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When the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies lost in the League Championship Series, the collective sporting world expressed disappointment despite the potential matchup being a carbon copy of the previous year’s World Series.
True baseball fans never worried the Fall Classic would lack intrigue. Because whenever you watch a baseball game, there’s a guarantee to see something you’ve never witnessed before. The first two games of the 2023 World Series were no exception.
The Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers each have a win following a pair of games at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. The series now heads to Chase Field in Phoenix for the second leg of the first World Series played entirely between two retractable roof stadiums.
Youth has been on full display for both sides. At 21 years and 59 days old, Evan Carter of the Rangers is the second-youngest player to ever bat third in the World Series. The record holder remains the same as it was 71 years ago. At 20 years and 347 days old back during Game 1 of the 1952 World Series, that impressive young man turned out to be pretty good — Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle.
“His age, and to be on this stage, and it’s not a big deal to him,” Rangers’ manager Bruce Bochy said of Carter. “He’s not in awe of anything. We said he plays with no fear. He’s just a special kid, I think, that’s going to have a tremendous career.”
Carter also notched a pair of doubles during his World Series debut in Game 1. Only Andruw Jones (1996, 19 years and 180 days), Mantle (1952, 20 years and 347 days) and Juan Soto (2019, 20 years and 362 days) ever recorded two or more hits in their debut at a younger age.
The Diamondbacks also have an extremely young No. 3 hitter in Gabriel Moreno at 23 years and 255 days old. He’s only the third catcher to bat third in the Fall Classic following Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants and Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees. In the last 40 years, only Posey in 2010 and Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004 have strapped on the tools of ignorance during the World Series before the age of 24.
Moreno’s home run in Game 2 against Jordan Montgomery gave him four this postseason, trailing the five hit by Sandy Alomar Jr. in 1995 for most by a catcher during a single playoff run. It was the D-backs’ 12th home run by a player age 23 or younger, breaking the previous record set by the 2015 Chicago Cubs.
A favorite for the Rookie of the Year Award in the National League, Corbin Carroll continues to impress this postseason. After leading the NL in triples with 10, the 23-year-old recorded a two-run triple in Game 1 to become just the eighth player with a three-bagger and two RBI in his first career World Series game and first since Curt Flood of the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals. With two hits in Game 2 — not to mention two more runs batted in for the third consecutive game — he extended his postseason hit streak to five games.
Alek Thomas, another 23-year-old outfielder, recorded two hits and a run scored in each of the first two games of the Fall Classic, becoming only the sixth player in MLB history to do so in his first two appearances. The most recent to do it: Hall-of-Famer Monte Irvin for the 1951 New York Giants. Should Thomas get two more knocks on Monday night in Phoenix, he’ll have the record all to himself.
Few have been better at hitting for power during these playoffs than ALCS MVP Adolis García. The Rangers cleanup hitter launched a 373-foot shot off closer Paul Sewald in the 11th inning on Friday to win the game, 6-5, and extended his postseason home run streak to five games. It was the 17th walk-off homer in World Series history and first since 2018 when Max Muncy of the Los Angeles Dodgers went yard in the 18th inning against the Boston Red Sox in Game 3. The pitcher that night was the same as the Rangers’ starter in Game 1: Nathan Eovaldi. The homer gave García 22 RBI this postseason, the most in a single postseason in MLB history.
Coupled with García’s walk-off was a two-run blast in the ninth by Corey Seager that took the game to extra innings.
“It’s right there at the top,” Bochy said of where the home runs rank in his storied managerial career. “It was a great game, entertaining game, great ball game. We had some chances out there, couldn’t quite get that big hit. But late we did. We got the big home run.”
It was the third time a team received both a game-tying home run and go-ahead home run in the ninth-inning or later. Houston accomplished the feat in 2017 against the Dodgers in Game 2 while the Yankees did the same during Game 4 in 2001 against these same Diamondbacks.
Ketel Marte, NLCS MVP, has also been hot at the plate. Although he trails García in home runs 8-2, Marte has shown the ability to get a knock each and every game that he’s penciled in the lineup. Already the owner of the longest hitting streak to start a postseason career, Marte added base hits in Game 1 and 2 — including in his final at-bat on Saturday — to earn the record outright with an 18-game postseason hit streak that surpasses 17-game streaks by Manny Ramirez, Derek Jeter and Hank Bauer.
In Game 2, Tommy Pham was a big part of the 16-hit onslaught for Arizona’s lineup, going 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles in the Snakes 9-1 win. Though a four-hit performance with at least two doubles has happened 26 times in the World Series before, it’s notable for Pham since he had recently been benched in Game 5 of the NLCS due to a 1-for-17 slump that started shortly after his other four-hit game. (Only five players before Pham had ever achieved two four-hit games in a single postseason with Albert Pujols holding the high-water mark with three such performances during the 2011 playoffs.)
“He’s an unbelievable teammate,” Diamondbacks’ manager Torey Lovullo said of Pham. “And I know we got better because of all the things that he brings to the table that don’t get seen in a box score. It’s nice to get those four hits today. Of course, it set a great tone for us.”
On the pitching side, Merrill Kelly was an even bigger star in Game 2. Harkening back to performances by Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson in the D-backs only other appearance in the World Series in 2001, the 35-year-old prevented Texas from going up 2-0 with a dominant start that included nine strikeouts and zero walks. He retired the first 11 batters of the game in addition to the final seven he faced during the seven-inning outing.
“You can’t simulate postseason starts. He’s really stepped on it and gotten after it and gotten even better which is not surprising to me because that’s who he is at his core,” Lovullo said of Kelly’s outing. “He wants the biggest moment, the biggest stage to show what he’s capable of doing.”
Kelly is the 10th pitcher in World Series history with no walks and nine punchouts and the first since Schilling in 2001. Only four in that group ever struck out more without giving up a free pass.
Conversely, Jordan Montgomery of the Rangers went six innings and struck out none, just the 13th occurrence of six-plus innings and no strikeouts in World Series history and the first since 1996 when Jimmy Key accomplished the dubious feat with the Yankees.
We’ll get at least five games between these two clubs and, if the baseball gods really want to rewards fans even more, the Rangers and Diamondbacks will take it to Game 7.
With so much at stake and no shortage of players looking to make their mark on the history of the sport, there’s no such thing as a bad World Series.
Top photo: Raymond Carlin III/USA TODAY Sports
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