ARLINGTON, Texas – Before opening the World Series, the Arizona Diamondbacks wanted to recount a series of slights.
Overlooked by oddsmakers and angered by analysts, the Diamondbacks find themselves in a Surprise Series against the also unexpected Texas Rangers. But the mindsets couldn't be more different ahead of Friday night's opener in Major League Baseball's third all-wild card title matchup.
“We just put it on our list and keep those receipts and walk around with a little bit more of a chip on our shoulder,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said Thursday. “It gives you a little bit more motivation. And when you can get a little bit more, you take it.”
Diamondbacks closer Paul Sewald has become keeper of the receipts, reminding teammates of what they consider disrespect.
"Maybe I found screenshots that maybe other people didn't,” he said, wearing a T-shirt that proclaimed "Snakes Alive." “We took offense to that and we're excited that we're here and people are still not giving us that much credit here.”
The Diamondbacks are tracking closely what the public says, with MLB Network a clubhouse constant. Meanwhile, the Rangers insist they pay no attention.
“We don’t listen to the outside noise that much,” second baseman Marcus Semien said.
Zac Gallen, a 28-year-old right-hander coming off a career-best 17-win season, starts Game 1 for the Diamondbacks, in the Series for the first time since beating the New York Yankees for the franchise's only title in 2001. Texas starts Nathan Eovaldi, a 33-year-old right-hander and a two-time All-Star who has overcome two Tommy John surgeries.
Gallen, who grew up in a Philadelphia suburb, followed the pennant-winning Game 7 victory over the Phillies with a tweet highlighting the losing team's spring training and reminded Philadelphia fans to “ make sure to get those tix for your next game.” When the Phillies led the NLCS 2-0, backup catcher Garrett Stubbs talked about celebrating in the Chase Field pool. Gallen responded to what he said were online direct messages.
“I just figured if they want to talk junk to me, I’ll say one back,” he said. “And I feel like being from there, I knew how to hit them the hardest.”
Both teams worked out Thursday under a closed roof at Globe Life Field, where World Series logos were freshly painted on the turf. Both clubs are two years removed from 100-loss seasons, and the Diamondbacks could become just the second champion with a negative run differential after the 1987 Minnesota Twins.
Arizona went 84-78 during the season and earned the NL's sixth and last postseason berth, finishing with what would be the second-fewest wins for a Series champion behind the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals' 83. The Rangers were 90-72 and got the fifth AL slot.
Texas hasn't won a title since the franchise started play as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961, and odds of a Diamondbacks-Rangers Series were 1,750 to 1 when wagering for the 2023 season opened.
“We weren’t concerned with what people thought of us,” said first-year Rangers manager Bruce Bochy who led San Francisco to three titles from 2010-14. “We thought we belonged and we thought we could win.”
Lovullo, excited about his first Series as a manager, opened his news conference by snapping a photo of assembled media “just to break the ice.” He had a message for MLB Network's Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, who promised before Game 6 against the Phillies to “retire on the spot” if Arizona won the pennant.
"You can’t back out of that one, Mad Dog. You’ve got to do something,” Lovullo said. “I do like Howard Stern’s thought about walking with a billboard saying that I am whatever, a liar ... in Midtown Manhattan for half a day. That will do it for me, but I ain’t going to forgive you until you do something unbelievable, maybe show up here and say you’re sorry to the entire team.”
BETTER NATE THAN NEVER
Eovaldi is 4-0 in this postseason. He was to have started Game 4 of the 2018 Series for Boston but instead relieved in the 12th inning of Game 3 and delivered a memorable performance before giving up Max Muncy's winning home run leading of the 18th for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I kind of had my moment there,” Eovaldi said. “Having Game 1, trying to set a tone for the team, there’s a lot of pressure with that, but also a lot of excitement.”
Arizona had the fewest errors in the major leagues during the season (56), one less than Texas. The Diamondbacks have allowed three unearned runs during the postseason and the Rangers one.
Lovullo, 58 and in his seventh season as a big league manager, effusively praised the 68-year-old Bochy, in his 26th. Lovullo recalled giving Bochy a gift during his last season with San Francisco in 2019.
“It’s been an absolute honor to manage against you. I hope you find your way back to doing this one day,” Lovullo recalled saying, adding Bochy responded: “If I do, it will be an honor to be managing against you, as well.”
“I couldn’t believe he said that to me,” Lovullo said. “I was just honored to be in his presence. And I will be for these next nine days.”
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