Clutch Seager could fuel big postseason run for Texas

October 7th, 2023

Here’s something that -- who has turned out to be well worth the 10-year, $325 million deal that the Rangers gave him after he left the Dodgers via free agency -- said after his team had just swept the 99-win Tampa Bay Rays to win their AL Wild Card Series: “We’ve never gone down. We’ve never just gone away and rolled over. To be able to do that in big moments and calm the nerves and everything like we did in this series is really special.”

Seager ought to know, because he still looks like a special player in the postseason, where the biggest moments are in baseball.

There’s a line from football that applies to Seager, the one about acting as if you’ve been there before when you get to the end zone. He gets another postseason appearance with the Rangers, after six appearances with the Dodgers, and already is showing he still knows how to do it at this time of year.

The Rangers needed just two games against Tampa Bay in the AL Wild Card Series to advance to an American League Division Series matchup against the Orioles, who ended up having the best record in the American League when it looked like the Rangers were going to do that earlier in the season.

Seager had two hits in each of those wins and came away from the series batting .500 (4-for-8) with three doubles and two RBIs, reminding everybody that it looks as if he can still do it at this time of year, because he absolutely has done it before.

Seager was with the Dodgers in 2020 when Los Angeles won the World Series in Arlington, which would eventually become his new baseball home. Seager won both the NLCS MVP and the World Series MVP. He hit five home runs and had 11 RBIs against the Braves in the seven-game NLCS. He hit .400 (8-for-20) against the Rays in the World Series, with two more homers and five RBIs.

Before that, he had hit .364 (4-for-11) against the Padres in the NLDS. What this means is that the Rangers might just be getting started this October, and so could their shortstop, in a week when other recent free agent shortstops like Carlos Correa and Trea Turner have also shined.

Correa got a big RBI in Game 2 of the Twins' series against the Blue Jays after making a really great play in the field in Game 1, throwing out Bo Bichette at the plate. A slow roller went under the glove of Twins third baseman Jorge Polanco, but Correa streaked over to back up the play as Bichette rounded third and kept going, then made an off-balance, sidearm throw to the plate.

In Game 2, Correa even snuck in behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and put a great tag on him at second base on a pickoff throw from Sonny Gray. In 81 postseason games, Correa has 18 home runs and 60 RBIs.

Turner, who signed an 11-year, $300 million contract with Philadelphia last offseason, came away from his team’s sweep of the Marlins in their NL Wild Card Series with a .571 batting average (4-for-7) with two doubles. Turner won a World Series with the Nationals in 2019, producing 17 hits in 17 playoff games.

Apparently, all three shortstops are still made for big moments.

Turner got off to a slow start with the Phillies this season. Correa has been dealing with plantar fasciitis for much of the season, and missed the final 11 games of the regular season as a result.

But here they are, same as Seager, who ended up missing more than 40 games with the Rangers with a hamstring injury in April, a right thumb sprain in July and a forearm contusion after getting hit by a pitch in late September. The Rangers also lost Jacob deGrom after six starts and Max Scherzer after eight starts. But, as Seager said on Wednesday, the Rangers refuse to go away. They go to Baltimore now to start the ALDS on Saturday afternoon.

Seager did not lose the American League batting championship to Yandy Díaz until the last day of the regular season. Seager ended up hitting .327, with 33 homers (the same number he hit with Texas last season, but in 32 fewer games than '22) with 96 RBIs. Without the time missed for injuries, Seager was on a 162-game pace for 45 home runs and 131 RBIs, and would have been in the conversation for AL MVP.

A lot of his teammates showed up against the Rays -- including starting pitchers Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi, both of whom were tremendous for manager Bruce Bochy. Rookies Evan Carter and Josh Jung both came through in the clutch for Texas, as well.

The Rangers got knocked down the last weekend of the regular season, and it was the Astros who ended up winning the AL West. But the Rangers are still here, and still won’t go away. They won’t roll over. Their shortstop never has at this time of year. He's been Texas' money player, in all ways.