World Series Game 2 score, highlights: Diamondbacks bounce back vs. Rangers, pull even in Fall Classic

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The 2023 World Series is now a best-of-five series. The Arizona Diamondbacks rebounded from Friday's Game 1 gut-punch loss to even the series 1-1 with a Game 2 win over the Texas Rangers on Saturday (ARI 9, TEX 1). Right-hander Merrill Kelly was terrific in seven innings and the offense chipped away against Jordan Montgomery before blowing it against the bullpen.

Kelly limited Texas to one solo homer in his seven innings. He struck out nine, joining (who else?) Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling as the only D-backs pitchers to strike out at least nine batters in a World Series game. Tommy Pham led the charge offensively with four hits, though eight different D-backs scored a run and six different D-backs had an RBI. It was a total team effort.

Arizona's offense did not strike out until the eighth inning -- they struck out 14 times in Game 1, their most since Sept. 8 -- and the 6-7-8-9 hitters in the lineup went a combined 7 for 13 with five runs scored, four runs driven in, three walks, and one strikeout in Game 2. The D-backs won Game 2 because their starter was better and because their bottom of the lineup did more damage.

Here now are our takeaways from Game 2 of the 2023 World Series.

Kelly was dominant

Merrill Kelly
ARI • SP • #29
World Series Game 2 vs. Rangers
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Zac Gallen may be the ace, but Merrill Kelly has been Arizona's best starter this postseason, and he was outstanding in Game 2. Kelly retired the first 11 batters he faced and the last seven batters he faced, and held the Rangers to one run -- a Mitch Garver solo home run on a pitch way down and in -- in seven innings. He punched out nine.

Corey Seager and Adolis García, the dynamic duo that led the Rangers to the Game 1 win (and throughout the postseason), went a combined 0 for 6 with two strikeouts against Kelly, who faced only two batters out of the stretch all night. He got multiple swings and misses on four different pitches and only seven of the 24 batters Kelly faced hit the ball out of the infield. It was dominance.

Through four postseason starts Kelly has a 2.25 ERA, and he's averaging six innings per start. In three of his four starts he allowed no more than one run, and, in Game 2, he became the first starter to complete seven innings in a World Series game since Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole in 2019. Given the stakes, it's fair to say Game 2 was the biggest start of Kelly's career. He rose to the occasion and turned in one of the best World Series pitching performances in recent memory.

The D-backs made Montgomery grind

Jordan Montgomery
ARI • SP • #52
World Series Game 2 vs. Diamondbacks
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On Monday, Jordan Montgomery came out of the bullpen to throw 2 1/3 innings and 32 pitches in the Game 7 win over the Houston Astros in the Championship Series. It was the first time in his career he'd come out of the bullpen between starts, and the disruption to his routine might -- might -- have impacted Saturday's performance in Game 2 of the World Series.

Montgomery was missing nearly 2 mph off his sinker and curveball, his two best pitches, and he didn't get a swing and miss until his 50th pitch. The D-backs strung together four straight hard-hit balls to score two runs in the fourth inning. Gabriel Moreno went deep, Josh Jung made a stellar play to rob Christian Walker, Tommy Pham doubled, then Lourdes Gurriel Jr. singled him in.

Moreno's home run was his fourth of the postseason -- he had seven in the regular season -- and ties him with Gene Tenace (1972), Mike Piazza (2000), Jason Varitek (2003), Salvador Perez (2015), and Mike Zunino (2020) for the second most ever by a catcher in October. Sandy Alomar Jr. holds the record with five homers as a catcher in the 1997 postseason.

Anyway, even with reduced velocity and swing-and-miss-ability, Montgomery held the D-backs to just those two runs through six innings. Manager Bruce Bochy got a little greedy though. He sent Montgomery back out for the seventh inning and, two batters later, the D-backs stretched their lead to 3-0. Montgomery was charged with a fourth run later in the inning.

On one hand, Montgomery was better than his pitching line -- four runs in six innings -- would lead you to believe. On the other hand, the D-backs put a runner on base against him in every inning but the first, so the majority of Montgomery's 74 pitches were high stress. Montgomery was not as sharp in Game 2 as he was earlier this postseason, and the D-backs capitalized.

Truth be told, Arizona has been the better team through two World Series games. They were a Paul Sewald meltdown away from winning Game 1. The meltdown happened and the loss counts, but the D-backs were the better team most of Game 1, and they were certainly the better team in Game 2. They were better on the mound and in the batter's box. Manager Torey Lovullo should feel very good about the way his team has played even though the series is tied 1-1.

Marte kept his hitting streak alive

No player in baseball history has had a longer postseason hitting streak than Ketel Marte. The D-backs second baseman slapped a two-run single in his fourth at-bat of Game 2, extending his hitting streak to a record 18 postseason games. That is every postseason game of Marte's career. Here are the longest postseason hitting streaks:

  1. Ketel Marte: 18 games and counting (2017-23)
  2. Hank Bauer: 17 games (1956-58)
  3. Derek Jeter: 17 games (1998-99)
  4. Manny Ramirez: 17 games (2003-04)
  5. Several tied at 16 games (most recently Michael Brantley from 2020-21)

Marte is hitting .333/.354/.556 through 14 games this postseason, and although it took until his final at-bat to extend his hitting streak in Game 2, it was not a meaningless hit. He broke the game open with a two-run single that stretched a 4-1 lead to a 6-1 lead. In the postseason, ever little bit of breathing room is appreciated, especially after what happened in Game 1.

The D-backs released Nick Ahmed in September, at which point Marte became the team's longest-tenured player. He has been their best player this postseason -- he and Yordan Alvarez have been the two best players in the postseason period -- and now he has a record hitting streak to his name. Marte has stood out all October.

Snakes alive

The D-backs have avoided the dreaded (but not insurmountable) 2-0 series deficit. The best-of-seven has been reduced to a best-of-five and the D-backs now have home-field advantage. Chase Field will host Games 3-5. Sunday is an off-day, then the World Series will resume Monday night. Rookie Brandon Pfaadt (3-9, 5.72 ERA) and future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer (13-6, 2.77 ERA ) are expected to start in what will be a matchup of extremely different resumes.

Below are our live updates and analysis from Game 2 of the World Series.

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FINAL: D-backs 9, Rangers 1

Merrill Kelly was dominant and just about everyone in Arizona's lineup either scored a run or drove one in. The World Series is now a best-of-five series. Sunday is a travel day. The series resumes with Game 3 at Chase Field on Monday.

October 29, 2023, 3:05 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 11:05 pm EDT
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Three outs to go, and Arizona's 9-1 lead gives them a 99.8% chance of winning Game 2 and evening the series.

October 29, 2023, 2:52 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 10:52 pm EDT
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Diamondbacks break game open in 8th while Marte makes history

When the top of the eighth inning started, the Diamondbacks had a 4-1 lead. That's somewhat comfortable, but certainly within striking range for a team with the offensive firepower of the Rangers. The D-backs offense decided to put the game to bed instead of having to sweat it out. 

Tommy Pham singled, meaning he went 4 for 4 in this game after a 2 for 20 NLCS. After a sac bunt and a strikeout, the D-backs decided to put together a two-out rally. Two straight batters walked before Ketel Marte singled up to the middle to plate two. Then Corbin Carroll singled home another. 

On the Marte hit, remember that he was tied for the longest-ever hitting streak in the postseason entering the game, so he's now the record-holder. He has an 18-game playoff hitting streak. Not only that, but he's never appeared in a playoff game without a hit. That's 18 career postseason games and 18 times in which he's gotten at least one hit. 

October 29, 2023, 2:41 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 10:41 pm EDT
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October 29, 2023, 2:24 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 10:24 pm EDT
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Fitting that Stratton pitches tonight

He was the forgotten part of the Montgomery trade on Texas' side.

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Tommy Pham is 4 for 4

Again, he was 2 for 20 in the NLCS.

October 29, 2023, 2:14 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 10:14 pm EDT
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89 pitches through seven for Kelly

7-8-9 coming in the eighth. I'd absolutely let him go until the top of the order, especially with a three-run lead. 

October 29, 2023, 2:10 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 10:10 pm EDT
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Kelly's deep start tonight

Welcomed for many reasons, not the least of which is that both Ginkel and Sewald were stretched last night. 

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As we get into the late innings

The Diamondbacks' bullpen has been lights out for most of the postseason, but showed cracks last night (in that, you know, they blew the game). Was that a blip? Or is everyone reaching their end?

October 29, 2023, 2:02 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 10:02 pm EDT
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Going into the bottom of the seventh, the D-backs have an 89.9% chance of winning Game 2.

October 29, 2023, 2:00 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 10:00 pm EDT
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Longoria extends Arizona lead, chases Monty

The D-backs in Game 2 held a two-run lead for the first four innings, but the Rangers struck back to make it 2-1 in the fifth. In the seventh, however, 38-year-old veteran batsman Evan Longoria made it 3-1 with this RBI knock off Jordan Montgomery: 

Of note: 

That hit and ribbie also spelled an end to Montgomery's night in Game 2, and that meant the suspect Texas bullpen was tasked with getting outs. Speaking of which, soon after Corbin Carroll drove Longoria home on a single to make it 4-1 Diamondbacks. 

October 29, 2023, 1:56 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 9:56 pm EDT
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Credit the Diamondbacks' offense, but ...

This game is all about Merrill Kelly totally eliminating the Rangers' offense. Good on the D-backs for getting so many hits and scoring four runs to this point, obviously. I just want to make sure it's clear the MVP of the game is Kelly. (So far).

October 29, 2023, 1:55 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 9:55 pm EDT
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Bochy is on his way back out

That'll do it for Andrew Heaney. 

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Carroll singles in another run

It's 4-1 Diamondbacks.

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Perdomo bunts

As he is wont to do. Arizona now has a runner in scoring position with one out and a 3-1 lead.

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3-1 D-backs lead now

Alek Thomas doubles and then Evan Longoria hits one hard to third base. It got through Josh Jung, which was pretty surprising. It was ruled a single. Regardless, the D-backs got some insurance and Jordan Montgomery is done.

October 29, 2023, 1:48 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 9:48 pm EDT
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Longoria gets one by Jung

The D-backs now lead by a 3-1 margin. Montgomery's night is done.

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At this rate I would leave Kelly in until he gets into trouble. Have the bullpen up but let him ride

October 29, 2023, 1:44 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 9:44 pm EDT
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Kelly through six

I think you gotta leave him in for the seventh, too. He's only at 74 pitches and just struck out the side. It was the top of the order.

October 29, 2023, 1:43 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 9:43 pm EDT
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Six scoreless innings on 74 pitches for Kelly. He's been terrific.

October 29, 2023, 1:42 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 9:42 pm EDT
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The Pham pick-off

October 29, 2023, 1:40 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 9:40 pm EDT
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Tommy Pham

He just doubled, apparently accidentally so, as he seemed confused by the ball going down the right-field line. He was 2 for 20 in the NLCS. He's 3 for 3 tonight. 

And then he just got picked off to end the inning. 

October 29, 2023, 1:34 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 9:34 pm EDT
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Dunning warming

He also pitched last night. He hasn't worked on zero days' rest all year.

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Mitch Garver halves the Arizona lead

Down 2-0 in the fifth, Texas DH Mitch Garver notched just second hit off Merrill Kelly in Game 1, but it was a big one: 

That one left the bat at 102.8 mph and traveled 404 feet, which means it would've been a home run in all 30 MLB ballparks. Of note: 

Garver dealt with a knee sprain during the season, but when healthy he was a rich source of power for the Rangers (19 homers in 87 games). That blast above is his third homer of the 2023 postseason. This one cut the Snakes' lead to 2-1. 

October 29, 2023, 1:27 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 9:27 pm EDT
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Here's the play in question

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Fashion police

Left side of the Diamondbacks' infield looks great. Ketel Marte in neon yellow and Evan Longoria in turquoise. I'm not sure any of it matches the uniform but whatever.

October 29, 2023, 1:24 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 9:24 pm EDT
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I have absolutely no idea how Christian Walker snagged that ball on the bounce off first base.

October 29, 2023, 1:23 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 9:23 pm EDT
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Amazing adjustment by Christian Walker!

Wow. Jonah Heim hit a bouncing ball down the first-base line and it actually hit first base and jumped up. Walker at first base reacted by bare-handing the ball to get the out. 

October 29, 2023, 1:22 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 9:22 pm EDT
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Rough start ...

Mitch Garver homer. 2-1 Diamondbacks. 

October 29, 2023, 1:20 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 9:20 pm EDT
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Something to watch in the bottom of the fifth

Let's see how efficient Kelly is. Remember, he was pulled after five innings when he was dealing against the Phillies in Game 6. He had thrown 90 pitches at the time and it was the third time through the order. Plus, it was the second time the Phillies were seeing him in less than a week. He's at 43 pitches right now and since the Rangers are unfamiliar with him, surely Torey Lovullo will let him go deeper than five. Unless he has a rough inning here. 

October 29, 2023, 1:19 AM
Oct. 28, 2023, 9:19 pm EDT
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