It would be easy to say I am thankful for the Texas Rangers winning the World Series. I would think all Texas Rangers fans this Thanksgiving holiday will be thinking of that. I have returned over the last few days and watched game one of the ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles. I did not watch it live as I was in the Cotton Bowl that afternoon taking in the OU-Texas football game. I finally sat down to watch it and I really think that Texas will not win the series if they could not win game one. This game had everything that would define this Texas Rangers run. Texas came through with timely hits, they received a strong start from Andrew Heaney, they played clean defense, and the bullpen closed down a one-run game.
Texas' timely hits to back up a strong start from Andrew Heaney
Texas entered this series coming off a two-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays. The pitching of Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi led the way in that series as the two aces of the staff combined for 13 2/3 innings only giving up one run. The bullpen was not really put into pressure situations as Texas won 4-0 in game one and 7-1 in game two. Texas as a team had not been tested to this point.
Camden Yards was sold out on a beautiful Saturday afternoon once rain cleared the area. The Orioles fans had not seen home playoff baseball games since 2014 when Baltimore made a surprise run to the ALCS. The crowd was certainly into the game from the very first pitch.
Andrew Heaney was making his second playoff appearance and his first postseason start of his career. He pitched very well through the first three innings. He only allowed one hit through the first three innings. He was working quick, getting outs, and putting zeroes up on the board.
The offense was able to come through in those first three innings and put two runs on the board in the third inning. Adolis Garcia started the rally with a double, Evan Carter knocked him in with a double, and Jonah Heim finished it off with an RBI-single. Texas jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the Orioles number one starter Kyle Bradish. Texas did something that Houston, Washington, and Boston could not do in the final weeks of the season and that is score runs against Bradish. The right-hander ended the regular season with a 16-inning scoreless streak.
Texas had the lead, and as we would find out through the rest of the playoff run they were hard to catch once they got a lead. Heaney did allow a run in the fourth before being relieved by Dane Dunning who closed out the inning and helped Texas hold a 2-1 lead.
Texas closes the game with great defense and a clutch bullpen
Texas and Baltimore traded runs in the sixth inning. Josh Jung hit a home run in the top of the sixth. Anthony Santander hit a home run in the bottom of the sixth. The Santander home run was the end of the day for Dunning, who had pitched two innings and only gave up one run.
It would be up to the bullpen to hold a one-run lead. Just a reminder Texas in the regular season had a 14-22 record in one-run games. The bullpen had more blown saves at 33 than converted saves with 30. Texas regularly would fail to add runs late against good bullpen arms.
It would be up to Josh Sborz, Aroldis Chapman, and Jose Leclerc to hold a one-run lead on the road against the 101-win Baltimore Orioles. The first man called upon was Sborz. He got off to a little bit of a rocky start as he threw seven straight balls. He walked Aaron Hicks to leadoff the inning. He then spotted Adam Frazier with a 3-0 count before coming back with two well-located fastballs for strikes. Then he threw a fastball in that Frazier popped up for the first out. Sborz then struck out Cedric Mullins and pinch-hitter Ryan O'Hearn to end the inning. The score remained a 3-2 lead for Texas.
The next man up was Aroldis Chapman. The once dominant closer for the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, and New York Yankees is no more. Chapman still throws hard but lacks consistent command. That was on display in game one. He started off much like Sborz with eight of his first nine pitches for balls and that included a wild pitch. He walked Austin Hayes and Adley Rutschman. That put runners on first and second in a one-run game and no outs. It would be a miracle for Chapman to escape this only one-run allowed.
A miracle is what followed for Chapman and the Texas Rangers. The next batter was Santander. He had homered in his last at-bat and also had a walk and a single in game one. Chapman would have to find a way to get a hitter that had not been retired in the game. Chapman started him off with a fastball over the middle of the plate. The next pitch was a fastball located down and Santander swung and hit it right to Jung who relayed to Semien, who then threw to Lowe for the double play. Just like that, there were two outs with a runner on third. Chapman then finished off the inning with a strikeout of Ryan Mountcastle. Just an improbable set of circumstances that all happened and allowed Texas to hold the 3-2 lead.
Finally, Jose Leclerc was brought in to finish the game. He gave up a leadoff single to Gunner Henderson. Then Henderson was thrown out trying to steal second. Leclerc then struck out Aaron Hicks and got Adam Frazier to ground out to Jung at third. That was it, Texas won 3-2 to go up in the series 1-0.
Why I am so thankful for Texas being able to win this game.
Texas may still win the series if they lose this game, but that is no guarantee. Texas by winning this game did set themselves up to sweep the series with Montgomery going in game two and Eovaldi in game three. If they lose this game that puts far more pressure on winning both games two and three. Just a reminder that in this series they did not have Max Scherzer or Jon Gray on the roster. It is anyone's guess who would have pitched in game four or five.
I also believe winning the game in the fashion they did gave them a level of confidence in low scoring games that they did not have in the regular season. Texas would go on to win two more low scoring games. They beat Houston 2-0 in game one of the ALCS and then beat Arizona 3-1 in game three of the World Series. Texas' ability to win high-scoring and low-scoring games throughout the playoff run is what helped keep it going all the way to the World Series.
It was a special run that as fans we will never forget. The games, the moments, and seeing the team finish off a World Series championship. It was remarkable and without Texas being able to close out game one it might not have happened. That is why I am so thankful because winning this game the way they did gave them the confidence needed to win games in a variety of ways.