PHOENIX - The Texas Rangers had been outplayed through the overwhelming majority of the World Series heading into Game 3. Sure, there was the comeback win in Game 1, meaning the series was 1-1 overall, but the Diamondbacks looked like the better team through two games. Things changed in Game 3.
The Rangers won 3-1. The main reasons for that victory can be traced back to the 2021-22 offseason, too. Specifically, Dec. 1, 2021, just hours before the MLB lockout.
General manager Chris Young deserves a lot of credit for putting together a decent portion of this team, but former GM/team president Jon Daniels has some thumbprints on this group as well, specifically a trio of players who came through in a big way in Game 3.
Marcus Semien officially signed a seven-year, $175 million deal with the Rangers on Dec. 1 that offseason. He had a down year in 2022, but was a deserving All-Star this season and led the league in hits and runs. He also added 29 homers and 100 RBI, an incredibly impressive number from the leadoff spot.
Semien struggled through much of the playoffs prior to Game 3, but he got the Rangers on the board with a two-out, RBI single in the top of the third inning.
Jon Gray was also signed on Dec. 1 to a four-year, $56 million deal. He's been perfectly adequate for the mid-rotation dollars, but he hasn't pitched well enough to be in the playoff rotation. Still, when Max Scherzer gingerly walked off the mound in Game 3 with back tightness, things appeared pretty ominous for the Rangers, especially with a bullpen game looming in Game 4. We've seen how shaky several pieces of that bullpen can be, too.
Gray had only thrown 2 2/3 innings in the playoffs before Game 3. He had to be thrown into the fire without notice when Scherzer departed. Not only did he get the job done, he was brilliant and went deep enough to let a good portion of the bullpen remain rested for Tuesday's clash.
Gray worked three innings in this one, only allowed one hit and striking out three. That one hit, it could be argued, probably shouldn't have been a hit, either. It was a looping liner off the bat of Ketel Marte and it hit a leaping Semien's glove. Semien appeared to misjudge the ball and really should have caught it. That was the only runner that reached against Gray. He struck out three. It was exemplary work when he wasn't even supposed to be ready to enter the game for the fourth.
Keep in mind, also, that Gray worked 1 2/3 innings in Game 1, so he came through with this effort on only two days' rest.
Corey Seager's monster deal -- 10 years, $325 million -- was also officially announced on Dec. 1. In tandem with the Semien signing, it meant Semien had to move back to second base from shortstop. Seager is an MVP-caliber performer when he's right and he was just that for 119 games this season. He hit .327 with a 170 OPS+, 33 homers, 96 RBI and an AL-best 42 doubles. Again, that was in just 119 games.
After Semien's two-out single in the third inning of Game 3, Seager hit one of the hardest hit balls many of us have ever seen.
I'm not sure I've ever witnessed one in person that got out so fast. It clocked in at 114.5 miles per hour, which is the hardest hit ball in the World Series in the Statcast era (starting with 2015). He also had the game-tying bomb in the ninth inning of Game 1, so he's changed the complexion of this series as an individual. Let's also point out the incredible defensive play Seager made in the bottom of the eighth to start a double play with Semien making the turn at second. It might've saved the game.
It would be an understatement to say this megadeal is working wonders for the Rangers.
Signing a player of Seager's stature might sound like something that doesn't deserve a lot of credit. After all, it's just an owner throwing the most money at a player, right? Keep in mind, however, that one of the teams with the deepest pockets in baseball that is incredibly well run didn't want to retain Seager.
The Dodgers just let him walk and weren't even one of the serious suitors to sign Seager. Some people might even go as far as saying if the Dodgers had a player and let him walk in free agency that it's a red flag. They are usually very savvy and don't miss on evaluating players often. Yet it appears they erred on the Seager decision. The Rangers got the most value out of shortstop this season, per baseball-reference.com's wins above average, while the Dodgers were a middling 15th.
To be clear, players like Seager should be difference-makers in the playoffs. As the saying goes, that's why they pay him the big bucks. Still, that doesn't mean we should avoid praise when due. Seager has been an animal in the postseason. He now has 18 playoff homers, putting him behind only Derek Jeter (20 HR) among shortstops.
In Game 3, Seager was joined by Gray and Semien -- his Dec. 1 signing buddies -- to lead the Rangers to victory in a hostile environment. They are now two games away from winning the World Series, just two seasons removed from losing over 100 games and less than two years after a spending spree that started the turn around. That's $556 million well spent.