Rangers back in World Series, 12 years after twice being 1 strike from title

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Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy huge Jonah Heim after Game 7 of the baseball AL Championship Series against the Houston Astros Monday, Oct. 23, 2023, in Houston. The Rangers won 11-4 to win the series 4-3. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers are back in the World Series for the first time since twice being within one strike of winning the title in 2011.

“We’ve had some hard times recently. Those are over,” general manager Chris Young declared soon after Texas won its third AL pennant.

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After entering this season with a franchise-long streak of six consecutive losing seasons, including 102 losses just two years ago, the wild-card Rangers are AL champions. They're led by three-time World Series-winning manager Bruce Bochy, a half-billion dollar middle infield of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, slugging AL Championship Series MVP Adolis García, homegrown rookies Josh Jung and 21-year-old Evan Carter, and an influx of veteran pitchers.

“This team has played with so much heart and determination as any club I’ve had,” said Bochy, the first manager since LCS play began in 1969 to take three different teams to the World Series. “It’s just amazing how they kept getting up.”

For long-suffering Rangers fans, this pennant is about more than this year. Texas led the AL West most of the way and had six All-Stars, but dealt with several injuries and stumbled down the stretch, losing the division title to Houston on the final day of the season. Texas rebounded to beat its Lone Star State rival, besting the defending champion Astros 11-4 Monday night in Game 7.

When Texas hosts the Arizona Diamondbacks for Game 1 of the Fall Classic on Friday night, it will come exactly 12 years to the day after Game 6 at St. Louis in the Rangers' second consecutive World Series with manager Ron Washington. They lost in five games to San Francisco in 2010, the first of three titles in a five-season span for that Bochy-managed club.

And these Rangers won't even be the first team to play in a World Series at Globe Life Field, their retractable-roof stadium that opened in 2020. The Los Angeles Dodgers, with Seager as their shortstop, won the neutral-site series there at the end of that season, which was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2011, St. Louis was down to its final strike in the bottom of the ninth of Game 6 before David Freese lined a 1-2 pitch over right fielder Nelson Cruz for a tying two-run triple, and again in the 10th when Lance Berkman had an RBI single. Freese led off the 11th with a game-ending homer, and the Cards won Game 7 the following night.

Swept in three games at Oakland in the final regular-season series of 2012, the Rangers finished one game behind Oakland after leading the division all but six games that year. Texas started ace Yu Darvish in the AL's first one-and-done wild-card game but lost to visiting Baltimore.

Even when Darvish missed all of 2015 because of Tommy John surgery, the Rangers got lefty Cole Hamels in a trade-deadline deal and led the division only the last 22 days of the season. They won the first two games of the best-of-five AL Division Series at Toronto, but lost the deciding fifth game by making three errors in a two-batter span after Hamels pitched into the seventh. The misplays set up Jose Bautista's three-run homer off reliever Sam Dyson.

Toronto swept the AL West champs in the ALDS the next season, even with Texas having Hamels and Darvish starting the first two games.

That 2016 division title with then-manager Jeff Banister, now Arizona's bench coach, is still the last for the Rangers, one of six big league teams without a World Series championship. They traded Darvish the following summer on way to 78-84 record that started their string of losing seasons, and dealt Hamels midway through 2018.

After losing 102 games in 2020, the Rangers made the biggest splash in free agency, signing both Seager ($325 million over 10 years) and Semien ($175 million, seven years). They didn't have a winning record that first season with the All-Star middle infielders, but focused on pitching in another spending spree last winter that included adding two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom ($185 million, five years) and Nathan Eovaldi.

Texas won all six games deGrom started before season-ending elbow surgery, while Eovaldi is 4-0 this postseason after an All-Star season in which he was sidelined for seven weeks after the All-Star break because of a right forearm strain. The Rangers added two starters at the trade deadline: three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and left-hander Jordan Montgomery, who is 3-0 in the playoffs after winning the ALCS clincher in relief.

“This is what I wanted,” said Scherzer, who as part of his trade from the New York Mets exercised his contract option for next season. “I came here to get to the World Series, but I came here to win it.”

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