WASHINGTON (AFP) — 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 batter at 60-102, the Rangers’ most defeats since 1973.
“I can’t wrap my arms around it,” D-Backs manager Torey Lovullo said.
“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 were 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.
“It’s hard to explain some things,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said.
“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.
“There were a lot of teams that probably felt like we didn’t deserve to be here,” D-Backs World Series Game 1 starting pitcher Zac Gallen said.
“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.
“We’ve lost more than 200 games throughout that journey,” he said.
“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,” Garcia said.
“They deposit their trust in me. They’re seeing how I want to perform to help the team win.”
“This guy is an incredible talent,” Bochy said.
“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 Most Valuable Player.