After over four decades of waiting and more than a few heartbreaks, the Texas Rangers are finally champions of the baseball world. Texas pulled away late for a 5-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in a roller-coaster Game 5 on Wednesday night to capture the franchise’s first-ever World Series title, capping a remarkable postseason run that started nearly a month ago as a Wild Card underdog to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Fittingly, that run ended much the same way it began. All month long, the formula has remained the same: A deep, dangerous offense that wore you down, great starting pitching from Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi and just enough from breakout bullpen stars Josh Sborz and Jose Leclerc to paper over the rest. (Oh, and an unprecedented ability to win on the road: Bruce Bochy’s club finishes these playoffs a perfect 11-0 away from home, setting a new postseason record, including all three games in Arizona after splitting the first two in Arlington.)
Eovaldi wasn’t nearly at his sharpest in Game 5, allowing four hits and five walks over his six innings of work, but he lived up to his Big Game Nate reputation all the same, pulling off several remarkable Houdini acts and holding Arizona hitless in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position. The offense was no-hit by Zac Gallen until the top of the seventh, but consecutive hits from Corey Seager, Evan Carter and Mitch Garver gave them an improbable lead.
That lead seemed to let everyone exhale, and at that point the floodgates opened, with Marcus Semien’s two-run homer capping off a four-run ninth that effectively put the game to bed.
From there, Sborz did the rest — with Aroldis Chapman impossible to trust and Jose Leclerc having pitched each of the past two nights, Bochy rode his righty to the finish line, getting 2.1 scoreless innings to slam the door and touch off a party at Chase Field.
A few weeks ago, not much was expected of these Rangers, who slumped badly down the stretch and eventually lost out on the AL West on the final day of the regular season. But Texas swept that series in Tampa with ease, then swept the top-seeded Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS, displaying the road-warrior mentality that would eventually carry them all the way to a championship. The road got a bit tougher in the ALCS, down 3-2 after a gut-punch loss to the defending-champion Astros. But Texas’ offense erupted in Houston, shocking their in-state rivals and capturing their first pennant since 2011.
Once the calendar flipped to October, however, this team found something. Sure, it helped that regular off-days allowed Texas to mask its lack of pitching depth, largely relying on the games Montgomery and Eovaldi started. But every team in the playoffs benefitted from that format, and none of them were able to take advantage quite like the Rangers did. This was, top to bottom, the fiercest and most consistent offense around, one that grinded and took tough at-bats even when things weren’t going their way. In a postseason in which several bluebloods crumbled under the pressure, Texas dug deep when it mattered most, adopting the steadiness of their manager — who has now entered rarefied air as one of just six men to win at least four World Series titles.
It’s a crushing end to a magical month for the Diamondbacks, and especially for Gallen, who delivered the start of his life but got hung with a hard-luck loss. For Texas, though, this game felt like an exorcism, the releasing of years and years of regular-season futility and postseason demons. No more 2011, no more David Freese, no more spots on lists of teams to never win a title. This wasn’t the champion just about anyone expected when the postseason began, but these Rangers proved themselves time and again, through thick and thin, on both sides of the ball — and now the Commissioner’s Trophy is headed back to the Metroplex.