Ahead of a pivotal Game 3, there was a statistic that was circulating around that said that the winner of Game 3 in series that are tied 1-1 goes on to win 69% of the time. That’s a nice stat if you’re the Texas Rangers on Tuesday morning. But after Monday night’s loss, the Arizona Diamondbacks find themselves in a two games to one hole.
Luckily for the D-Backs, baseball is a game a failure, and the odds being stacked so heavily against them is kind of the name of the game. If a batter fails 69% of the time, they’re a .310 hitter. That has to be the mindset for Arizona heading into the rest of the series. Sure they’re down, but they’re certainly not out. Especially with two more games remaining at home.
Heck, Corbin Carroll had three hits through the first six games in the NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies and in Game 7 he went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI in the deciding game. Things can change quickly. So what needs to happen for the Arizona Diamondbacks to thwart history and bring home a championship?
Corbin Carroll needs to crush
Speaking of Corbin Carroll, Arizona will need him to kick it up a notch. He’s 3-for-13 (.231 batting average) in the World Series, which isn’t bad necessarily. But with the Rangers having a more full lineup, the D-Backs need their best players to be thriving in order to come out on top. The Diamondbacks can win a game or two without peak Carroll, but they may not be able to win the World Series without him.
Arizona may not have the feared lineup that Texas possesses, but they are able to force the issue with stolen bases that put the pressure on the opposing pitcher and get themselves into scoring position. Sure, a two-run homer from Corey Seager is nice, but so is hanging four runs on nine hits on Jordan Montgomery in Game 2. When they’re operating at full capacity, the D-Backs are relentless. Carroll is the engine that drives that relentlessness.
In their lone win this Series, Carroll went 2-for-5 with two RBI in a 9-1 drubbing. We’ll need to see more of that.
Arizona Diamondbacks could just as easily be up 2-1
While the Diamondbacks are down in the Series, they have arguably outplayed Texas in two of the three games, though they lost Game 1 after a Seager two-run homer tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, and Adolis Garcia walked it off in the 11th. What they’re doing is working. It’s a matter of execution.
Game 4 will be an interesting one, with Texas sending out Andrew Heaney and the Diamondbacks relying on a bullpen game, which worked for them in Game 4 of the NLCS. Just like they did in that series, they’ll be starting things off on Tuesday with Joe Mantiply. Philadelphia only got 2 1/3 innings from their own starter in that game. If Arizona is able to push Heaney out at around the same point in Tuesday’s game, getting a few cracks at the underbelly of the Rangers’ bullpen could lead to an even series when the aces return to the mound in Game 5.
Heaney has totaled six innings in four appearances this postseason and has thrown ten pitches since October 19th. The likelihood of him going deep into the game isn’t terribly high, but the sooner he’s out the better for Arizona–both in Game 4 and the rest of the way. The weakness of the Rangers is the depth of their bullpen, and Arizona will have to seize Game 4 with this opportunity.
It’s also worth noting that Gabriel Moreno went from a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth on Monday to a groundout after the home plate umpire missed what should have been ball four on the fifth pitch of the at-bat. If the leadoff hitter is aboard, that changes the complexion of the entire inning and has the tying run at the plate instead of in the on deck circle.
The Rangers played well on Monday night and they deserved the win, but that call could have played a role in the outcome of the game.
Repeats from Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly for Arizona Diamondbacks
In Games 1 and 2, Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly combined to go 12 innings and gave up four earned runs. Both pitchers have already out-dueled their counterparts in Nathan Eovaldi and Jordan Montgomery. In order to get the series win, they’ll likely need similar showings from both pitchers in Game 5 and Game 6. At the very least they’ll need to pitch better than Texas’ duo.
Gallen hasn’t necessarily pitched well this postseason, holding a 5.27 ERA through five starts with a 1.50 WHIP. He has also only made one start at home in Arizona, a six-inning effort against the Phillies in Game 5 where he gave up four earned. At this point he knows what the postseason is about and he’ll have the experience of pitching at home this time around, so it’s a matter of seeing what he has left in the tank in what could be his last outing of the season, barring a relief appearance in a potential Game 7.
Outside of his first start against the Phillies, Kelly has been terrific. He has surrendered one or fewer runs in three of his four starts, and all of those outings have come on the road. Game 6, if the Series makes it that far, would also be in Texas. While asking him to repeat his Game 2 performance where he went seven frames, gave up just three hits and one run while striking out nine is borderline unfair, he could have some wiggle room given that the D-Backs bats made Montgomery look human in his first start of the Series.
Texas Rangers injuries
While these aren’t necessarily keys for the Diamondbacks, the potential injuries to Garcia and Max Scherzer could have a major impact on the Series. Garcia has set a postseason record with 22 rbi in October, and showed off his cannon in right with a laser to nail Christian Walker at home in the bottom of the second to keep the scoreless tie intact. He left Game 3 with “left-side tightness” in the eighth inning.
Scherzer started Game 3 and was removed from his start after three innings with back tightness. He would be in line to start a potential Game 7, so removing him from the roster due to injury could have ramifications if the Series goes the distance, not to mention removing the most veteran pitcher on the staff with experience in these postseason situations.
That said, his replacement on Monday, Jon Gray, has shut down Arizona this World Series, totaling 4 2/3 scoreless innings while allowing just two hits and striking out seven. He could be a decent option for a winner-take-all game, too. Removing Scherzer could also give the club an extra arm for Tuesday’s bullpen game.
For now, it’s best for Arizona to plan on facing Texas at full strength and make any adjustments to their gameplan as those roster decisions are made. They have the talent to beat the Rangers. Now they just have to prove it.