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Thoughts on a 3-1 Rangers win

Rangers 3, D-Backs 1

World Series - Texas Rangers v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Three Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Rangers 3, D-Backs 1

  • That was a big, if potentially costly, victory.
  • The Rangers went to Max Scherzer for Game 3, hoping that, after a couple of shorter, shakier outings earlier in the playoffs, Mad Max would be back and in good form, fully recovered from the shoulder injury that sidelined him in early September.
  • Scherzer walked a bit of a tightrope. He issued a one out walk in the first to Ketel Marte, but got Gabriel Moreno to hit into a 5-4-3 GIDP. In the second, Christian Walker led off the inning with a double, with Tommy Pham following up with a line drive single to right.
  • The smart thing would have been for Walker to hold at third, and in fact, the third base coach threw up his arms, giving the stop sign. Walker blew threw that, though, opting instead to challenge Adolis Garcia’s arm. That ended poorly for Walker and well for the Rangers, as Garcia gunned Walker down, taking the wind out of Arizona’s sails. A pop fly and a Lourdes Gurriel grounder that caromed off of Scherzer and over to Josh Jung for a routine 1-5-3 out meant runs for Arizona.
  • Scherzer issued a walk and threw a wild pitch in the third but kept the D-Backs off the board, though we now know he was already having physical issues. Scherzer’s back tightened up on him, and while he came out and tried to throw to start the fourth, two warm up pitches were enough to make clear he couldn’t go. After three innings and 11 batters, Texas had to go to the pen, and Scherzer’s availability for a possible Game 7 was in question.
  • It was a disappointing ending for Scherzer, but really, part of me is still just marveling at the fact he has pitched at all this postseason. The terus muscle injury was supposed to end his season. Instead, he’s most three playoff starts, two of them resulting in Rangers wins.
  • Jon Gray, another Ranger starter who ended the year on the injured list, was asked to carry the load in Scherzer’s absence, and he did so admirably. Gray retired the first eight batters he faced, four by strikeout, before Ketel Marte reached on a line drive single off Marcus Semien’s glove. Gray got Moreno to end the inning, needing just 30 pitches to get through three innings, and raising hopes that he could pitch the seventh, as well.
  • But no, Josh Sborz got the seventh, and scared us a little by allowing a one out Pham double before striking out the next two batters to end the inning. Sborz came out for the eighth, only to be lifted when pinch hitter Pavin Smith was announced. Aroldis Chapman was summoned, and Smith was lifted for Emmanuel Rivera. This is the second time in this series Smith has been announced as a pinch hitter, then replaced for a pinch hitter himself when Bochy went and got a lefty from the pen.
  • Aroldis freaked us all out, giving up a double to Rivera and then an RBI single to Geraldo Perdomo, bringing the tying run to the plate and prompting Bruce Bochy to get Jose Leclerc warming. Chapman froze Corbin Carroll on a 2-2 slider over the heart of the plate for the first out, then got a terrific play by Corey Seager on a hard hit smash by Ketel Marte to end the inning on a 6-4-3 GIDP.
  • Leclerc’s ninth inning was notable primarily for the home plate umpire’s problems with the first batter. A 1-0 slider to Gabriel Moreno clearly caught the plate, but was called a ball. After falling behind 3-0, Leclerc threw a fastball for a strike, then missed on a cutter that was clearly outside.
  • Except…it was called a strike. Instead of a leadoff walk, Moreno was at 3-2. He grounded out to Josh Jung for the first out, Christian Walker and Tommy Pham both struck out swinging, and that was ballgame.
  • The egregious strike two call would have appeared to be a makeup call after the 1-0 call was missed. I have to assume that’s the case, anyway, and the ump didn’t just botch two calls in the same at bat. The 3-1 pitch that was called a strike has, of course, made the rounds and has been the subject of scorn. It is unfortunate, as it has cast a cloud over the terrific performance by the Rangers pitchers, and in particular, the six innings of relief work from the Ranger pen.
  • As far as the offense goes, Nathaniel Lowe doubled to lead off the third, the after a K and a ground out, Marcus Semien singled him home. Corey Seager followed that up with a beautiful arcing shot into the right field stands. Three runs, all in the third, was all the Rangers offense put up — and all, it turned out, they needed.
  • Texas got just five hits on the night, and has now scored just ten runs, if my math is right, in three World Series games. That’s less than ideal. On the other hand, the Rangers are still up 2 games to 1, and the Statcast data indicates they are hitting the ball well, even if the balls in play are finding gloves. The offense isn’t necessarily getting results, but the underlying data is positive, and hopefully they can break out in Game 4.
  • If the Rangers bats do break out in Game 4, however, it will likely be without Adolis Garcia. The Ranger outfielder flew out to end the top of the eighth inning and grabbed his side, ultimately leaving the game for Travis Jankowski. Garcia got an MRI, and hopefully we will know more on Tuesday, but you have to fear that he strained an oblique. If that’s the case, his historic postseason run will have come to a premature end.
  • Max Scherzer topped out at 94.7 mph with his fastball, averaging 93.7 mph. Jon Gray hit 97.8 mph with his fastball. Josh Sborz maxed out at 98.6 mph. Aroldis Chapman reached 100.8 mph with his sinker. Jose Leclerc’s fastball touched 97.7 mph.
  • Corey Seager’s home run was 114.5 mph, and he also had a 100.8 mph fly out. Nathaniel Lowe had a 113.7 mph double. Leody Taveras had a 107.9 mph ground out. Mitch Garver had a 105.0 mph fly out. Evan Carter had a 104.4 mph single and a 101.3 mph ground out. Adolis Garcia had a 104.1 mph fly out.
  • Two more wins needed. Tuesday is a bullpen game. Let’s take deep breaths and stay calm.