Rangers relievers keep their team rolling on the road to a World Series title

Heading into this season’s World Series, if you were talking about the pitching in this series then the discussion would inevitably reach the Arizona Diamondbacks and their bullpen. After all, they famously kept the Phillies quiet in the latter stages of the NLCS and had also had their way with the Dodgers and Brewers in the earlier rounds of the Postseason as well. It was understandable to focus on that unit and how manager Torey Lovullo would deploy them in the Fall Classic.

As it turns out, we are talking about a bullpen but it’s not Arizona’s. Instead, the Texas Rangers bullpen has stepped up and grabbed the spotlight. This was especially the case after Texas kicked off the Chase Field portion of the World Series by eking out a 3-1 win over Arizona. Marcus Semien finally made it onto the RBI board to start things off for Texas and then Corey Seager continued to add to his Postseason legend as he crushed a dinger to right field to make it a 3-0 lead for the Rangers once they were done in the third inning. This was also a history-making homer for Texas as this was the 14th-straight playoff game in which they’ve hit at least one home run.

Those three runs ended up being enough for the victory but the way that Texas made those three runs hold up for the win was a bit shocking. Max Scherzer only pitched three innings for the Rangers in this one as he was unable to go out for the fourth inning due to back tightness. Suddenly, the Rangers bullpen was tasked with keeping Arizona’s lineup quiet for the next six innings. Regular season starter-turned-Postseason reliever Jon Gray was suddenly thrown into long-relief duty and Gray did his job with solid efficiency.

Jon Gray pitched three innings, tossed 30 pitches and threw 25 strikes while he was out there. He essentially challenged the Diamondbacks to hit his stuff but Arizona just couldn’t touch him. Gray’s performance was instrumental in bridging the gap from the middle stages of the game to the back-end of the Texas bullpen. Josh Sborz got the ball for the seventh inning and continued his coming-out party as he racked up two huge strikeouts to keep the Diamondbacks off of the scoreboard heading into the eighth inning.

That’s when Aroldis Chapman got the ball and this was also the moment when the Rangers would suffer their only blemish of the night on the scoreboard. This inning could’ve been worse as Chapman immediately found himself in trouble with Emmanuel Rivera and Geraldo Perdomo welcoming him to the game with a double and an RBI single, respectively. However, Chapman managed to freeze Corbin Carroll with a slider to get the first out of the inning. This was right before the point where the inning arguably could’ve ended up being much worse for Chapman.

There’s an alternate universe where Ketel Marte’s 114-mph burner finds a hole in the infield and gets through to keep the line going. The bullet instead ended up being hit straight into the path of Corey Seager, who made a slick play to turn an inning-ending double play to preserve the lead at just two runs. Thanks to Chapman somehow managing to escape what could’ve been a very dangerous inning, the Rangers were able to get the ball into José Leclerc’s hands. Leclerc came up big in Game 1 with two scoreless and hitless innings and now it was time for him to make it happen for the final inning of Game 2.

The ninth inning ended up being nowhere near as scary or dramatic as the eighth inning was for the Rangers, as Leclerc sat down the Diamondbacks in order and ended the game by striking out the hot-hitting Tommy Pham. Just like that, the Rangers had pushed themselves back in front in this World Series and also kept up another streak that has become a hot topic of its own as well.

That was the ninth road win of this Postseason by the Rangers, which is now a new playoff record both in terms of road wins in a single Postseason and road wins in a row in the playoffs. It’s especially amazing when you consider that you’d have to go back to the 2014 regular season in order to find the last time Texas won nine straight road games — and again, that’s the regular season. Doing it in the Postseason is a different story and it is genuinely impressive to see anybody make it this long without losing a road game in the intense environment of the playoffs.

Texas is now two games away from winning their first World Series title. They’ll have to deal with a Diamondbacks squad that has proven to be incredibly resilient to the point where “Answerbacks” will go down in baseball history if Arizona manages to turn it around. It’s tough to count out the D-Backs at this point (especially with Scherzer and Adolis García dealing with injury issues at the moment) but with the way the Texas has looked on the road all October and with a bullpen that seems poised to leave its mark on this series, Game 3 may be the pivotal moment that we all look back on once this series is done and dusted.

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