Wild finish a Fall Classic callback to Jeter, Freese, Rangers GM

October 28th, 2023

You couldn't have drawn up a better opening game for the 2023 World Series.

In an instant classic, the Rangers pulled off a stunning comeback in Game 1, capped by Adolis García’s walk-off home run in the 11th inning. García’s game-ending shot came two innings after ’s game-tying two-run homer in the ninth inning sent it to extras. By all accounts, this was one of the best endings we’ve ever seen to a World Series game.

Even on its own, this World Series game had everything. But there’s also some neat context and symmetry that ties together previous World Series history for both the Rangers and D-backs -- some of it, honestly, rather painful. Let’s dive into some history.

The D-backs are 0-6 in postseason extra innings
The Game 1 loss might sting even more for D-backs fans given Arizona’s history in extra-innings postseason games. After losing yet another one, the D-backs moved to 0-6 in extras in playoff baseball. They remain the only team that hasn’t won a single extra-innings postseason game.

Prior to García’s walk-off homer, the most notable extra-innings losses for the D-backs came in Games 4 and 5 of the 2001 World Series against the Yankees. D-backs fans certainly remember the back-to-back nightmarish outings for reliever Byung-Hyun Kim -- who allowed a walk-off home run to Derek Jeter in the 10th inning of Game 4 and blew a save in Game 5 that resulted in a second straight extra-innings loss for Arizona.

“I don't think any of these players were old enough to possibly remember what was going on at that time,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “I know we have some really big baseball fans; they probably remember. But I don't think anybody is connecting those dots.”

And yet it’s hard not to.

The Game 4 parallel of that 2001 World Series is especially interesting. According to MLB.com researcher Sarah Langs, Game 4 of the '01 World Series and Game 1 of the 2023 World Series are the only games in Fall Classic history where there was a game-tying home run in the ninth inning and a walk-off home run in extra innings.

García’s homer came exactly 12 years after Freese’s walk-off HR
It was only fitting that García’s walk-off homer came exactly 12 years after David Freese broke Rangers fans' hearts.

With the Rangers just one out from winning the 2011 World Series, Freese’s RBI triple tied the game in the ninth inning of Game 6. Two innings later, Freese ended the game with a walk-off home run in what was another World Series classic. The next night, the Cardinals won the Series in seven games and left the Rangers waiting until this year to potentially exorcize their World Series demons.

That’s not all for the García-Freese parallels. In the process of hitting his walk-off home run and winning Game 1 of the World Series, García took over sole possession for most RBIs (22) in a single postseason. The previous record-holder? None other than Freese, who had 21 RBIs in the same 2011 postseason.

It’s also been fitting that García has been the one to carry the Rangers in these pivotal playoff moments, especially since the emotional Game 5 of the ALCS.

“He's done such a great job [in the big moment]. We saw him in the last series. We saw him toward the end of the season,” manager Bruce Bochy said about García after the game. “He's doing such a great job of controlling his emotions, so to speak, where he's not over-swinging and he's staying under control. That's fun to watch when he does that.”

The Chris Young connection 
This is where Game 1’s connection to the past gets even more interesting. This was the first walk-off in Game 1 of a World Series since the Royals beat the Mets in the 2015 Fall Classic. The winning pitcher in that game? Chris Young, the longtime MLB pitcher and current Rangers general manager.

Like Game 1 of the 2023 World Series, the first game in '15 went extra innings until Eric Hosmer ended it with a sacrifice fly in the 14th. Young pitched three innings of scoreless ball in what was the second and final postseason win of his career.