3 key storylines for Game 4

October 31st, 2023

Would you believe me if I told you the Texas Rangers actually had a losing record on the road this year? It’s true: They were 40-41 on the road in the regular season. That obviously doesn’t mean anything anymore now that they’ve won a postseason record nine in a row on the road, imploding the very notion of home-field advantage. They now have that home-field advantage back in this World Series … if they want it?

They’ll want to hang onto any advantage they can after two of their key players, Max Scherzer and Adolis García, went down in what turned out to be a costly Game 3 win. It sets up a massively important Game 4 that feels like it could go any of an infinite number of directions.

Here’s a look at three key storylines for Game 4 of the World Series on Tuesday (Halloween!) night.

Rangers at D-backs
Rangers lead 2-1
Andrew Heaney vs. Joe Mantiply
8:03 p.m. ET, FOX

Storyline No. 1: Will Arizona’s offense ever get in a groove?

In Game 2 -- and many times throughout this postseason, actually -- it looked like the D-backs were going to score forever. Everyone, and everything, was clicking in that 9-1 win.

Then, on Monday night … the D-backs went silent. After Christian Walker ran through a stop sign to get thrown out at the plate in the second inning, the D-backs’ bats went silent until the eighth. Take out that shaky eighth inning from Aroldis Chapman -- which, like so many innings with Chapman this postseason, should have turned out so much worse than it did -- and the D-backs were 4-for-27 on Monday night, with Corbin Carroll, Gabriel Moreno, Ketel Marte and Walker a combined 2-for-14.

They should be able to get into more of the underbelly of the Rangers’ 'pen over the next couple of days -- all the Rangers’ key relievers showed up in this one, though they can’t pitch every night -- but the D-backs have made it this far because of a series of offensive explosions. They need another one, and fast.

Storyline No. 2: Will we see Adolis García again the rest of this series? If not, what do the Rangers do?

Oblique injuries are notoriously tricky to deal with in the regular season, the sort of injury that you can really fix only by leaving it alone and allowing it time to heal. But the one thing you don’t have in the postseason is time.

García was the ALCS MVP and was raking again in this World Series, including the walk-off homer to end Game 1 and lock in a place in World Series history. But when he immediately grabbed his side after flying out to center field in the eighth inning of Game 3, the baseball world did a collective gasp. The Rangers instantly pulled García, and he was out of the starting lineup for Game 4. Needless to say, losing a hitter of García’s caliber -- as scorching as he has been this week -- is a huge problem for the Rangers. Travis Jankowski was the fill-in for Game 4, but you of course cannot replace García in any possible fashion. It’s unfortunate for all of us to lose the electric García from this World Series. But it’s really unfortunate for the Rangers.

Storyline No. 3: How in the world are these teams going to fill innings in Game 4?

Jon Gray was a lifesaver for the Rangers after Scherzer left with an injury, throwing three scoreless innings that the team desperately needed; those three innings may well stand as the reason the Rangers have a lead in this series at this moment. But it did cause a real issue for Game 4. Gray was an option to start that game (or provide multiple innings out of the 'pen), something that now isn’t going to happen.

Now, the Rangers will turn to Andrew Heaney. It's hard to imagine he pitches very long. And this comes a day after the Rangers needed five pitchers and the day before they have a Game 5 that will be started by a guy (Nathan Eovaldi) who didn’t make it out of the fifth in Game 1.

And if you think that’s a problem, you should see the D-backs. They’ve already announced they’re running out a bullpen game -- remember when those were used for emergencies, rather than, you know, Game 4 of the World Series? -- something they also did in Game 4 of the NLCS. They won that game against the Phillies, but it required eight pitchers, something that cost them in Game 6 when they had to push Zac Gallen longer than they wanted to. (And they only won that Game 4 by scoring three in the eighth off Craig Kimbrel.) Anyway, the D-backs will turn to Joe Mantiply on Tuesday night.

The best verb to describe the strategy both teams will be using for Game 4 is “spackling.” They’re going to be throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks. And they may just have to do it again on Wednesday in Game 5.