ARLINGTON, Texas — He hollered upon impact, his voice lost in the maelstrom at Globe Life Field, his body inadvertently impersonating his first World Series home run, six years ago. Corey Seager hollered that night at Dodger Stadium when he homered against the Houston Astros, unable to maintain the veneer of stoicism that undergirds him. He is older now, perhaps even quieter, the weight of a franchise hitched across his shoulders. And still, he reacted the same way when he homered Friday night in Game 1 of the World Series, a 6-5 victory for the Texas Rangers: He hollered his heart out.
Seager had reason to celebrate after he launched a game-tying blast with one out in the ninth inning off Arizona Diamondbacks closer Paul Sewald. His homer awoke the crowd and set the table for Adolis García to deliver a walk-off homer in the 11th. The storybook October continued for García, who was the Most Valuable Player in the American League Championship Series. Seager may give his teammate some competition for the hardware in the Fall Classic.
For most of the evening, the Rangers looked set to meet the fate of the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies, a collection of talented teams unable to disarm the upstart Diamondbacks. But all of those teams lacked one key ingredient. They do not employ Corey Seager.
On Friday, Seager demonstrated why Texas lured him from Los Angeles with a $325 million contract after the 2021 season. His body may break down. He may lack grace in the field. But few humans can strike a baseball with more force. He led the AL in doubles this season despite playing in only 119 games. He posted a career-best 1.013 OPS. He maintained that clip through this postseason. His first-inning homer in Game 7 of the ALCS in Houston jolted his teammates. His ninth-inning homer Friday saved them.
Even before he went deep, Seager scored a pair of runs in the early innings as these two teams tussled. The matchup looked improbable a year ago. The Diamondbacks won 74 games in 2022. The Rangers won 68. The losing in Texas prompted a series of firings. The team axed manager Chris Woodward last August. A few days later, owner Ray Davis deposed president of baseball operations Jon Daniels, the architect of pennant winners in 2010 and 2011. Davis elevated general manager Chris Young. Soon after the season ended, Young flew to Nashville to visit Bruce Bochy.
Bochy had managed Young, a towering pitcher, in San Diego. He earned more acclaim while winning three World Series rings with San Francisco in the 2010s. After the 2019 season, Bochy retired to a life of fishing and golfing. Young intended to lure Bochy back into the dugout. “What is it you don’t like about your life?” Bochy’s wife Kim asked after Young visited. Bochy felt connected to his former player. And he felt the pull of the game’s grandest stage. “Sure, that goes through your mind: ‘Hey, I want one more shot, at least, to get back in the World Series,’” he said.
Bochy reached this apex in his first season in Texas. This is Lovullo’s seventh season at the helm in Arizona. He has lost more games than he has won. He still guided the franchise out of the 110-loss wreckage of the 2021 season. He formed a lasting bond with general manager Mike Hazen. Lovullo became the rare manager to survive a season that unsuccessful. “When you lose 110 games it’s pretty hard for a manager to have that much impact on that,” Hazen said. “That’s a roster issue. That’s me.”
Hazen built an enviable farm system. The prize was Corbin Carroll, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound outfielder chosen in the first round of the 2019 draft. A speedster capable of tearing up the base paths, Carroll personified the sort of player Major League Baseball intended to reward with the rule changes implemented in 2023. So it was fitting that he took the first at-bat of the World Series: Carroll hit a grounder down the first-base line, where Rangers infielder Nathaniel Lowe gobbled it up for an out.
Texas boasted a talented rookie of its own. Evan Carter, a 21-year-old outfielder, spent only 23 games with the club in the regular season. He displayed enough ability in September to earn a spot on the postseason roster — and to bat third against Arizona. Carter provided the first run of the Series. After Seager walked, Carter whacked a 95.8 mph fastball from Zac Gallen into the right-center gap. Seager ambled home and Carter eased into second base. He scored five pitches later when García lined a curveball into left for a single. It was his seventh consecutive game with an RBI.
Down two runs, Carroll answered in the third. The Diamondbacks chipped away at Nathan Eovaldi. Alek Thomas nubbed an infield single. Evan Longoria followed with another hit. Geraldo Perdomo bunted both runners into scoring position. Carroll slashed an 0-2 splitter into center field, where Rangers outfielder Leody Taveras misread its flight. The ball skipped past Taveras to the wall. Carroll raced into third with a game-tying, two-run triple.
Carroll’s speed made the difference in Arizona’s third run. He broke toward the plate as Ketel Marte hit a grounder to first base. Lowe fired to catcher Jonah Heim. Carroll skirted the tag by inches, sliding through the dirt to give the Diamondbacks a 3-2 advantage.
The lead did not last. The top of Texas’s lineup tormented Gallen in the bottom of the inning. The Rangers benefited from Gallen’s inability to locate his fastball and cutter. Seager walked. Carter sliced a double. Seager held at third, but Gallen struggled to escape. He walked García to load the bases. Mitch Garver, the designated hitter, fouled off a pair of full-count fastballs before passing on a low changeup. His walk tied the game.
Arizona demonstrated its mettle against Philadelphia. They declined to fold after dropping the first two games to the Phillies. The group did the same as Gallen wobbled. In the top of the fourth, Eovaldi hung a splitter. Pham blasted the pitch beyond the left-field fence for a solo shot and a 4-3 lead.
The Diamondbacks put on a clinic for their brand in the fifth. The frame began with a single from Perdomo, the No. 9 hitter. Perdomo stole second base. Eovaldi hung a curveball to Marte, who smoked the pitch over Taveras’s head for an RBI double. Arizona did not score again during the inning, but Eovaldi exited after walking first baseman Christian Walker.
Arizonan’s bullpen tried to keep the lead safe. The group was assembled in the final weeks of the season, a mishmash of rookies and retreads building a bridge to Sewald. At the deadline, Hazen acquired Sewald from the Mariners. His presence stabilized the group, providing roles for the rest. Lovullo unfurled his relievers for the final four innings. Ryan Thompson handled the sixth. Joe Mantiply subdued Seager and Carter in the seventh. Kevin Ginkel worked around a single and a walk in the eighth.
The ninth inning belonged to Sewald. It started with a stumble. He issued a leadoff walk to Taveras, the No. 9 hitter. After Marcus Semien struck out, Seager strode to the plate. Sewald favors fastballs. He tried to sneak one past Seager. The gambit failed. Seager destroyed the elevated, 93.6 mph heater. He let loose a scream as he raced down the first-base line, lumber still clutched in his hands. He made the same pose, the same scream, the same trot against Astros ace Justin Verlander all those years ago in Los Angeles. That series ended in heartbreak. Because of Seager, the Rangers have a chance for a different sort of ending.
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(Photo: Kevin Jairaj / USA Today)