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Who Will Win an Improbable World Series Matchup?

SportWho Will Win an Improbable World Series Matchup?

On July 1, this World Series matchup would not have felt so unlikely. The Arizona Diamondbacks led the National League West by three games. The Texas Rangers led the American League West by five. At that point in the season, both clubs had displayed the qualities that have now carried them into the Fall Classic, which will begin Friday at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Arizona played hard-nosed baseball, raising havoc on the bases. Texas displayed a dynamic offense with frightening power.

What makes this matchup feel so unlikely, of course, is what transpired in the second half of the regular season. Arizona face-planted in July and got overtaken by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Texas engaged in a months-long tussle with the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners, losing the division title to the Astros on the final day of the regular season. The Rangers got the last laugh. Powered by outfielder Adolis García, Texas outlasted Houston in a ferocious seven-game American League Championship Series. The club will have a few days to reset its pitching, with Nathan Eovaldi and Jordan Montgomery atop the rotation. García took a star turn against Houston, but the biggest threat in Texas’s lineup remains shortstop Corey Seager.

Arizona won 84 games, 16 fewer than the Dodgers. The deficit did not matter: Arizona blitzed the Dodgers in the National League Division Series. Led by speedy rookie Corbin Carroll and sweet-swinging second baseman Ketel Marte, the Diamondbacks are capable of slashing line drives and taking flight on the bases. And the team displayed its grit in recovering from a two-game deficit in the National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. Arizona won back-to-back games at Citizens Bank Park, unbothered by the lion’s den in South Philadelphia.

The Rangers can relate. Down 3-2 to Houston, Texas blasted their way past their in-state rivals at Minute Maid Park to clinch their first World Series berth since 2011. The Diamondbacks have waited even longer, reaching this stage for the first time since 2001.

It may feel improbable, but you would have believed it back in July. Believe it now, too. — Andy McCullough

Game times

Game 1: Diamondbacks at Rangers, Friday, Oct. 27, 8:03 p.m. ET, FOX

Game 2: Diamondbacks at Rangers, Saturday, Oct. 28, 8:03 p.m. ET, FOX

Game 3: Rangers at Diamondbacks, Monday, Oct. 30, 8:03 p.m. ET, FOX

Game 4: Rangers at Diamondbacks, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 8:03 p.m. ET, FOX

Game 5: Rangers at Diamondbacks, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 8:03 p.m. ET, FOX (if necessary)

Game 6: Diamondbacks at Rangers, Friday, Nov. 3, 8:03 p.m. ET, FOX (if necessary)

Game 7: Diamondbacks at Rangers, Saturday, Nov. 4, 8:03 p.m. ET, FOX (if necessary)

Tale of the Tape

Who has the edge?


4.60 (14th)

4.67 (21st)

4.22 (18th)

46 (4th)

5.44 (3rd)

3.96 (7th)

4.77 (24th)

37 (7th)

Diamondbacks top performers




25 HR, 54 SB, 134 OPS+




3.47 ERA, 0.94 HR/9




2.48 ERA, 50.3 GB%




20 DRS


Rangers top performers




162 G, 29 HR, 40 2B




3.63 ERA, 0.94 HR/9




2.68 ERA, 0.79 HR/9




16 DRS, 5.8 UZR


Pitching matchups

There’s no way to slice the data to claim that this World Series is producing the two best pitching staffs in baseball. During the regular season, they were both in the middle third, and that could be seen as a tad generous. By ERA, they were both below average. Even in the postseason, the Arizona staff was third in ERA, and Texas was fifth. There are a lot of ways to win; it’s not only about pitching.

But now we have these two pitching staffs to compare, and they seem similar.

They both have two starters at the top of the rotation who have been pitching well most of the season and the postseason (Montgomery and Eovaldi for the Rangers; Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly for the Diamondbacks). They both have a third starter who has shown us both great and terrible outings this season, though Max Scherzer comes with a much longer resume than rookie Brandon Pfaadt (who counters with much better results in these playoffs). Maybe the longer track record is enough to give the Rangers a slight edge in the rotation.

Jordan Montgomery has been a steady presence for the Rangers, posting a 2.38 ERA in four postseason starts. (Megan Briggs / Getty Images)

Both teams have narrowed their circle of trust in the bullpen. Texas sports José Leclerc, Aroldis Chapman and Josh Sborz as their best trio, and Arizona comes with more funk and less velo but good results in Paul Sewald, Kevin Ginkel and Ryan Thompson. Any innings not pitched by these six will come with nail-biting from either manager and maybe even some cussing, as we saw in the Arizona dugout during the NLCS. The Rangers have the edge in velo, but the Diamondbacks might have a tiny bit more depth behind their front three — and their pen has been better in the playoffs so far.

This is an even enough matchup to predict that it will come down to the bats more than the arms in this series. — Eno Sarris

Why the Diamondbacks will win

The Diamondbacks haven’t really matched up with any of their opponents on paper. The Milwaukee Brewers pitching looked miles ahead. The Dodgers won the NL West by 16 games over Arizona — of course they had it in the bag. Then there were the red-hot Phillies, who’d just taken out the MLB-best Atlanta Braves on the backs of long balls and sheer vibes. None of it mattered. The D-Backs are the last NL team standing.

And now, yet again, Arizona will be the little brother on paper, if there is such a thing in the World Series. Many of their players will be introducing themselves to the nation in this Fall Classic. But what’s to stop them from winning it all? Carroll struggled throughout the NLCS but will enter the World Series following an all-time performance in Game 7. The rookie superstar will be the big-name match-up against the expensive and productive Rangers middle infield.

Arizona’s back end of the bullpen has clearly developed into a plus. Ginkel and Sewald are a legitimate force in the later innings. Then there’s the starting rotation. Gallen and Kelly are proven commodities. But Pfaadt is battle-tested and might be their hottest arm.

The point here is that the Diamondbacks haven’t won by accident. There’s been some good, timely fortune. But no more than any other team that makes a late October run.

The Rangers’ pitching is less solidified. Particularly their bullpen, which has been used heavily and notably blew many games throughout the regular season while posting a 4.77 ERA. Scherzer wasn’t great in the ALCS, either. Still, the Rangers will be the favorites. But if this month has taught us anything, it’s that that doesn’t matter one bit. — Sam Blum



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Why the Rangers will win

The Rangers are at their best when their sluggers are slugging, and we’ve seen it happen more often than not in their terrific postseason run. That’s why they will be the presumptive favorite to win the World Series. That’s a large reason why they already got past the Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles and Astros. García is having a postseason for the ages, and Seager is a threat every time he steps to the plate. But that should not overshadow the fact the Rangers have threats in all nine spots in the order.

So far this postseason, the Rangers have led all playoff teams with 7.9 fastball runs above average. Texas hitters have often pounced early in counts, which puts plenty of pressure on opposing pitchers. It will be interesting to see how the Rangers fare against Arizona starters Gallen and Kelly. Both have diverse pitch mixes, but Gallen in particular had the most effective fastball among National League pitchers this season in terms of run value. The Diamondbacks tend to win with speed and savvy. The Rangers would rather slug their way to a championship.

In terms of pitching, both teams feature strong 1-2 options, but there is some uncertainty beyond that. For the Rangers, Eovaldi is 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA in the playoffs, and Montgomery has posted a 2.38 ERA in four starts. But Texas could greatly use help from at least one of Andrew Heaney or Scherzer to have better odds in a seven-game series. Arizona’s Pfaadt has answered the call this postseason. The Rangers need one of their other arms to do the same.

For as much concern as there is over the Rangers’ bullpen, manager Bruce Bochy has protected his relievers well. The Texas bullpen has a 3.72 ERA in the playoffs, a big improvement from 4.77 in the regular season. It can feel like a ticking time bomb, and there’s still a soft underbelly to this bullpen, but if the Rangers can continue to get top-tier performances from Eovaldi and Montgomery and stick to their leverage relievers, they can be a very difficult team to beat. — Cody Stavenhagen

Diamondbacks must-reads

Diamondbacks rally to defeat Phillies, win improbable NL pennant

Rosenthal: The Diamondbacks couldn’t be stopped on road to World Series

Tommy Pham, after perceived benching, homers to help Diamondbacks force Game 7

At 38, Evan Longoria having ‘full circle moment’ with upstart Diamondbacks

The rise of the Diamondbacks’ bullpen, from white-knuckle ride to playoff pillar

Rangers must-reads

Rosenthal: The Rangers’ secret is out — Adolis García is a superstar and MVP of the ALCS

Rangers win AL pennant, validate status as team of destiny

Max Scherzer’s moment has arrived. The Rangers pitcher has been here before

Adolis García took a long road to becoming the Rangers’ heartbeat

Corey Seager signed up for Rangers’ big-money vision. Now it’s coming to fruition

(Photos of Max Scherzer and Merrill Kelly: David Berding / Getty Images)


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