In the span of three innings, the Texas Rangers went from landing on the wrong side of a no-hitter to celebrating the first World Series title in franchise history.
After a disastrous bullpen game in Game 4, the Arizona Diamondbacks turned to ace Zac Gallen in hopes of forcing Game 6. The right-hander, who will likely receive Cy Young votes this season, entered the game on a three-game losing streak, most recently allowing three earned runs in a Game 1 loss.
Gallen looked different in Game 5. And by “different,” we mean “borderline unhittable.” He started with a 1-2-3 inning in 13 pitches. Then came another 1-2-3. And another. By the end of the fourth, Gallen had a perfect game going with a comically low 35 pitches.
The Rangers got their first baserunner in the fifth inning in the form of a Nathaniel Lowe walk, but they received nothing more. Gallen was pitching the game of his life, and the only consolation was that Rangers starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi was matching him in the one metric that mattered: The game was tied 0-0 after six innings.
But the fun part about baseball is that no matter how dominant a pitcher looks, all it takes is a few pitches for everything to fall apart. After not allowing a hit to the first 19 batters he faced, Gallen allowed three in a row. The first was an opposite-field grounder from Corey Seager.
The second was a double into the gap from Evan Carter, his ninth double of the postseason, which set an MLB record.
And that’s all it took.
Across five pitches, momentum shifted from the home team watching their ace’s historic performance to the road team counting down the outs. The first Rangers pitcher tasked with protecting the smallest lead possible was the perpetually rickety Aroldis Chapman, who kept it together in the seventh to the tune of two outs and one walk (a fine outing by his standards these days).
Josh Sborz, a pitcher designated for assignment before the 2021 season, was tasked with ending the seventh inning and covering the eighth and ninth, which he handled with no issue.
But before Sborz took the mound for the final three outs, the Rangers made things a little less tense.
Insurance runs are typically a good idea in a World Series elimination game. The Rangers got them in the top of the ninth, with some very unfortunate (for the Diamondbacks) help.
Josh Jung and Nathaniel Lowe opened the inning with leadoff singles off Arizona closer Paul Sewald, then Jonah Heim came through with another single … that turned into a backbreaker when D-backs defensive standout Alek Thomas straight-up missed the bouncing ball in center field.
Sewald got the next two batters out, but then Marcus Semien supplied the dagger for Texas with a two-run homer.
While Gallen was cruising, Eovaldi was fighting for his life.
The Rangers signed Eovaldi in the offseason for performances in games such as this, and he delivered — in the most stressful way possible. The D-backs got the leadoff runner on base in the first. They got a runner to second in the second. They got runners on second and third in the third. They added a double in the fourth and loaded the bases in the fifth.
The result: zero runs.
The D-backs ended up going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in Game 5, with 11 runners left on base. Those are haunting numbers for a team whose entire offensive identity was built around getting on base, running fast and getting clutch hits.
Eovaldi wrapped up his start with a 1-2-3 sixth, his first perfect inning since the second inning of Game 1.
It might’ve been messy, but he did his job, and the Texas Rangers are champions.
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