April 19, 2024

PHOENIX — Max Scherzer found Adolis Garcia amid a scramble near the Chase Field pitcher’s mound on Wednesday night — moments after a 5-0 victory that sealed the first championship in Texas Rangers history, when the emotions of it all were still fresh — and hugged him so tight it seemed as if he’d never let go.

A mere 28 hours earlier, the Rangers learned they’d have to win two more World Series games without Scherzer and Garcia, both of whom suffered season-ending injuries in Game 3. That they did so immediately and vanquished the Arizona Diamondbacks by winning Games 4 and 5 in their building, spoke to what many have long believed to be the most important aspect of this high-priced, decorated group of players:

That no matter what took place, they were going to find a way.

“It’s a total team effort to win a World Series,” Scherzer said. “It’s never one guy.”

The latest guy was Nathan Eovaldi, the 33-year-old right-hander who battled shaky command, navigated through a heap of trouble and somehow matched a more dominant Zac Gallen through six scoreless innings until the Rangers’ deep lineup was finally able to break through.

Mitch Garver got the Rangers on the board with an RBI single in the seventh, and Marcus Semien put the game away with a two-run homer in the ninth.

Semien looked back at his own dugout and roared as soon as he touched first base, a rare sign of emotion from the typically stoic second baseman. At that point he knew — the Rangers were on their way to the first championship in the 63-year history of their franchise.

“This is the vision, right?” Rangers shortstop Corey Seager said after winning the World Series MVP trophy for the second time in his career. “I’m kind of at a loss for words, but it’s a really special moment.”

The Rangers finished the greatest postseason in their history with an unprecedented 11-0 record on the road. It helped make them the third team in baseball history to win the World Series within two seasons of losing 100-plus games, joining the 1969 New York Mets and the 1914 Boston Braves.

Texas lost 102 games in 2021 and responded by spending a combined $500 million on signing Semien and Seager the following offseason. A year later, the Rangers splurged on their rotation — signing Eovaldi, Jacob deGrom and Andrew Heaney — and plucked three-time champion Bruce Bochy out of retirement to be their manager.

Bochy became the sixth manager with four or more World Series titles, joining Joe McCarthy (7), Casey Stengel (7), Connie Mack (5), Joe Torre (4) and Walter Alston (4). His steadying presence proved invaluable for a team that continually faced adversity.

The Rangers were hit with a litany of injuries throughout their lineup and all over their pitching staff. DeGrom, signed to a $185 million contract to be their ace, underwent Tommy John surgery. Scherzer, acquired at midseason to carry the Rangers through October, suffered a shoulder injury that put his entire postseason in question. The likes of Seager, Eovaldi, Garver, Jonah Heim, Josh Jung, Jon Gray, Josh Sborz and Jose Leclerc, among others, all hit the injured list, too.

The Rangers lost eight consecutive games near the middle of August and six of their first seven contests at the start of September. They held a 2½-game lead on their division going into their final series of the regular season, then lost three of four to the Seattle Mariners, including the finale, to lose the American League West on the final day and fall into the wild card.

It somehow triggered seven consecutive playoff wins, a run that saw them eliminate the 99-win Tampa Bay Rays and the 101-win Baltimore Orioles and take a 2-0 lead on the defending champion Houston Astros.

When they lost three straight home games in the AL Championship Series, they responded by winning back-to-back games in Houston, clinching their first pennant since the World Series disappointment of 2011. When they trailed the Diamondbacks by two runs in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the World Series, they battled all the way back, getting a tying home run from Seager and, in extras, a walk-off home run from Garcia. And when they lost Scherzer (back spasms) and Garcia (oblique strain) in Game 3, they answered with one of their most dominant performances in Game 4, scoring 10 runs before the end of the third inning, all of them with two outs.

Game 5 showcased more of their moxie. The Diamondbacks put at least one baserunner on in each of the first five innings, but Eovaldi continually worked out of jams, including a bases-loaded one in the fifth, keeping the game scoreless until the Rangers’ offense finally broke through against Gallen, ending his no-hit bid in the seventh.

Eovaldi lowered his career ERA to 1.03 in potential series-clinchers, the third-lowest mark in history.

Seager led off with a single through a vacant third base. Evan Carter, the rookie sensation, followed with a double to right field. And Garver singled up the middle, putting the Rangers on the board. The Rangers broke the game open with four runs in the ninth. Heim singled to center field on a ball that snuck under the glove of Alek Thomas, scoring two runs, and Semien followed with his two-run homer.

It was the type of moment he envisioned when he agreed to team up with Seager less than 24 months earlier.

“Everybody in the room wanted it,” Semien said. “We all play for this. We don’t play for any other accolades or anything else. We play for this. We learned that if you get in the playoffs, get hot, get the pitchers going, anybody can win this thing.”

About half an hour after the final out was recorded, Chase Field was still about half full with Rangers fans who stayed to watch the trophy presentation. Many of them chanted “Bruuuuce” when Bochy was handed the World Series trophy. Later, inside the visiting clubhouse, Creed’s “Higher,” which became a rallying cry for this team, blared from the speakers, cutting through cigar smoke and champagne.

At one point Scherzer walked over to veteran infielder Brad Miller, handed him the trophy and instructed him to hold it up high and look at his reflection from the bottom of it.

“Wow!” Miller said in wonder.

The Rangers had finally done it.

“This is unreal,” Bochy, now a four-time-champion manager, said. “A year ago I was sitting in a recliner. To be in this spot, I can’t tell you how blessed I am.”

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