Rangers' sparkling defense sets table for Game 3 victory

October 31st, 2023

PHOENIX -- dove to his left, swiftly stopping a 114.4 mph grounder off the bat of Ketel Marte. With his back facing the pitcher’s mound, he flipped the ball to second baseman , who quickly completed a 6-4-3 double play that ended the eighth inning.

Rangers reliever Aroldis Chapman had been tasked with protecting a three-run lead in the eighth inning of Game 3 of the World Series, but he quickly got himself into trouble. Chapman allowed a leadoff double to pinch-hitter Emmanuel Rivera and an RBI single to Geraldo Perdomo, before striking out Corbin Carroll to ease the pressure.

Chapman got Marte to swing at the first pitch, inducing the big double play that ended the threat and propelled the Rangers to a 3-1 win in Game 3 at Chase Field on Monday night, giving Texas a 2-1 lead in the World Series.

In all best-of-seven postseason series tied at 1-1, the team winning Game 3 has gone on to win the series 68 of 99 times (69%). Those doing so on the road in series with the current 2-3-2 format have gone on to win 29 of 39 times (74%).

“Corey’s been playing great defense,” Semien said. “I believe he deserves a Gold Glove this year, and to be in the World Series and make that play in the biggest moment of the game when they’re rallying, I think is a dagger for them. They had the momentum in the eighth inning. They hit the ball hard and we got two outs out of it. It was huge.”

Seager shrugged off praise for his defense, but he emphasized how big of a moment that was at that point in the game.

“Tremendous job on Marcus' part, especially with that transfer in the turn -- what he did really made that play,” Seager said. “... It was a big momentum change for us, for sure.”

Considering that both the D-backs and Rangers were undefeated this postseason when scoring first, preventing runs is just as important as plating them. Texas showed how lockdown defense can bolster a quick offensive outburst early in Game 3.

It started well before the big double play in the eighth inning.

Rangers starter Max Scherzer allowed a leadoff double in the second inning to D-backs first baseman Christian Walker, followed by a single to designated hitter Tommy Pham. As Pham’s hit dropped into right field, Walker ran through a stop sign and tested the arm of by charging around third base. García delivered on defense as fervently as he has on offense -- he fired the ball to catcher Jonah Heim at 94.6 mph to nab Walker, the second-fastest World Series outfield assist since Statcast started tracking in 2015. The only harder one was by Hunter Renfroe in '20 with the Rays against the Dodgers.

"I feel like that was a huge momentum swing," said D-backs manager Torey Lovullo, who acknowledged that Walker took full accountability. "You're looking at [runners on] first and third, potentially, and no outs. ... Who knows? The timing, everything would have been different; we may have scored a bunch of runs."

“I'm surprised when anybody runs on Adolis,” Heim said. “He's a Gold Glove-caliber right fielder and he always seems to make the big throw where you need it when you need him to, and it's pretty special.”

Scherzer got Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to pop out to Semien for the second out, setting up a unique conclusion to the inning. Alek Thomas hit a chopper to the mound that bounced off Scherzer’s back and ricocheted toward third baseman , who barehanded the ball and nabbed Thomas on the throw to first baseman Nathaniel Lowe.

“It was more of, like, a Johnny on the spot kind of thing,” Jung said. “I just kind of reacted because that’s not something you work on, because you don’t see that very often. Thank goodness I was standing right there.”

Jung, the only Rangers infielder that wasn’t named a Gold Glove Award finalist this season, has specifically been committed to improving his defense all year long.

“I think you can make the case that he’s a Gold Glove third baseman,” Heim said. “He's made countless plays that save innings for us this postseason. You love to see it and you hope it continues.”

Having halted the D-backs from gaining early momentum, the Rangers capitalized. Lowe opened the third inning with a double off righty Brandon Pfaadt, and Semien drove in Lowe with a two-out RBI single.

Seager kept his foot on the gas by pummeling the hardest-hit home run in the World Series since Statcast started recording -- a 114.5 mph, 421-foot blast to right field on a first-pitch changeup. Seager tied Carlos Correa for the second-most home runs by a shortstop in postseason history (18), trailing only Derek Jeter (20).

The Rangers have homered in 14 straight playoff games, a record for a single postseason.

Seager’s two-run homer was the difference in the game, but he -- again -- shrugged off praise, crediting the rest of the lineup for putting the entire team in a position to succeed.

“Marcus put a good AB together right before me and drove in a run,” Seager said. “And we're just trying to build off that. This lineup is building off each other constantly. … No, I don’t [feel pressure]. We've preached about this all year. It's a pass-the-baton mentality for us. You don't always have to be the guy that day. That's comforting. That takes stress off people. We've done a good job of that. We're hoping to continue to do it.”