The Texas Rangers took Game 1 of the World Series last night in thrilling fashion. Corey Seagar's game tying two-run blast in the bottom of the ninth and then Adolis Garcia's walk off homerun will be talked about for generations by Rangers fans. What might get lost, is the critical role that the Rangers bullpen played in making sure that there was even a game to be won.
Nathan Eovaldi was not as bad as his stat line will indicate, but the reality is that he was not able to get out of the fifth inning. After giving up a three spot in the third inning and then single runs in both the fourth and the fifth, Eovaldi came out of the game with the Rangers trailing the Diamondbacks 5 to 3. The Rangers offense had a few different opportunities to cut into the lead, but just couldn't scratch anything across the plate.
Texas desperately needed to keep the game within reach, and not let it get out of hand. When Bochy first went to the pen, he turned to Dane Dunning. Dunning was one of the best starters for the club this season but has found himself coming out of the bullpen more often than not, this postseason. He was great and pitched one inning, allowed only one hit, and gave up no runs. Dunning had stopped the bleeding; it was going to be up to some of his buddies to keep it that way.
Next to the mound was Cody Bradford. What a thrill it had to be for the Texas native to find himself pitching in the middle of a World Series game in his home state. Bradford is a rookie and has been used as both a starter and a reliever this year. He breezed through an inning of work and gave up no hits and allowed no runs.
Jon Gray is nails for the Texas Rangers out of the bullpen
Bochy then gave the ball to Jon Gray. This was one of my favorite moves, as I am a big Gray fan, but also a move that was a bit scary at the time. Not that Gray isn't good, but he hasn't pitched much since coming back from the IL. Well, Gray didn't disappoint. He was firing on all cylinders, throwing gas, and painting corners. The starter, turned postseason reliever, went 1 2/3 innings, gave up one hit, no runs, and struck out four.
Will Smith even got into the action last night out of the Texas Rangers bullpen. He has seen very little action thus far in the playoffs, pitching only 2 innings total and 1 1/3 of it was in mop up duty against the Astros. Well, this wasn't a blow out that he found himself, and yet he performed great. He recorded two outs, gave up no hits, and allowed no runs.
Jose Leclerc earns the win for the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of the World Series
The last guy wouldn't have got to pitch tonight if it wasn't for Seager's heroics in the ninth that sent the game into extra innings. Closer Jose Leclerc came in to start the 10th inning and mowed the Diamondbacks down quickly. After not scoring in the bottom half of the inning, Bochy decided to stay with Leclerc for the 11th inning as well. With no "zombie runner" rule for extra-inning games in the postseason, like there is in the regular season, both managers had to start thinking as if the game was going to go on for a while. Leclerc finished up his two clean innings by allowing no hits, no runs, and struck out two, earning him the win.
Garcia's walk off homerun in the bottom of the 11th would end the game with a victory for the home team. In total the Texas Rangers bullpen pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowed two hits, gave up no walks, surrendered zero runs, and struck out six. It was the outing that the bullpen had to have for the Rangers to salvage the win, and they delivered on the biggest of stages. Out of the five bullpen arms that Bochy used, three are starters or at least started some during the regular season. His masterful use of a bullpen came through yet again.
The Rangers and Diamondbacks will tee it up again tonight in Game 2 of the World Series. Leclerc will more than likely not be available, but Josh Sborz and Aroldis Chapman neither one pitched last night. Whatever the situation, Bochy will have a plan and will have his guys ready to come in when called upon. He has instilled his belief in them, and it is really paying off in the playoffs. Get the popcorn ready, because this Rangers team is fun to watch. Enjoy the ride!
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