The Texas Rangers coming off the emotional high of game one were not able to build on it as Arizona pulled away late to even the series. The game was a pitcher's duel for much of the night as Jordan Montgomery and Merrill Kelly both were pitching very well. On this night Kelly was just a little bit better. The score is not indicative of how close this game was for much of the night. A decision by Bruce Bochy led to this game getting out of hand late. If Bochy makes a different decision in the seventh inning with Montgomery maybe Texas wins game two.
Jordan Montgomery pitching on grit and guile
Montgomery got the start in game two. He had last pitched on short rest in game seven of the ALCS. He pitched 2 1/3 innings that game and helped Texas be able to win that night and get to the World Series. That was five nights ago. He was now pitching on full rest. It was clear from the start of the game that he was not all there. His fastball that he regularly throws at 94mph was averaging only 91mph. He was leaning a lot harder on his sinker in this game. Arizona only swung and missed at two pitches against Montgomery.
Montgomery though was pitching well despite the reduced velocity. He did a great job retiring the lead off hitter for much of his start. He retired the lead off hitter in five of the seven innings he pitched in. In the third when Alek Thomas did reach he was able to pitch around it and not allow a run to score. Montgomery was still very effective in this game.
The one hiccup Montgomery did have came in the fourth. He retired Carroll to lead off the inning. Then he faced a prolonged battle against Gabriel Moreno. The count went to 3-2 as he did a great job living on the corners. The eighth pitch was left up and over the middle of the plate and Moreno deposited it into the left field bullpen to break up the scoreless tie. Tommy Pham followed up with a double and was brought home on a Lourdes Gurriel Jr single to increase the lead to 2-0 in the fourth.
Montgomery did respond in the fifth by keeping Arizona scoreless after Perdomo was able to reach on a single. Bochy had Dunning warming in that inning as Montgomery took on Carroll. He was able to retire Carroll in a seven pitch at-bat that ended with a foul out to Josh Jung. There was question whether Montgomery would come back for the sixth even though his pitch count was still really low. Montgomery came back for the sixth. He allowed a double to Tommy Pham again and Bochy chose to intentionally walk Gurriel Jr. On the luckiest play of the game Montgomery caught Pham in-between and was able to pick him off the end the sixth inning. The score remained 2-1 at the end of six.
The fork in the road moment in game 2
I will start by saying I can see what Bochy was trying to do. Montgomery's pitch count was just 70 heading to the seventh inning. He had largely been successful. There was a lefty in Alek Thomas coming to bat. I think Bochy was trying to steal another inning from Montgomery before going to Sborz and Chapman likely for the last two innings. It was the wrong decision though especially considering the rest of the decisions he made that inning.
Thomas laced a 99.1mph double to center field on the third pitch. Then, Montgomery was left in to face Evan Longoria who followed up with a single that skipped past Josh Jung to score Thomas and increase the lead to 3-1. Then Andrew Heaney and not Dane Dunning was brought in. The question becomes if Heaney was the next guy why did Heaney not start the inning against Thomas. Heaney was a fresher arm that would have thrown with more velocity and could have gotten the inning started differently. Heaney did allow a run on a single to Corbin Carroll that scored Longoria and made the score 4-1. Dunning was then brought in and he finished the 7th.
Those two runs completely changed the pitching strategy the rest of the game for Texas. If the score remains 2-1 heading to the eighth Bochy probably goes to Sborz to try and keep it close and then Chapman for the ninth. Instead Bochy decided to go a different path, He started the eighth with Chris Stratton who had success, He retired two of the three hitters he faced.
Pavin Smith was brought in to pinch hit for Evan Longoria and Bochy decided to go to Martin Perez. That was not the right decision either. Perez in what could be his last outing in a Texas Rangers uniform was awful in this game, The long-time Ranger who has been a part of some good and bad Texas Rangers' teams was now seeing action in his first World Series game. It did not go well at all. He allowed the game to completely get out of hand. His final numbers were 1 1/3 inning, four runs, five hits, and two walks. If his job was to finish off the last 1 1/3 inning to keep anyone from having to pitch he accomplished it. The score at the end of his time was 9-1. Perez was so bad that I would not be surprised if he is replaced on the roster with Brock Burke for the remainder of this series.
Arizona ties up the series going back home
Game two was a matter of one bad decision being compounded with more bad decisions and the series ending up tied. Arizona got a great outing from Kelly as detailed by West Jones. He went seven innings, allowed just the one run on Mitch Garver's solo home run, and had nine strikeouts and zero walks. One night after Texas worked 10 walks in game one they only had one in all of game two.
It was not a good night for Texas as they just could not touch Kelly all night long. Kelly has been the best postseason starter for Arizona. It should not have been a surprise that he pitched like this in game two. Texas will have to make adjustments to Kelly if they face him again in game six much like they did with Cristian Javier in game seven of the ALCS.
Now the series will have a travel day on Sunday as the two teams head to Chase Field for the next three games. Texas will need to win one of those games to return the series back to Arlington for games six and seven. Max Scherzer will be on the mound in game three going up against rookie Brandon Pfaadt. This team has responded to adversity each time they have faced it. They are 8-0 on the road this postseason. I would expect this team to bounce back and give themselves a chance to retake the lead in the series in game three with a fresh bullpen.