Well, here we are, in Game 1 of our first World Series in 22 years. Arguable staff aces facing off on both sides—Zac Gallen for us, who has been distinctly not ace-like in the postseason, or really for the last couple of months of the regular season, going up against Nathan Eovaldi, a front-end Texas starter who didn’t finish the regular season swimmingly either but who has been lights-out so far since October baseball began in earnest. Okay, then.
Eovaldi appeared to be pretty much as advertised in the top of the first and the top of the second, retiring the first six Diamondbacks hitters he faced in order, with two groundouts and a swinging strikeout of Gaby Moreno in the first and then striking out the middle of the order in the top of the second.
Meanwhile, Gallen started off looking like postseason Gallen (which is to say, not good) in the bottom of the first, throwing 25 pitches and walking Corey Seager with one out, surrendering an RBI double to Evan Carter, the Rangers’ September call-up phenom left fielder (Carter only had 45 MLB at-bats before the postseason started, and yet, here he is, batting third in the World Series), and then another RBI single to ALCS MVP Adolis Garcia before inducing a double play to end things with 25 pitches thrown. 2-0 Texas
Gallen settled down in the second, putting up a zero with a clean 13-pitch inning, which was heartening. Even more heartening was the top of the third, as the bottom of our order got things rolling, as they have done so often over the course of the 2023 season. Alek Thomas led off with a hard infield chopper that hung in the air long enough after the bounce that Alek easily reached first for his first infield single and our first baserunner. Evan Longoria stepped up, and shot the first pitch he saw the other way, advancing Thomas to third with a single into right. Geraldo Perdomo then did what he does so well, dropping down a perfect sacrifice bunt that moved both Thomas and Longoria into scoring position, and also turned the lineup over for Corbin Carroll. Carroll promptly smoked a ball up the middle that got past the aforementioned Rangers phenom and rolled to the wall for a triple that kinda rendered Perdomo’s bunt irrelevant. Thomas and Longoria scored, tying the game:
We weren’t done yet, either, as it turned out. Ketel Marte came to the plate, drilled a hard grounder to first, Rangers’ first baseman Nathaniel Lowe elected to throw home, but Carroll, thanks to a good jump and a very nice slide to the outside of the plate, avoided catcher Jonah Heim’s tag and gave us our first lead of the ballgame:
Corbin Carroll is just unreal. pic.twitter.com/bJImqIFCNt— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) October 28, 2023
Marte then stole second, because we’ve rediscovered the fact that stealing bases with impunity is fun and embarrasses the opponent, which is also fun. Alas, however, he was left stranded there as Moreno and Christian Walker both struck out to end things. Still, a crooked number, and a lead. 3-2 D-BACKS
Gallen, though, after that clean second inning, went kinda wobbly again for a bit. He struck out the first two batters he faced, then lost the strike zone, walking Corey Seager for the second time in a row, then found it again just long enough to allow Carter to hit a double for the second time in a row. This double wasn’t run-scoring, as Seager was only able to advance to third, but that didn’t matter ultimately, because Gallen lost the strike zone again, walked Adolis Garica and then Mitch Garver (some guy who was the Texas DH tonight), thereby allowing Seager to score the tying run on the bases-loaded walk before finally recording the last out of the frame. 3-3 TIE
Answerbacks were in the building, though, for the time being. Our DH tonight, Tommy Pham, launched the second pitch he saw from Eovaldi to lead off the inning into the left-field seats to give us back the lead:
Nothing more happened there, but whatever. All good. 4-3 D-BACKS
We tacked on another run in the top of the fifth, thanks to a leadoff Perdomo single followed by a stolen base, and then, after Corbin Carroll struck out, a Ketel Marte double into the gap in right center that not only drove in Perdomo but also extended Marte’s postseason hitting streak to 17 games, which gives him a piece the all-time record in this category:
And there’s still at least three games to go. Nice job, Ketel!
One out later, Christian Walker actually failed to strike out for the first time in the ballgame, and instead drew a walk and, feel free to sing along, stole a base. Nothing came of that, ultimately, as Pham grounded to first to end the inning. But still. 5-3 D-BACKS
Zac Gallen, meanwhile, was still in and still pitching, and thankfully he put his brief but disturbingly accurate Andrew Saalfrank impression behind him, and put up zeroes and both the fourth and the fifth innings, pitching around a one-out Josh Jung (I know, who?) single in the fourth and then pitching a clean fifth. He was at 99 pitches, though, after five, so that ended his night, leaving him with a respectable pitching line of 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB and 5 K. Not what we might have hoped from our ace, but far and away the best performance he’s managed since the postseason began. And the bullpen has been nails for the last month and change, so it was all good. Right?
Sadly, not so much, as it turns out. Ryan Thompson, Joe Mantiply, and Kevin Ginkel all put up zeroes in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, respectively, but aside from Mantiply, whose inning was clean and relatively efficient (15 pitches), the others had to work. Thompson pitched around a one-out walk and a two-out single, throwing 17 pitches in all. Ginkel, meanwhile, had to work even harder: after a leadoff single and a wild pitch and then a one-out walk, he put up another zero as well, but it took him an uncharacteristic 28 pitches to achieve that result.
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks offense had left the building after the top of the fifth, not to be seen again in any meaningful way. Alek Thomas hit another infield single in the top of the sixth, and Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. singled with two outs in the top of the eighth, but that was it, all the rest of the way. Which would have been fine—we held still held our 5-3 lead going into the bottom of the ninth—if closer Paul Sewald had been able to manage to close out another game.
Sadly, however, that was not to be.
Sewald took the ball to face Leody Taveras, the Rangers’ nine-hole hitter, and then Marcus Semien and Corey Seager as the Texas lineup turned over. Sewald started off by walking Taveras on four pitches, which is never a good sign. He then stuck out Semien on three pitches, which made me at least feel better, and allowed me to believe for a brief, shining moment that the walk was just Sewald doing his semi-obligatory “put a baserunner on before shutting things down” thing. But nope, not tonight.
Seager stepped into the batter’s box, and launched the first pitch he saw up, up and away, a towering shot that almost made it into the upper deck in right field. That was the only damage he wound up allowing, despite hitting Garcia with a pitch and then walking Mitch Garver, but now the lead was gone, and we were going to extras, which hasn’t tended to end well for us in 2023. 5-5 TIE
Texas brought out their closer, Jose Leclerc, to pitch the top of the tenth, and he sat us down in order. We’d already burned our closer, so we brought in Kyle Nelson, who pitched it ugly—two more walks and a single—but ultimately did his job, putting up a zero of his own and sending us to the eleventh. Leclerc pitched a second shutdown inning, KNel (yes, I just typed that, I’m sorry) got the first out in the bottom of the eleventh, then gave way to Miguel Castro, who came in to face Garcia. Garcia, the Rangers’ ALCS wrecking ball, worked the count to 3-1, and then Castro threw him a 97 mph “sinker” that stayed in the middle of plate, and you can probably see where this is going.
Yup. Over the right field wall.
Walkoff dinger, game over. 6-5 Texas FINAL
Win Probability Added, courtesy of FanGraphs
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022): Miguel Castro (0 IP, 1 H, 1 HR, -41.5% WPA)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974): Paul Sewald (1 IP, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, -40% WPA)
The Hero Who Dies at the End: Kyle Nelson (11⁄3 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 0 R, +20.5% WPA?!?)
Yeah, so this was one of those games that kind of breaks the FanGraphs Win Probability algorithm, it seems like. If Sewald had held on, Carroll and Marte and Pham would have been well into the positives, and Gallen and the bullpen would have as well. There’s definitely a “yeah, but what have you done for me lately?” aspect to the whole thing. I’m not a math guy, as is well-known, and WPA remains a bemusing mystery, but I do enjoy gaining the occasional (and quite possibly apocryphal) bit of “insight” into how it works that games that go like this seem to offer.
Also, I realize that there might be some who believe in their heart of hearts that at least the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” film was a good and important contribution to American horror cinema or something, and I’m sorry (not really), but, well, no. That’s just disturbing and wrong. It might be technically correct, but nevertheless. Feel free to pillory me in the comments....it will help distract us all from the sadness of the outcome here.
Unsurprisingly, we had a very active, fun, and well-populated Gameday Thread, with 714 comments at time of writing. It did turn a bit dark and full of lamentation toward the end, but that’s perfectly understandable, frankly. Fewer comments went Sedona Red than tended to be the case during the NLCS, and some early, optimistic ones got more rec’s than the one I’m going with, but I’m going with this late one from Fearless Leader, who is modeling the mindset that I’m trying to maintain as we move forward:
Besides, I think he’s absolutely correct. We lost the first one in Philly, too, and look where we are now. So.
Join us tomorrow—you’ve gotta, because it really is the only game in town—as Merrill Kelly takes the mound against Jordan Montgomery, the Rangers’ Trade Deadline acquisition who’s been doing a pretty good job so far this postseason. It’ll be another challenge, and another hard-fought game, but that’s what the World Series is supposed to be! Just like tonight, first pitch is scheduled for 5:03pm AZ time. Hope to see you!
Thanks, as always, for reading. And as always, go Diamondbacks!