PHOENIX (AP) — Corey Seager smashed a homer that rocketed off his bat at a speed few other mortals can match. Then he made a sliding stop and started a double play in the eighth inning that might have saved the game.
The star shortstop is once again playing at a different level in October.
That’s good for the Texas Rangers, who may need more of those individual heroics after a costly victory put them ahead in this World Series.
Seager clubbed a two-run homer and turned in a terrific defensive play, Max Scherzer combined with four relievers for a gem on the mound and Texas beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 on Monday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Fall Classic.
“This is what you play for. This is where you want to be at this moment,” said Seager, the NLCS and World Series MVP for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020. “Fortunately for me, having experience with this, it’s always driven me. I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of some good teams and experience these things.”
Texas overcame injuries to Scherzer and slugger Adolis García in improving to 9-0 on the road this postseason, this time in front of more than 48,000 fans at Chase Field.
The 29-year-old Seager — in the second year of a $325 million contract — once again showed he was worth every penny on the game’s biggest stage.
He smoked a two-run homer into the right-field seats as part of a three-run third after Diamondbacks rookie starter Brandon Pfaadt left a first-pitch changeup high in the zone. The ball left Seager’s bat at 114.5 mph, which made it the hardest-hit World Series homer in the Statcast era, dating back to 2015.
García cut down Christian Walker at the plate with a stellar throw from right field in the second, stifling some early Arizona momentum. García exited in the eighth with tightness on his left side after appearing to get hurt on a swing. He went to a hospital for an MRI to determine the severity of the injury.
Scherzer threw three scoreless innings before leaving with back tightness. Jon Gray, Josh Sborz, Aroldis Chapman and José Leclerc combined to keep Arizona’s offense quiet most of the evening.
Scherzer said he was having back spasms and would know more about his availability for a potential Game 7 over the next 48 hours.
“It’s tough. We’re a deep group. We’ll see what happens with both of those guys,” Texas second baseman Marcus Semien said about the injuries. “Adolis has been the heart and soul of our team. Hopefully it’s nothing too bad. But we’re a deep group. We have some guys that haven’t been playing that are pretty good players, too.”
Gray replaced Scherzer and fired three shutout innings of one-hit ball for the win. Leclerc struck out two in a perfect ninth for his fourth save this postseason.
“Just staying ready … and just waiting on that call. I knew it was going to happen eventually,” said Gray, a veteran starter who recently returned from injury. “To be able to come in now and do a really good job, it feels amazing.”
Game 4 in the best-of-seven Series is Tuesday at Chase Field.
The D-backs rallied in the eighth when pinch-hitter Emmanuel Rivera led off with a double against Chapman. Geraldo Perdomo followed with an RBI single, making it 3-1. But then Chapman worked out of the jam — striking out Corbin Carroll before Seager started a clutch double play, sliding on his knees to field a hot smash from Ketel Marte before flipping to Semien, who relayed to first.
“Just trying to make the play,” Seager said. “I think Marcus did a better job than me with the turn and the transfer. Props to him, props to Chapman for making a good pitch and we got out of the inning.”
After García threw out Walker, the Rangers grabbed the lead in the third. Nathaniel Lowe hit a leadoff double and scored on a two-out single by Semien, his first RBI in 10 games. Seager then launched his no-doubt homer deep into the right-field seats to make it 3-0.
Texas is 9-0 this postseason when scoring first, and the Rangers are the first team in major league history to win their first nine road games in one postseason.
It was Seager’s fifth homer this postseason. The four-time All-Star also was one of the heroes in Game 1 of this Fall Classic, belting a tying homer in the ninth that helped rally the Rangers to a 6-5 victory in 11 innings on García’s home run.
The 25-year-old Pfaadt had been a revelation in the postseason with a 2.70 ERA through four October starts, despite a 5.72 ERA during the regular season. He wasn’t quite as good on Monday — giving up three runs on four hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings, striking out four.
The teams combined for no errors over the first two games of the series and the Rangers produced more defensive highlights that helped them take control of Game 3.
Walker led off the second with a double and Tommy Pham followed with a single, but Walker was thrown out at home. Diamondbacks third-base coach Tony Perezchica put up a stop sign, but Walker either didn’t see it or didn’t care, never hesitating as he rounded third.
García — a Gold Glove finalist who has one of the best arms in the big leagues — threw a 94.6 mph rocket to the plate to cut down Walker.
“I feel like that was a huge momentum swing,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “That was a big moment. We got flat there for a couple innings.”
Two batters later, Alek Thomas hit a grounder that deflected off Scherzer’s right elbow toward the third-base line. Josh Jung was there to barehand the ball and fling a strong throw across the diamond to beat the speedy Thomas.
Scherzer gave up two hits and two walks while striking out one.
This is the first World Series in which neither team has made an error through the first three games.
YOUNG AND CLEAN(UP)
Texas rookie Evan Carter became the fourth-youngest player to hit cleanup in a World Series game at 21 years, 62 days. The outfielder batted third in the first two games, but manager Bruce Bochy said he flipped Carter and García in the lineup on Monday to break up the left-handed bats.
The three youngest players to hit cleanup in the World Series were Miguel Cabrera (2003), Ty Cobb (1907) and Juan Soto (2019), who were all 20.
BEEN A WHILE
This was the first World Series game played at Chase Field since Nov. 4, 2001, when the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees 3-2 in Game 7 after Luis Gonzalez’s walk-off hit against Mariano Rivera clinched the series.
The D-backs lost Monday for the first time in the World Series at Chase Field. They were 4-0 at home during the 2001 Series, which is the only other time they’ve been to the sport’s biggest showcase.
There have been 62 previous instances when the World Series was tied 1-1 after Game 2. The Game 3 winner went on to win 41 times.
The Diamondbacks will piece together Game 4 on the mound with multiple relievers, starting with lefty Joe Mantiply. Lovullo showed his Southern California roots by mentioning a former Los Angeles Dodgers ace when asked about his team’s pitching plans.
“Don Drysdale is not going to fall out of the sky,” Lovullo said. “It’s definitely going to be somebody in our bullpen that’s going to start the day tomorrow.”
Drysdale teamed with fellow Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax in the pitching rotation to help the Dodgers win the World Series in 1959, 1963 and 1965.
The Rangers will counter with lefty Andrew Heaney. Bochy said before Monday’s game that Gray was an option, but he threw 30 pitches Monday.
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