World Series Game 1: But of Course

In a more just and far more sane world, this World Series would not feature baseball's eight-best team (the Rangers) hosting baseball's 12th-best (the Diamondbacks). No matter how much fun it was to watch the games by which they got here. This, folks, is Commissioner Pepperwinkle World.

It's a world where the fun in watching baseball's Davids slay its Goliaths, as happens often enough, is perverted into a premeditated dilution of the championship race. Where teams who dissipate down the stretch can still sneak into a postseason and trash the joint.

Commissioner Pepperwinkle didn't create today's championship dilution, he simply finished and metastasised what his predecessor/former employer began. And while he now says he's willing to "discuss" this format and that dilution after hearing "enough complaints and chatter" around it, don't wait in line too long expecting him to heed and adjust.

Unless you count whether their owners voted yay or nay upon Pepperwinkle's perversion, it's hardly the Rangers' or the Diamondbacks' fault that they could and did ride to this Series while leaving the bigger teams to the winters of their malcontent. "If the die was cast — meaning, that if I win 100 in the regular season, I'm going to win the World Series — I don't think that's as interesting as what we have witnessed over the last month," he added.

Well, just as it couldn't hurt to watch the earlier wild card, division, and League Championship Series anyhow, it can't hurt to watch this half-serious World Serious anyhow.

Say what you must about how they got here. These Rangers (who did tie for a division title) and these Diamondbacks (who finished a well-distant second in their division) are having fun while being deadly serious. The Diamondbacks didn't let bother them that they weren't supposed to survive the Brewers, the Dodgers, or the Phillies. The Rangers didn't let bother them that they weren't supposed to shove their fellow Texans from Houston to one side.

Come Friday night, until Rangers shortstop Corey Seager sent the game to extras with a mammoth two-run homer, it looked as though the Diamondbacks might open by doing to the Rangers what they'd done well enough entering the Series: pitching, pecking, picking, and occasionally pounding their way to a win.

Then a Cuban defector hit a Game 1-winning home run off a pitcher named [Miguel] Castro in the bottom of the 11th.

That won it for the Rangers, 6-5. It also gave Adolis García eight bombs for this postseason and left him one shy of Daniel Murphy's record of homering in six consecutive postseason games. It should also have sent the Diamondbacks pitching staff a rudely-awakening message: thou shalt not plunk Adolis García and expect to live.

First, after Seager tied the game off Paul Sewald with Leodys Taveras aboard and a parabola to the rear of the right field seats in the ninth, García was hit on the hand by a Sewald pitch. Late Rangers insertion Austin Hedges struck out for the side. But two innings later, with one out, García hit a 3-1 sinker the opposite way over the right field fence.

Twelve years to the day earlier, the Cardinals' David Freese wrecked the Rangers when the Rangers were a strike away from winning the 2011 World Series in six games — first with a game-tying triple in the ninth; then, after the game was re-tied in the top of the 11th, with a full-count leadoff shot over the center field fence.

Figure this if you can: García's Game 1 winner Friday night sent him right past Freese himself for the most runs batted in (22) in a single postseason. It might not have happened had García not made a spectacular course correction on Diamondbacks rookie star Corbin Carroll's 2-out, ninth-inning drive to right, overcoming a bad first step to run the ball down and snatch it at the wall.

That might have given these relentless enough Diamondbacks a final lease on Game 1 life. But no. Then Seager unloaded in the bottom of that inning off Diamondbacks finisher Paul Sewald, the first genuine dent in a Diamondbacks bullpen that was postseason excellent entering the Series and worked three scoreless among three relievers Friday night. Setting the extra-inning stage for García to do what hasn't been done since Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series — win Game 1 with a walkoff homer.

Maybe doing it on the twelfth anniversary of Freese's jolts means these Rangers might find the mojo those Rangers lost so horrifically?

In a game where the Rangers took an early 2-0 lead (Evan Carter's first inning RBI double and García singling him home immediately to follow), but the Diamondbacks bit Rangers starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi hard for a 3-run third and 5 runs in four and two-thirds innings; where the Rangers went 1-for-7 with men in scoring position to the Snakes going 2-for-8; and, where the Ranger bullpen pitched six and a third innings' 2-hit, shutout relief, Seager and García's late explosions will be what's remembered the most.

Kind of a shame, too. In the top of the third, Diamondbacks shorstop Geraldo Perdomo finally dropped a bunt you couldn't call a wasted out. Remember: in six known "bunt situations," only one leaves you a better chance to score after than before the bunt: first and second, nobody out. That's what Perdomo had when he dropped one back to the box and pushed Alek Thomas (leadoff infield single) and Evan Longoria (immediate followup single) to third and second, respectively.

Carroll followed and hit a 2-strike, 2-run triple to the absolute back of center field, then scored the third Snakes run while Ketel Marte grounded out to first base. The Rangers took one back to re-tie in the bottom of the third when Mitch Garver wrung a bases-loaded walk out of Diamondbacks starter Zac Gallen, but Tommy Pham re-snatched the lead when he unloaded on Eovaldi to open the top of the fourth, sending one over the left field fence. An inning later, Marte sent Perdomo (leadoff single) home with a double, and 5-3 it stayed until Seager in the ninth.

Seager may not mind playing second banana to García even if his handiwork set García's up. He hollered out uncharacteristically in his joy after he launched his bomb. But after the game, he preferred not to think about that again. "You never think about your own success," he said. "You think about how that team came together, how that team performed."

In the American League Championship Series, remember, García unloaded a 3-run homer in Game 5 and got drilled by a pitch his next time up. All that did was jolt him into the Games 6 and 7 bombings that helped yank the Rangers here in the first place. Two batters after Seager unloaded, García was hit by a pitch again, on his hand.

He shook it off. He stole second but was stranded. He bided his time. Then came the eleventh. He didn't answer the bell, he rang it. Ask him now what the biggest bomb of his life is, and he'll tell you. "We're in the World Series," he said. "I think, honestly, this is the first."

Unless there's a more absurdist Elysian Fields script to be delivered later in this Series (put nothing past that heavenly troupe of stinkers), and García finds himself hitting the Series winner, it may yet prove to be the loudest home run in Rangers history.

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