Rangers on brink of World Series championship after Game 4 romp


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PHOENIX — Adolis Garcia is not typically one for speeches, but the mood struck him Tuesday afternoon, moments after learning a strain of his obliques would prematurely end his dominant run through this postseason. He gathered his Texas Rangers teammates in Chase Field’s visiting locker room and told them he loved them. He told them to win two more games and capture this franchise’s first World Series championship, in his honor. And he told them he was confident they would pull it off.

“He was vulnerable,” Rangers shortstop Corey Seager said after helping to ignite an 11-7 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 4. “That’s hard to do. To be able to come in, knowing the headspace he’s in, not being able to help us and still contribute — that’s a hard thing to do. He did a great job.”

His teammates did even better.

Facing a string of Arizona Diamondbacks relievers, the Rangers scored 10 runs before the end of the third inning, riding the early onslaught, along with five innings of one-run ball from Andrew Heaney, to a win that felt a lot more lopsided than the final score indicated. The Rangers scored five runs each in the second and third innings, all of them with two outs, and secured their 10th consecutive road victory of these playoffs.

After it was over, a lot of their focus shifted to Garcia, the American League Championship Series MVP who proceeded to hit the walk-off homer to seal a dramatic come-from-behind victory in Game 1 of the World Series. A violent swing that produced a flyout to end the top of the eighth inning in Monday’s Game 3 caused his left side to tighten up, prompting Garcia to exit the game and leave the ballpark for further testing. He showed up early the following day and underwent a heavy round of treatment then took swings in the batting cage, doing his best to avoid what had already felt inevitable.

“I know he did everything possible,” Rangers center fielder Leody Taveras said in Spanish. “Even when he tried, he knew he wasn’t going to be able to go. But he tried anyway because he was just looking for a way.”

Part of Garcia’s pregame message centered on the team’s penchant for overcoming injuries. The tally of Rangers players who spent time on the injured list during the regular season includes six fixtures of their lineup (Seager, Taveras, Jonah Heim, Mitch Garver, Josh Jung and even Garcia himself), two key members of their rotation (Nathan Eovaldi and Jon Gray) and two high-leverage relievers (Josh Sborz and Jose Leclerc). Jacob deGrom, signed to a lucrative free-agent contract to be their ace, was lost for the year to Tommy John surgery. Max Scherzer, acquired at midseason to lead them to a title, suffered a shoulder injury in late September and didn’t return until the ALCS, and he went down again with back spasms on Monday.

Garcia, teammates say, was devastated by his injury.

It was obvious when he spoke.

“I can’t imagine going through a season, putting up the numbers he did, having an incredible postseason breaking records, and not being able to take the field to finish the job,” Texas reserve outfielder Travis Jankowski said.

Heim agreed.

“Yeah, it was emotional,” he said. “Obviously, you never want to see a guy like Adolis go down. He’s been our MVP all postseason. What he said was emotional, and I think it hit us right in the heart and gave us a little lecture of something to play for today. It’s tough when you see somebody show so much emotion. You know he wants to be out there with us. I think tonight was a good example of us rallying around him.”

Texas infielder Marcus Semien contributed a two-run triple in the second inning of Game 4 and a three-run homer in the third. Seager unleashed a 431-foot home run off the facing of a wall beyond the right-center-field fence. And Jankowski — the speedy, glove-first journeyman who replaced Garcia in right field — contributed a two-run double.

The Rangers became the first team in postseason history to score five-plus runs with two outs in consecutive innings and the first to record a 10-run game in the division series, the championship series and the World Series. In the wake of a devastating blow, with both Garcia and Scherzer taken off its roster, Texas became just the third team in World Series history to score 10 or more runs through a game’s first three innings.

“They felt bad for Doli,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “We all did. But you’ve got to move on. You’ve got to focus forward. That’s what we did.”

A sold-out crowd at Chase Field was stunned silent early but continued to seek moments to get excited. One arrived in the bottom of the fourth, with runners on second and third and two outs, but Heaney limited the D-backs to only one run. Another arrived in the eighth, when Lourdes Gurriel Jr.‘s three-run homer highlighted a four-run inning. And the last one arrived in the ninth, when the Rangers were forced to bring their closer, Leclerc, in for the final moments of the contest. But the outcome had long been decided.

The Rangers, with a 3-1 lead in the Series, are one win away from the first title in the 62-year history of this franchise.

“This is where we want to be,” Semien said. “It’s a one-game-at-a-time mentality. We get some rest tonight and understand that we need to focus on what we need to do to win the ballgame, and that’s all there is to it. We win the ballgame, we get a ring, of course.

“But you need to think about the process of how to get that done — good defense, good pitching, timely hitting, two-out RBIs. Those things that we did the last two nights, we need to continue.”

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