D-backs baserunning gaffe shifted all momentum to Rangers in World Series Game 3 loss

Oct 30, 2023, 10:10 PM | Updated: 10:35 pm

PHOENIX — The beauty of playoff sports is when two teams reach the tippity top of the mountain and battle at the summit to determine who gets to plant their flag, there is no margin of error.


The majority of losses in the World Series, Stanley Cup, NBA Finals and Super Bowl can be attributed to just a few plays.

In Monday’s Game 3 of the 2023 World Series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers, it was difficult to point the finger anywhere else but the bottom of the second inning in a 3-1 D-backs loss.

And if we’re talking about the initial momentum swing, it came via Christian Walker’s first with his bat.

A social media campaign to give Walker a rousing ovation as he came to the plate to support the first baseman through his struggles the last two weeks was a success, and it took one pitch for him to repay it with a double to deep right-center field.

Two pitches later, Tommy Pham ripped a hard-hit single to right field at Rangers outfielder Adolis Garcia, known for having one of the cannon-like arms across baseball it is unwise to run on.

Improbably, however, Walker rounded third with no outs in a scoreless game.

Garcia took an awesome angle on the ball, using a wide approach on the one-hopper so he could keep the shift of direction to a minimum and allow his movements to naturally flow forward at the plate for his throw. He got it off just as Walker tapped third, and it better be someone as fast as Corbin Carroll if they are going for it. Walker is not and was comfortably out.

“The guy can do it all. We saw it,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said of Garcia’s laser. “He’s accurate too, and he loves to throw. He loves to be challenged. And we’ve seen that quite a few times. He really enjoys that part of the game and he works at it.”

Upon review, third base coach Tony Perezchica initially waved Walker home, which shouldn’t go without blame considering the scouting report on Garcia and where the ball was hit. By the time Perezchica realized it was a no-go, Walker had his head down and was huffing it.

At the very beginning of the replay, you can see Walker wasn’t fully running yet, either.

“Honest mistake. Felt like I got a late read from my angle,” he said. “It was hard to tell how hard the ball was hit. I had a feeling it was going to drop but I’ve seen Tommy hit that ball before and it gets to that right fielder in the air so I was a little hesitant to just turn my back and go. And I think I just got a little bit sped up trying to make up for that shuffle.

“And had my head down trying to make a tight turn around third, like really trying to get to the plate. Just, the last time I looked at him, he was waving and I never saw the stop sign. Just probably trying to do too much there, should have been more aware.”

Pham advanced to second base but Lourdes Gurriel Jr. popped out and then Alek Thomas had some brutal misfortune on a ball hit right off Rangers starter Max Scherzer, fielded excellently by third baseman Josh Jung to let Texas escape.

In the next half-inning with a Ranger on third and two outs, Marcus Semien hit an RBI single that dropped just between Gurriel and Thomas.

Corey Seager shortly after destroyed a hanging changeup. Condolences to that changeup.

Over that 15-minute span if you went into the kitchen to get some dishes done, took the dog out for a walk or performed some other everyday household task, you missed the whole ball game, really. That was it. 3-0 Rangers.

At the ballpark, Semien’s base knock was the moment you sensed the Chase Field crowd hit a lull in a way it rarely has this postseason. And then Seager’s heat-seeker got it quiet enough to hear the Rangers fans behind the first base dugout celebrate from all the way out in the center field media seating.

“Yeah, I feel like that was a huge momentum swing,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said of the baserunning gaffe. “You’re looking at first and third, potentially, and no outs. And a lot of people liked to play out the next set of circumstances — a pop up and a ground ball off the pitcher’s arm. But who knows? The timing, everything would have been different; we may have scored a bunch of runs. You just don’t know what would have happened. The outcome would have been totally different.

“The beauty of it is we should have been better in that situation. Christian Walker owned it. He accepted it. He was accountable for his actions, and I know I will still consider him one of our best instinctual base runners. I think it was just a misread and trying to make up for it. And he compounded things, and it didn’t go the way we wanted it to. Was it pivotal moment in the game? Absolutely. And we talk about making statements. I’m not going to lie. It hurt a little bit. And they turned around and scored three runs. That was a big moment. We got flat there for a couple innings.”

The crowd did get back into the game rather quickly, impressive when factoring in how little the D-backs were able to muster up outside of the eighth inning. But the Rangers had fully taken advantage by then. That’s one of the ways you win on the road through wild environments, as the D-backs did in Game 2.

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