ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Diamondbacks-Rangers World Series preview: Hitting, base running

Oct 27, 2023, 10:56 AM

Gabriel Moreno...

Gabriel Moreno #14 of the Arizona Diamondbacks hits an RBI single against the Philadelphia Phillies in the eighth inning during Game Four of the National League Championship Series at Chase Field on October 20, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

ARLINGTON — Both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers went into hostile environments as underdogs and silenced the home crowds, earning a spot in the 2023 World Series.

The D-backs won Games 6 and 7 in Philadelphia against the defending NL champion Phillies in the NLCS. The Rangers blew out the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Games 6 and 7 of the ALCS.

Texas will host the opening two games of the Fall Classic starting Friday, while World Series baseball will be back in the Valley with Game 3 on Monday.

These two teams played each other for two games each in May and August, with Arizona winning three of four. But neither club is quite the same as that last meeting.

Diamondbacks-Rangers World Series preview: Offense

Hitting

The Diamondbacks will face statistically the most potent offense in the American League, as Texas finished first in home runs (133, tied), average (.263), slugging (.452), on-base percentage (.337), exit velocity (89.8 mph, tied) and second in walk rate (9.5 %).

Seven Rangers blasted at least 17 home runs this year, led by ALCS MVP Adolis Garcia’s 39 and 2020 World Series MVP Corey Seager’s 33.

That level of pop has carried into the postseason, as the Rangers have 71 runs scored in 12 games, 10 more runs than any other team in the playoffs. They outscored Houston 20-6 in the final two games of the series.

“This a really good lineup. This is a team we’ve seen four times this year,” D-backs ace Zac Gallen, who has faced Texas twice in 2023, said on Thursday. “We didn’t get a chance to see (rookie) Evan Carter earlier in the year, so that’s another fold they added into the mix. They’re playing hot, too. So it’s not going to be an easy task, by any means.”

Carter is a 21-year-old September call-up who tore up his first month in MLB (1.058 OPS in 75 plate appearances). The left-handed bat has a .987 OPS in 12 postseason games.

“I could see this in the kid in spring training, the calmness and confidence that he plays with,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said after Game 7.

Like Arizona, the Rangers have a lineup blended with young homegrown talent and veterans, although Texas has spent a lot more in free agency to bolster their offense with infielders Seager and Marcus Semien. The two combined for 14.3 rWAR in 2023.

Garcia put together his best full season after breaking out in the first half of 2021 and has been on a heater this postseason with a league-high seven homers. He set a postseason series record with 15 RBIs in the ALCS. He does not have a walk, though, as a free swinger.

He struck out four times in Game 4 against the Astros and then hit a grand slam to ice the game.

The D-backs’ offense has had different iterations this postseason. Some days it was reliant on the long ball, like Game 3 of the NLDS against the Dodgers when it blasted four homers in an inning.

Game 7 against Philadelphia was different. Arizona did not hit a home run but executed with runners aboard, got the run game going and scratched across four runs for a 4-2 win.

“It’s one of the things I’m most proud, is they’re able to win games in multiple ways,” hitting coach Joe Mather told Arizona Sports.

“Whether it’s hitting the four homers in an inning or the home runs in Game 6. They’re able to grind out a game when there’s none, where walks and stolen bases are huge — puts a lot of pressure on the pitchers, a lot of line drives. So it’s interesting to watch … you’re not sure which version we’re gonna get into but either one you got a chance to win.”

Arizona earned 25 wins with no homers in the regular season (fourth most in NL) but still had four 20-home run hitters.

Ketel Marte has had the hot hand this postseason, having won NLCS MVP with a .987 OPS and a walk-off single in the series.

The D-backs needed NL Rookie of the Year shoo-in Corbin Carroll to get going after a slow start to the series and he did with three hits and two steals in Game 7. He became the first Diamondbacks rookie with 65 extra-base hits in the regular season and started his postseason career hot at 7-for-14 with five walks.

Catcher Gabriel Moreno has also kept rolling with an .852 OPS and three homers this postseason, along with two RBIs in Game 7.

Where the D-backs could use a bump is in the middle of the order with right-handers Christian Walker, Tommy Pham and Evan Longoria coming off a tough NLCS (6-for-61 with 27 punchouts combined).

The Rangers have six left-handed pitchers on the roster, including starter Jordan Montgomery.

Advantage: Rangers

Base running

The Diamondbacks got moving in Philadelphia with eight steals in the final two games. The Phillies, through changing looks and throwing over and shortening up their time to home plate, kept the D-backs from going early in the series, but Arizona adjusted and played to its strengths late.

“They have speed and they’re aggressive on the base paths and they make you work out there on the mound,” Eovaldi said. “So try to keep the ball in the ballpark and try to prevent them from getting on base. But you’ve got to make sure you’re working quick on the mound and executing pitches.

“That’s where it’s nice that we’ve got (catcher Jonah Heim) behind the plate. He has a great arm and does a great job behind there and you don’t have to be as fast as you normally need to be. But there’s certain guys out there, you’ve got to make sure you hold them and give him a chance to throw them out.”

The D-backs were second in steals this season and fourth in extra bases taken percentage, which analyzes team aggression, such as being able to advance to third from first on a single.

They have seven players with a steal this postseason, tied for second-most by a team in the Wild Card Era (1995).

The Rangers don’t have a lot of base stealers, but Carter is someone to watch there. He has three this postseason, while Leody Taveras has four. As a team, Texas swiped 79 bags in the regular season, which ranked No. 27. Arizona stole 166.

Both teams have controlled the run game, though. Heim was fifth in caught-stealing percentage at second base this year with 33% and the Rangers allowed the fifth fewest steals in baseball with 91.

Moreno was the best catcher in baseball at throwing out runners with 39% overall at 48% at second base.

Advantage: D-backs

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