Rangers' star duo leads them to cusp of 1st World Series title

Semien, Seager key early outburst after Texas gets tough news about García, Scherzer

November 1st, 2023

PHOENIX -- Wearing a hoodie in lieu of a jersey and gripping a dugout rail instead of his booming bat, turned and pumped his arm in the choo-choo motion as teammate touched the plate after a huge homer.

Though García was removed from their roster due to an untimely left oblique injury, the Rangers kept their remarkable road train rolling Tuesday night at Chase Field. Even with their star right fielder stuck on the platform, they ran over the D-backs, 11-7, with a history-making offensive display in Game 4 to place themselves on the cusp of their franchise’s first World Series title.

Here’s a sentence Texas fans might be heartened to hear, 52 years after the Washington Senators moved to Arlington and rebranded as the Rangers: In all best-of-seven postseason series, teams holding a 3-1 edge have gone on to win the series 78 of 92 times (85%).

“I couldn't be more proud of these guys,” said Texas skipper Bruce Bochy, who could be closing in on his fourth World Series ring. “How they bounce back, how resilient they are, how they've dealt with things, whether it's losing streaks, whether it's injuries.”

The D-backs have been a resilient bunch, too, and now comes their greatest challenge yet. They’ll be trying to become the seventh team to rally from 3-1 down on the Series stage and the first since the 2016 Cubs against Cleveland.

“It's an all-in mentality,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “And this team has done it every time I can remember. They've never let one another down. And I expect that to be the same [Wednesday].”

In Game 4, Arizona tried to bullpen its way to victory. But that plan proved impossible thanks to a Texas team that improved to an unprecedented 10-0 on the road in the postseason and became the first team to have back-to-back five-run innings in a Fall Classic game.

An amazing outcome with Adolis absent.

“It's part of the game,” Semien said of injuries, which have hounded the Rangers at various points this season, including when blockbuster free-agent signing Jacob deGrom went down with a right elbow injury in late April. “But all we can do is focus on how to win the ballgame. That's what we did today.”

They won it early, for all intents and purposes.

In the second and third innings, the Rangers constructed an outburst that included both a two-run triple and a three-run homer from the once-slumping Semien, as well as a two-run homer from early World Series MVP favorite .

All 10 runs came with two outs.

“We’ve had tough days when we face a bullpen day,” Semien said. “But the good thing about it is you may find one or two arms that don't have their best stuff. So we definitely pounced on that opportunity in the second and third inning.”

Those were frightening innings for the Snakes. And no, that’s not a Halloween reference, just reality.

The second inning began with Arizona “starter” Joe Mantiply serving up a leadoff double to Josh Jung, who advanced to third on a groundout and ultimately scored on a wild pitch by reliever Miguel Castro. Castro’s ensuing two-out walk to Leody Taveras loomed large. Travis Jankowski, who had replaced García in the starting lineup, ripped a single up the middle, then Semien, who had been just 13-for-67 this postseason, followed with a triple down the left-field line to bring two more runs home and make it 3-0.

With first base open, Lovullo brought in the lefty Nelson to pitch to Seager, who smoked the ball a Statcast-projected 431 feet to center for a two-run blast that made it 5-0 and stunned the home crowd.

“I mean, Marcus and Corey, and, of course, Jankowski,” said Bochy. “Really, a lot of guys did some good things there tonight.”

The Rangers, who have now homered in a single-postseason record 15 straight games, weren’t done.

The next inning, Jung and Nathaniel Lowe had consecutive one-out singles, and Jonah Heim reached on a crucial fielding error by D-backs first baseman Christian Walker. With two outs, Jankowski made his presence known again with a two-run double, and Semien followed with the back-breaking home run to the first row of the left-center-field seats -- his first homer of the postseason.

García’s dugout reaction to that homer best illustrated the kind of night it turned out to be for the Rangers. It had been one hour, to the minute, before the first pitch of Game 4 that the Rangers’ roster substitutions for García and Max Scherzer (back injury) were announced. Though Scherzer would not have started again until a potential Game 7 on Saturday night, García’s absence from the lineup in the midst of a month in which he has hit eight homers with a postseason-record 22 RBIs had the potential to be a Series-shifter.

But on this night, at least, nothing could derail the Texas train.

“Looks like they've got a couple good understudies that got after it,” Lovullo said.

With Rangers starter Andrew Heaney providing five effective innings before handing it off to the bullpen, the D-backs struggled to put a meaningful dent in Texas' early advantage until the final two innings. By the end of the fourth, Arizona had not only used five of its pitchers but both of its Nelsons (Ryne and Kyle).

Ryne Nelson’s ability to go 5 1/3 innings was perhaps all that prevented the D-backs, who by that point were down to only the high-leverage arms they’d prefer to save for Game 5, from becoming the first team in World Series history to use a position player as a pitcher.

Saving the rest of the ‘pen was one positive for the Snakes. Another was forcing Bochy to bring his closer into what at one time was an 11-1 ballgame. Arizona made that happen by scoring four runs in an eighth inning that was highlighted by Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s three-run homer and putting two aboard against lefty Will Smith in the ninth. José Leclerc came on and surrendered a two-run single to Gabriel Moreno before getting the final out.

Perhaps those developments will have ripple effects in Game 5 on Wednesday night. But the Rangers have three chances to get one win. This is what they trained for.