McCoy: Rangers Grab Two Games to One Series Lead

By Hal McCoy
Contributing Writer

When the Texas Rangers play on the road in the postseason, they wear suits of armor and nothing penetrates them.

With a tense 3-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks in Chase Field Monday night in Phoenix, the Rangers set a record with their ninth straight road victory in the postseason.

The Texas Road Warriors eclipsed the former record of eight set by 1996 New York Yankees.

More importantly, the Rangers took a two games to one lead in the World Series, two victories away from their first World Series trophy.

Since the team moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex from Washington D.C. in 1972, it has played in only one other World Series, a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011 after the Rangers led three games to two.

And Texas manager Bruce Bochy is two wins away from winning his fourth World Series championship ring. He led the San Francisco Giants to three World Series titles.

He took three years off before accepting the Texas job to start this season and put the Rangers into the postseason via the wild card.

For the Rangers, Monday was a Texas Turnaround after Arizona crushed them Saturday in Game 2, 9-1.

And it wasn’t a walkaway Monday.

The Rangers scored all three runs in the third inning against rookie Brandon Pfaadt, a Louisville native and Bellarmine University product.

Pfaadt was 3-9 with a 5.72 earned run average over 18 regular-season starts and was twice demoted to the minors.

But he found the right path in the postseason. He had made four postseason starts and while he hadn’t won a game, the Diamondbacks won all four.

It was not to be Monday.

Arizona’s Nathaniel Lowe opened the third with a double. Pfaadt retired the next two and was one pitch away from escaping.

But Marcus Semien, extremely quiet during the postseason singled to score Lowe. And Pfaadt’s next pitch to Corey Seager took a 421-foot trip into the right field seats and it was 3-0.

The Diamondbacks squandered a chance to do deep damage to Texas starter Max Scherzer in the second inning.

Christian Walker, another postseason slumper, ripped Scherzer’s first pitch of the second inning for a double.

Tommy Pham poked a shallow single to right field. Walker, running with his head down, missed the stop sign at third base and continued homeward. Right fielder Adolis Garcia threw him out.

Instead of runners on third and first with no outs, the D-Backs had a runner on first with one out. Scherzer retired the next two.

The final out, though, was painful. Alek Thomas lined one off Scherzer’s pitching elbow and it ricocheted to third baseman Josh Jung and he threw out Thomas.

The injury-plagued Scherzer was making only his third start in more than a month, recovering from a shoulder problem. And he was pitching with a cut on his thumb, which was protected by cotton and super glue.

The blast off his elbow didn’t knock him out, but when he came out of the dugout to pitch the fourth, he winced in pain. His back locked up and he was removed.

The Texas bullpen took over and kept things quiet.

Jon Gray, a starter during the season, came out of the bullpen and pitched three scoreless innings, retiring nine of the 10 batters he faced.

Josh Sborz took over in the seventh and Pham doubled with one out, giving him six hits in his last seven at bats. But Sborz struck out Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Alek Thomas to keep it at 3-0.

Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman was handed the eighth inning and he nearly handed away the lead.

Chapman can throw his fastball through a redwood, but a couple of guys swining pieces of ash and/or maple, put him in immediate trouble.

Pinch-hitter Emmanuel Rivera doubled and number nine hitter Geraldo Perdomo broke his piece of ash on a bloop single to score Rivera.

It was 3-1 with no outs and Arizona’s Answerbacks had the potential tying run at the plate. But Chapma struck out highly-talented rookie Corbin Carroll, caught staring at a big bending slider.

Ketel Marte ripped one that shortstop Seager stopped with his back toward home plate. Then he flipped a behind-the-back toss to second to start an inning-ending double play.

Texas closer Jose Leclerc made quick work of the ninth, with some help from home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez.

During the season, Marquez graded out as the umpire with the smallest strike zone and he displayed it all night, refusing to call any strikes on border-line pitches. . .except in the ninth.

Gabriel Moreno led the ninth. On 3-and-1, Leclerc’s next pitch was clearly several inches outside. Moreno headed for first, believing he had a walk. Marquez called it strike two and Moreno grounded out on the 3-and-2 pitch.

Leclerc then struck out both Walker and Pham to end it.

The next two games are in Arizona’s park and if the Rangers stay on pattern with two more road wins, the World Series is theirs.

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