Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Texas Rangers World Series Preview
The 2023 World Series does not feature the matchup that anybody expected. Last season, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers combined to lose 182 games. Two seasons ago, they combined to lose 212 games. But, this season, one team will be immortalized as a World Series champion.
Arizona is 1-0 in previous World Series, as the expansion team in 1998 needed only four seasons to get to and win baseball’s ultimate prize on Luis Gonzalez’s walk-off single in Game 7 of the 2001 Fall Classic.
Texas, who actually started as the Washington Senators in 1961, didn’t even make the playoffs as a franchise until 1996. They are 0-2 in the World Series, losing in 2010 to the Giants and 2011 to the Cardinals. They hadn’t been back since up until this year and are the favorites to win the Commissioner’s Trophy and break a 62-year drought.
The World Series begins on Friday and Game 7 would be on Saturday November 4 if necessary.
MLB Playoffs World Series Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook
Diamondbacks +145 / Rangers -170
Diamondbacks vs. Rangers schedule and how to watch
Note: All games on FOX; all games at 8:03 p.m. ET
Game 1 (@ TEX): Friday October 27
Game 2 (@ TEX): Saturday October 28
Game 3 (@ ARI): Monday October 30
Game 4 (@ ARI): Tuesday October 31
Game 5 (@ ARI): Wednesday November 1 (if necessary)
Game 6 (@ TEX): Friday November 3 (if necessary)
Game 7 (@ TEX): Saturday November 4 (if necessary)
No quirks. Nothing special. Travel days between 2 and 3 and 5 and 6 is the usual standard. No extra off days, all games at the same time, regardless of venue.
(Note: based on my guesses)
Game 1: Zac Gallen vs. Nathan Eovaldi
Game 2: Merrill Kelly vs. Jordan Montgomery
Game 3: Max Scherzer vs. Brandon Pfaadt
Game 4: Andrew Heaney vs. Opener
Game 5: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Zac Gallen
Game 6: Merrill Kelly vs. Jordan Montgomery
Game 7: Brandon Pfaadt vs. Max Scherzer
With Montgomery called upon in relief during Game 7, he could absolutely get the Game 1 start. He threw 33 pitches on a day he probably would have thrown a side session anyway and this will just keep him sharper for the World Series, but I think there’s a chance that the Rangers give him an extra day and just go ahead and send out Eovaldi.
The other question is obviously Game 4, where rotation depth is a concern for both teams. Joe Mantiply opened Game 4 for the D-Backs and was followed by Luis Frias and Kyle Nelson. Mantiply was sent out to face lefties Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper. We could see the same against Kyle Seager and Evan Carter.
The Rangers got bad work from both Heaney and Dane Dunning in Game 4 against Houston, as Heaney only got two outs and allowed three runs on four hits and Dunning allowed three runs over 2.2 innings. I would guess Heaney starts, but it may very well be Dunning. Maybe the Rangers pull a switcheroo and send out Martin Perez or something.
Diamondbacks vs. Rangers series preview
As a three-time Diamondbacks doubter in these playoffs, I’ve learned a painful and expensive lesson. Credit to Arizona for getting here. Credit to Torey Lovullo for leveraging his relievers really well. Credit to Brent Strom for making adjustments on the fly in every series with his pitching staff. He was the pitching coach of the Astros from 2014-21 before leaving for retirement. The game pulled him back in after he answered a call from Lovullo and now he has a shot at another ring.
Look, the reality is that it wasn’t hard to doubt the Diamondbacks. Gallen and Kelly had big home/road splits entering the postseason and the Diamondbacks were the No. 6 seed, meaning they’d start on the road in every series. This is a team that went 32-39 after the All-Star Break following a 52-39 first half. They barely snuck into the playoffs and went 84-78 with a -15 run differential. Only the 1987 Minnesota Twins have won the World Series with a negative run differential and not many teams have even gotten past a series, let alone gotten to the World Series.
By wRC+, they had a below average offense. Their 97 mark meant that they were 3% below league average. Only Milwaukee hit fewer homers among playoff teams. The D-Backs were 20th in ERA and 19th in FIP during the regular season, so they had a below average pitching staff as well. But, here they are. They’re playing a fearless brand of baseball that highlights controlled aggression in the batter’s box and on the bases. They’re getting huge pitching performances.
What’s crazy is that the Diamondbacks aren’t even cashing in on an abnormally high rate of chances with men in scoring position. They’re only batting .245/.330/.340 in that split, whereas the Rangers are batting .296/.376/.519. Overall, Arizona is batting .247/.317/.424 in the playoffs and the Rangers are batting .265/.344/.481. Add in the regular season numbers and the D-Backs are once again facing a superior offense in this postseason.
Where Arizona does create a lot of value is with baserunning and defense. The D-Backs are 16-for-19 stealing bases in the playoffs and had 166 stolen bags during the regular season. The Rangers are 9-for-9, but they steal a lot less, as the risk-reward calculation isn’t the same for them with better offensive pieces.
The Diamondbacks have controlled the opposition’s running game effectively and ranked in the top five in Defensive Runs Saved and second in the Statcast Outs Above Average metric. Texas was sixth in OAA and seventh in DRS, so it isn’t a huge gap, but the D-Backs are definitely the better defensive unit. Both teams have clear strengths at catcher with Gabriel Moreno and Jonah Heim. Moreno actually caught 22 of 57 would-be base stealers. Heim nabbed 24 of 82, but he is an elite pitch framer.
As far as Texas goes, Montgomery had the one bad start against the Orioles, but he’s been extremely good otherwise and Eovaldi has been downright awesome. Scherzer and the Heaney/Dunning tandem has not been. They may be reliant on their offense to pull them out of some spots and the top of this order has really done a lot of special things in the postseason.
On the whole, the Rangers lineup is more disciplined than the Phillies lineup and the big switch in the NLCS took place when the Diamondbacks started preying on that by throwing more pitches out of the zone as one of their adjustments. The Rangers were fifth in BB% and 15th in K%, but the Diamondbacks have already faced two teams that walked a lot in the Dodgers and Brewers. At this point, with the path they’ve taken, they’ve basically seen it all.
I will just be taking this series on a game-by-game basis. I’ve learned my lesson regarding Arizona and have once again been reminded of how much variance can rule the MLB playoffs. It was a hard thing to believe in with Houston’s seven ALCS appearances and four World Series appearances in a row, but sometimes we get reminded that surprising things can and will happen.
That said, the last team to make the playoffs with 84 wins happened in 2008 (Dodgers) and 1997 (Astros) before that. The aforementioned 1987 Twins won the World Series at 85-77, but that was when only four teams made the playoffs, so what Arizona is doing is basically unprecedented.
I don’t know if it will continue or not, but I do think this should be another long series.