After nearly seven rollicking months of baseball, the day is finally here: The Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers are set to kick off the 119th World Series on Friday night, with first pitch from Globe Life Park in Arlington set for 8:03 p.m. ET. It’s not the matchup just about anyone expected — the 84-win D-backs are among the most improbable pennant winners ever, while the Rangers seemed dead in the water after a September swoon cost them the AL West — but both of these teams have proven they’re no flukes over three rugged postseason rounds. Who will come out on top and take home title? We’ll begin to find out on Friday night, as Arizona sends Zac Gallen to the mound against red-hot Rangers righty Nathan Eovaldi.
Texas is a -170 favorite to win Game 1 on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with the D-backs coming in at +142. The run total is set at 8.5.
Diamondbacks vs. Rangers World Series Game 1 picks: Friday, Oct. 27
Out: SP/RP Tommy Henry (elbow)
Zac Gallen vs. Nathan Eovaldi
One of the many remarkable things about Arizona’s NLCS win is that they did it without much of any help from their best pitcher. Gallen got knocked around twice by the Phillies, allowing nine runs and five homers over 11 innings while taking the loss in Games 1 and 5. Despite those recent struggles, Gallen will still get the ball for Game 1 against Texas, with manager Torey Lovullo falling back on his righty’s six months’ worth of consistency rather than a couple of off weeks. Gallen was fifth in all of baseball with 20 quality starts in the regular season, he put up consecutive quality starts against the Brewers and Dodgers earlier this month and he was brilliant (six innings, one run, 11 Ks) the last time he faced the Rangers in late August.
Eovaldi’s postseason renaissance now reaches the Fall Classic after he conquered the Astros twice in the ALCS — and lowered his ERA this month to 2.87 in the process. That’s quite a turnaround for a guy no one knew what to expect from just a few weeks ago: A forearm injury early in the second half derailed the righty’s season, forcing him to miss nearly a month and a half on the IL, and he wasn’t nearly the same pitcher when he returned in September. Eovaldi posted an ugly 9.30 ERA for the month, with significantly diminished fastball velocity, and it was a very real question just how much he’d have in the tank in these playoffs. The answer, as it turns out, was quite a bit; he’s now sitting 95-96 with the heater again and consistently spotting his breaking ball and splitter where he wants them, looking like the Cy Young candidate he was in the first half of the regular season.
This is a tricky one. The D-backs prefer to play small ball, keeping things tight and low-scoring: Just two of their games against the Phillies in the NLCS saw nine or more runs scored, and one of those two was a 10-0 Philly win. The Rangers, on the other hand, cleared this total five out of seven times in the ALCS, and just scored a combined 20 runs in Games 6 and 7 against the Astros. Despite that firepower, though, I’m backing the under here. Eovaldi is on an absolute heater right now and should keep Arizona’s bats in check; that puts a lot of pressure on Texas to pick up the slack, and I think we’ll see a far better Gallen than we saw in the last round (plus, Arizona’s bullpen is rested and ready).
Pick: Under 8.5
Texas has the advantage on the mound here, given the respective recent forms of Gallen and Eovaldi, and it’s hard to argue they don’t have the advantage at the plate as well. Arizona has been defying the odds in these spots all October long, but I think the Rangers start this World Series with a home win.
Pick: Rangers -170