The Texas Rangers are the 2023 World Series champions. (It still feels weird to write). (But also good to write).
There were a whole lot of games, a whole lot of plays, a whole lot of moments that got the Rangers to the top of the mountain. I could probably highlight a couple of hundred key moments in the 2023 season that were instrumental in Texas winning it all.
But that would take a long time, and I want to put something up now. And so, I have gone back through and identified that five plays for the Texas Rangers that had the highest (positive) impact on the Rangers winning the title, using cWPA from Baseball Reference. cWPA stands for Championship Win Probability Added, and reflects the percentage change the play made to the team’s likelihood of finishing the postseason with a title.
In reverse order, those plays are:
5. WS Game 4, 2nd inning, Marcus Semien triple (6.36%)
Halloween Night in Arizona. The Rangers were up 2-1 in the series, and looking to take advantage of the D-Backs throwing a bullpen game. Miguel Castro had relieved opener Joe Mantiply, coming into the game with Josh Jung at second and one out in the top of the second. After a groundout moved Jung to third with two outs, a wild pitch with Leody Taveras the plate scored a run. Leody walked and Travis Jankowski singled, putting two on with two outs for Marcus Semien.
Semien got down 1-2 to Castro, who tried to put him away with a slider. He left the pitch in the middle of the plate, however, and Semien laced a line drive down the left field line for a two run triple.
That play gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead and jumped the Rangers’ win probability for that game from 60% to 77%. Corey Seager followed up with a home run, making it 5-0 with an 88% win probability. The blowout was on.
4. WS Game 3, 3rd inning, Corey Seager home run (6.90%)
Halloween Eve in Arizona. The Rangers had lost a disappointing Game 2 in Texas to lose home field advantage. Max Scherzer, held together with duct tape and willpower, was facing off against Brandon Pfaadt.
Nathaniel Lowe led off the top of the third with a double. Josh Jung struck out, and Leody Taveras grounded out, though Lowe was able to advance to third on the 4-3. Marcus Semien singled home Lowe, giving Texas a 1-0 lead.
Up stepped Corey Seager. Pfaadt started him off with a changeup. That was a mistake.
Seager’s homer jumped the Rangers’ win probably from 58% to 77%, and ended up being the margin of victory in the Rangers’ 3-1 victory.
3. ALCS Game 5, 6th inning, Adolis Garcia home run (7.82%)
The one event from a non-World Series game. The one event from a Rangers loss. The play that, in a different timeline, would be the parallel to the Josh Hamilton Game 6 extra innings home run.
October 20, in Arlington. Jordan Montgomery versus Justin Verlander. Bottom of the sixth inning, the Rangers were down 2-1. Corey Seager had a one out double, followed by an Evan Carter single. Two on, one out for Adolis Garcia. Verlander tried to get ahead of him with a first pitch fastball.
Three run bomb. Adolis flexed, threw his bat, celebrated. The Rangers were up 4-2. The Rangers’ win probability went from 51% to 83% on that one pitch. Adolis Garcia appeared to be the hero.
We know what happened after that. Adolis being hit by a pitch by Bryan Abreu in the 8th. Benches clearing, Abreu and Adolis and Dusty Baker being ejected, Jose Leclerc sitting and getting cold during the lengthy bottom of the 8th, followed by Jose Altuve’s game winning three run homer in the top of the ninth.
It hurt. Garcia’s bomb was for naught. Texas faced having to win two in Houston to advance, something few thought they could accomplish, particularly after the gut punch loss.
Another year, maybe so. But this is 2023. And the 2023 Texas Rangers were not going to be denied.
2. WS Game 1, 11th inning, Adolis Garcia home run (13.03%)
1. WS Game 1, 9th inning, Corey Seager home run (14.79%)
We can’t talk about these two plays separately. They are forever linked in Texas Rangers’ lore, the two plays that let us believe that, yes, this was going to be the year.
October 27, in Arlington. One week to the day after our previously entry. Game 1 against Arizona. Texas had jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Zac Gallen, but Nathan Eovaldi wasn’t sharp, and the D-Backs took a 5-3 lead in the middle innings. That lead remained in place into the bottom of the ninth.
Leody Taveras drew a walk against D-Backs closer Paul Sewald to start the inning. Marcus Semien struck out on three pitches. Corey Seager, who had been dominant throughout the playoffs but who hadn’t registered a hit in his first four plate appearances, immediately saw a 94 mph fastball over the heart of the plate.
A no doubter. A play big enough, on a stage big enough, for Corey Seager to show emotion. A swing in the Rangers’ win probability from 11% to 58%. It was the play that most impacted the Rangers’ championship probability.
But it didn’t win the game for the Rangers. No, the game winner came two innings later, on the second biggest positive play in terms of cWPA for the Rangers this year.
Miguel Castro is brought into the game with one out in the 11th to face Adolis Garcia. A slider followed by three change ups made the count 3-1. Castro could try to get Adolis to chase, avoid throwing him anything in the zone and live with a walk if he didn’t swing. Or he could challenge Adolis.
Ballgame. A walk off home run for Adolis Garcia. Pandemonium in Arlington.
The celebration of the 2023 championship started then. We believed.