ARLINGTON, Texas – Paul Sewald watched the end of his first World Series game in the Arizona Diamondbacks clubhouse and the trainer's room, not from the center of a celebration on the mound as he had imagined.
“There’s no worse feeling in this game than being the closer and blowing the save opportunity at the last second,” he said after Arizona's 6-5, 11-inning loss to Texas on Friday night. “This team battled for 8 1/2 innings and had the lead and my job is to finish games when I get in there and I did not, and it came back to bite us.”
Sewald entered with a 5-3 lead against the Rangers in the ninth inning. He started No. 9 hitter Leody Tavares with a called strike but then walked him on four straight fastballs, the first high and the next three outside.
After striking out Marcus Semien on a high fastball, Sewald tried to overpower Corey Seager at the top of the strike zone. The 2020 World Series MVP drove the 93.6 mph pitch about two dozen rows into the right-field seats, tying the score and handing Sewald his first blown save in seven chances this postseason.
Two innings later, Adolis García drove a low sinker from Miguel Castro the other way and over the right-field wall for a winning homer.
“You don’t anticipate giving up a two-run home run and tying the score in the bottom of the ninth inning with one out,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “You’re kind of counting it backwards and you’re thinking in a very positive way. So the shock factor was very high.”
Some Diamondbacks fans surely thought back to the 2001 World Series against the New York Yankees, when Byung-Hyun Kim gave up Tino Martinez’s tying ninth-inning homer and Derek Jeter’s winning drive in the 10th inning of Game 4, then allowed Scott Brosius’ tying home run in the ninth inning of a 12-inning loss in Game 5.
Arizona won that thrilling classic in seven games, but now the team's last three World Series losses have all followed tying home runs in the ninth.
The Diamondbacks' bullpen entered Friday with a 2.94 ERA this postseason and hadn't blown a save since the regular season.
Arizona pitchers, however, lost their grip in the World Series opener. They walked 10, and three of those runners scored, including Seager in the first and third.
“You can’t walk 10 batters in a World Series game and expect to hold them in the situation that we held them in,” Lovullo said. “It was a matter of time before something happened, and it did.”
Sewald was frustrated with his approach against Taveras.
“Three misses in kind of the exact same spot, kind of arm side,” he said. “I don’t really understand why I was rushing there.”
Seager had been 0 for 5 with three walks in his career against Sewald.
“You have to try and get the bottom of the lineup before the top comes up. That’s what I’ll be most frustrated with, was walking Taveras,” Sewald said. “Seager is one of the 10 best players in this league, and you've just got to try and face him with nobody on there.”
Castro relieved Kyle Nelson with one out in the 11th for his World Series debut. He fell behind García 3-1.
“The pitches weren't landing the way I wanted to,” Castro said. “The pitches were a little bit off balance.”
In the clubhouse, Nelson tried to console Sewald.
“I just went by him, gave him a pat,” Nelson said. “A moment like that, he goes through his own process.”
Sewald was quick to look ahead to Game 2.
“Not the first blown save, probably won’t be the last,” he said. "Just got to try and get back tomorrow and I hope more than anything that these guys get me a lead and I get the exact same chance tomorrow and hopefully I pitch a little bit better and we walk out of here with a win."
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