Texas Rangers: Josh Sborz became a dominant reliever when the lights were brightest

After a rough regular season that left many wondering what Josh Sborz role was in the bullpen, he became Bruce Bochy's most trusted high-leverage arm in the 2023 playoffs. Now, the Texas Rangers are World Series champions, and they would not have been able to do it without Sborz's incredible postseason run.
World Series - Texas Rangers v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Five
World Series - Texas Rangers v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Five / Harry How/GettyImages

If you watched the Texas Rangers play this postseason, you heard more than a couple of times about how Josh Sborz had a 5.50 ERA during the regular season. The regular season was not kind to Sborz, as he battled to stay healthy. As a result, he struggled to pitch well. It was always clear his stuff was top-tier in terms of velocity and movement, but he could not often produce the necessary outs and often left pitches in the middle of the plate or missed it entirely. Not a recipe for success. The rough regular season for Sborz came to a head during the final regular season series against the Houston Astros, where he allowed six runs on five hits in just two-thirds of an inning pitched. He was immediately put on the IL following the game, and it seemed uncertain if we would see Sborz again this season.

Fast forward a few weeks and Sborz returned to the bullpen for the last weekend of the regular season. He had two solid appearances where he accumulated just one hit over two and two-thirds innings pitched. Although those outings were promising, he was still a long way from being a trusted high-leverage arm for Bruce Bochy. Then, his first postseason appearance came in relief of Nathan Eovaldi in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series against Tampa Bay. He relieved Eovaldi in the bottom of the 7th amid a comfortable 7 to 1 Rangers lead. He managed to hold that lead by finishing the 7th as well as a scoreless 8th without giving up a hit. It seemed that he had carried some momentum from his last two appearances in Seattle.

Against Baltimore, he got his first high-leverage opportunity. In Game 1 of the ALDS, Sborz came on in the bottom of the 7th yet again, this time to relieve Will Smith. Smith had gotten one out the previous inning replacing Dane Dunning and handed Sborz a 3 to 2 lead. Again, Sborz pitched a scoreless outing. He got out of the 7th with no runs, no hits, and was able to strike out two in the process. Sborz came on again in Game 2 of the ALDS and got one out in the bottom of the 8th to get the Rangers out of a jam with runners on 2nd and 3rd. Again, not allowing a run. He had shown reliability in high-leverage situations and had earned the trust of Bochy, who notoriously likes to ride his pitchers who have a hot hand.

The moment Bruce Bochy truly believed in Josh Sborz

Bochy's faith in Sborz became apparent during the ALCS against the in-state rival Houston Astros. Sborz appeared in five of the seven games in that series, and three of those five were situations where the Rangers were within two runs. Through six innings pitched in the ALCS, Sborz allowed just one run on two hits, while striking out four in the process. Facing a gauntlet of a lineup in the defending champs, Sborz solidified himself as a weapon out of the bullpen for the Rangers in high-leverage situations and became Bochy's go-to reliever.

Rangers' fans saw more of the same greatness Sborz had displayed all playoffs during the World Series. He came in during the bottom of the 7th of the pivotal Game 3 and had yet another shutdown inning. He dominated the bottom of the 7th much like he has all playoffs, giving up no runs on one hit while striking out two Diamondbacks. After the gut punch that was Game 2, Sborz again provided elite relief to help the Rangers hold the lead in Game 3 and reclaim the series advantage. A lead they would not relinquish.

In a very fitting end to the Rangers World Series run, Sborz closed out last night's game with a dominant 2 1/3 innings pitched, allowing just one hit while striking out four Diamondbacks. The Rangers' first World Series championship will always be synonymous with Josh Sborz. His emergence as an elite, late-inning reliever made this championship possible. And his championship-clinching, back-door curve to get postseason star Ketel Marte looking will also be forever burned in the brains of Rangers fans everywhere. A legendary moment and postseason for an emerging dominant reliever and newly minted Rangers legend, Josh Sborz.

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