Nathan Eovaldi pitched six gutsy innings, Mitch Garver broke a scoreless tie with an RBI single in the seventh and the Texas Rangers are World Series champions for the first time in their 63-season franchise history after beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-0 in Game 5 on Wednesday night.
Marcus Semien homered in a four-run ninth and the Rangers, held hitless for six innings by Zac Gallen, finished a record 11-0 on the road this postseason by capping the Fall Classic with three straight wins in the desert.
In his first season with Texas, manager Bruce Bochy won his fourth title 13 years to the day after his first, which came in 2010 when the Giants beat the Rangers. He also won it all with San Francisco in 2012 and 2014.
“I was sitting in a recliner there in Nashville, just enjoying myself,” said the 68-year-old Bochy, who came out of retirement to take over the Rangers.
One night after the Rangers took a 10-run lead by the third inning in Game 4, they finished off baseball’s third all-wild card World Series by outlasting Arizona in a white-knuckle pitchers’ duel.
Gallen took a no-hitter into the seventh before giving up an opposite-field single to World Series MVP Corey Seager, whose weak grounder found a hole. Rangers rookie Evan Carter — all of 21 years old — followed with a double to right-center. Garver then delivered the first run, pumping his fist as a hard-hit grounder got through the middle of the infield to score Seager and make it 1-0.
Garver was 1 for 17 at the plate in the World Series before his huge hit.
With the Rangers clinging to a 1-0 lead, Josh Jung and Nathaniel Lowe singled off Paul Sewald to start the ninth. Jung scored on Jonah Heim’s single, and Lowe came all the way around from first base when center fielder Alek Thomas let the ball get past him for an error.
Two outs later, Semien’s two-run homer made it 5-0. It was the 13th time Texas scored at least three runs in an inning this postseason.
“Everything I’ve ever worked for is for this moment,” Semien said. “Gallen was unbelievable tonight. But we came through. Once Corey got the first hit, everybody kind of woke up. Pitching was unbelievable.”
Eovaldi pitched out of trouble all night before Aroldis Chapman and Josh Sborz finished it.
“I kind of joked around: I don’t know how many rabbits I have in my hat,” said Eovaldi, who improved to 5-0 with a 2.95 ERA this postseason. “I didn’t really do a great job tonight in attacking the zone. But our defense, incredible again.”
Sborz struck out four in 2 1/3 innings of one-hit ball for his first postseason save. He threw a called third strike past Ketel Marte to end it.
“We go into hostile territory everywhere we went,” Sborz said. “And we just stayed calm, did our job and played the way the way we played all year.”
It’s the first title for the Rangers, whose history dates back to 1961 when they were the expansion Washington Senators. They moved to Texas for the 1972 season and came agonizingly close to a World Series championship in 2011, needing just one strike on two occasions before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Now, after five stadiums, roughly two dozen managers and 10,033 games, the Rangers are champions.
It wasn’t easy — at all.
Texas led the AL West for most of the year, but coughed up the division title on the final day of the regular season to rival Houston. The Rangers weathered an early season-ending injury to ace pitcher Jacob deGrom and a significant one during the year to Seager before red-hot slugger Adolis García and three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer went down in Game 3 of the World Series.
Yet still, players like trade-deadline acquisition Jordan Montgomery, replacement closer José Leclerc and backup outfielder Travis Jankowski picked up the slack throughout for these resilient Rangers, capping a quick and impressive turnaround under general manager Chris Young after Texas lost 102 games in 2021 and went 68-94 last year for its sixth consecutive losing season.
A disheartening 1-0 defeat in the regular-season finale at Seattle left the Rangers with the No. 5 seed in the AL playoffs and sent them across the country to open the playoffs at Tampa Bay, part of two-week trip that took them to four cities — two on each coast. But after sweeping the Rays and AL East champion Orioles, the AL’s two winningest teams, Texas got its revenge against Houston, winning a hard-fought AL Championship Series in which the road team won all seven games.
That sent the Rangers to their first World Series in 12 years.
“We’ve just got a group of winners,” Lowe said. “When the bus driver’s driving slow, we tell him, `Hey man, you know you’re driving a group of winners,’ so we believed it through and through. Maybe we struggled at home, but we got it done on the road, and we’ve got a special group.”
Finally, the Rangers had to get past the Diamondbacks, who won just 84 games during the regular season but beat the Brewers, Dodgers and Phillies in a remarkable postseason run that finally fizzled.
“I’m sorry I didn’t do my job to get us there,” manager Torey Lovullo said, pausing as his voice cracked with emotion. “But I will. We all will.”
Gallen was one of the best pitchers in the majors this season, starting for the National League in the All-Star Game. But the 28-year-old hadn’t been as sharp in the playoffs, with a 2-2 record and 5.27 ERA over five starts.
That changed on Wednesday. With some help from his defense, the bespectacled righty was at his best, mowing down the first 14 hitters he faced before walking Lowe.
Eovaldi wasn’t quite as sharp, but still matched Gallen’s zeros on the scoreboard despite walking five, his most in an outing since 2013.
The Diamondbacks had some juicy opportunities to score in the first five innings, but couldn’t convert, going 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
Eovaldi made it through six, giving up four hits and striking out five on 97 pitches.
“He was a traffic cop tonight,” Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said.