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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Washington: Two seasons after losing more than 100 games each, the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks will meet in the World Series, and one will complete an unlikely championship journey.
The 119th edition of Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven title showdown opens on Friday in Arlington, Texas, as the D-backs try to rule again after taking the 2001 crown in their only prior trip.
The Rangers lost in 2010 and 2011 in their only prior appearances.
The championship chance comes after Arizona went 52-110 in 2021, matching Baltimore for MLB’s worst record, while Texas was barely better at 60-102, the Rangers’ most defeats since 1973.
D-backs’ manager, Torey Lovullo, said: “I can’t wrap my arms around it. And I know the Rangers are in a very similar boat. It just goes to show you perseverance, persistence, hard work, that anything’s possible.”
Even so, things have been far from perfect this season.
Arizona was 84-78, the worst record of any MLB playoff team and were only the second World Series team to be outscored in the regular season after Minnesota in 1987.
Texas went 90-72 but lost on the last day of the season to drop the American League West division title, settling for a wildcard playoff spot.
The Rangers, however, have gone 8-0 on the road in the playoffs.
Rangers’ manager, Bruce Bochy, said: “It’s hard to explain some things. It’s just heart and determination these guys have shown on the road. There’s something about the road that brings the team together.
“These guys, they’ve taken their punches, but they keep getting up.”
Arizona swept out division winners Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Dodgers then ousted Philadelphia.
Only six teams have recovered from 100-loss seasons to reach the World Series within two campaigns, none faster, and only two — the 1914 Boston Braves and 1969 New York Mets — have then won the crown. One club will join that rare list this year.
D-backs’ World Series game one starting pitcher, Zac Gallen, said: “There were a lot of teams that probably felt like we didn’t deserve to be here. It was almost this quiet (vow), ‘all right. We’ll show you.’”
Texas star slugger Adolis Garcia, who defected from Cuba in 2016, was among the few on the 2021 Texas squad still with the Rangers.
He said: “We’ve lost more than 200 games throughout that journey. It’s not even about beating any particular opponent. It’s how proud I feel about the journey we’ve been on and how we’ve been able to improve to get to this point.”
Garcia has been a clutch hitter for Texas, winning the AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player award.
“My teammates trust me. They deposit their trust in me. They’re seeing how I want to perform to help the team win,” he added.
Bochy said: “This guy is an incredible talent. What he did is truly amazing. He’s just a talented guy.”
Dominican second baseman Ketel Marte has served the same role for Arizona and was National League Championship Series MVP.
D-backs rookie, Corbin Carroll, said: “Ketel, just special player. There were times this year where it was, like, how do you even pitch this guy? He’s back in that mode right now. It’s special to watch.”
Marte is on a 16-game playoff hit streak, the longest by any player to begin his MLB post-season career.
He has one game shy of matching the all-time MLB playoff hit streak record shared by Manny Ramirez, Derek Jeter, and Hank Bauer.
Marte said: “The whole idea is to give everything you’ve got. Thankfully, things are working out.”
Bochy, 68, came out of a four-year retirement a year ago to manage Texas after managing San Francisco to titles in 2010, 2012, and 2014.
“It’s unreal I’m here. That’s special. But it’s more about trying to find a way to get a ring for those guys. This team has played with as much heart and determination as any club I’ve had,” Bochy added.
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