wild Card to the World Series. This time, the Rangers will come up against the Arizona Diamondbacks, another plucky Wild Card winner. Combined, the two teams have the fewest regular-season wins of any World Series matchup in a non-shortened season — which is hilarious, but also refreshing. No one needs to see the Yankees or the Red Sox or the sign-stealing Astros again, and there’s some consolation in that. Although the Diamondbacks did win the title in 2001, so they should really just be good sports about all this and let the Rangers have it.
The Rangers are lovable — or at least palatable. On a national level, no one hates them like they do the Astros or, to switch sports, the Cowboys. That doesn’t count for much once the umpire says “play ball,” but how about a long-awaited win for Texas’s other baseball team?
The World Series Matchup
The Rangers finished with a respectable 90-72 record. After a strong start, they played .500 baseball through the summer and limped to the Wild Card after leading their division most of the way. The Diamondbacks finished a pedestrian 84-78, and after a similarly strong start, the wheels fell off in July, before they righted the ship in September and squeaked into the Wild Card. Both teams have looked impressive during their playoff runs, taking down statistically better clubs.
Texas has the edge in offensive firepower, clocking more runs per game, more home runs and a better batting average throughout the season. Arizona is good on the basepaths, with the second most steals in 2023. Both teams posted ERAs worse than the league average.
When the Rangers get hot, they’re hot. Just look at Adolis Garcia’s incredible ALCS, in which he set a record with 15 RBIs in a postseason series and hit five home runs. The D-backs, meanwhile, have shown an uncanny scrappiness and keep finding ways to win.
On the Rangers’ side, starting pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Jordan Montgomery have performed well during the playoffs, while the D-backs have gotten a lot of good innings from Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Brandon Pfaadt. Unless one team’s starting pitchers dominate, the Series may ultimately come down to the productivity of the Rangers’ best hitters versus Arizona’s more committee-led approach.
How the Rangers Can Pull This Off
The Rangers have gotten to this point mostly due to their bats, and it’s entirely possible they can slug their way to the title. If Semien, Seager and Garcia can get on base and knock in runs, the team has a great chance to out-hit the opposition. But scores often shrink during the World Series, and it’s hard to imagine a win without some ace pitching.
The Rangers could use a reliable third starter to help Eovaldi and Montgomery. Maybe it’s Max Scherzer, who the team signed in July for this exact reason. But the three-time Cy Young Award winner is 39 years old and has battled injuries this year, so he’s no longer a guarantee on the mound like he has been in years past. Considering a rocky Game 7 start against the Astros and a new thumb issue, he’s not even guaranteed to pitch. But the Rangers’ batters need to prop up the starting pitchers, and the starting pitchers need to give the relievers some cushion to avoid stressful late-inning situations.
Can the Rangers win the Series? Absolutely. Will they win? Only time will tell. But we like their chances. And if there’s any justice in this cold, harsh world, 2023 is the year that a championship banner finally flies in Arlington.
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