Rangers hope bumpy road to the World Series ends in first championship

This season’s success came as a surprise to most fans.

By Michael Marks & Gabrielle Muñoz October 24, 2023 3:47 pm, ,

There probably is no easy way to the World Series, but if there is, the Texas Rangers certainly didn’t take it. 

After leading the American League West division for most of the season, a slump near the end almost kept them out of the playoffs entirely. They then had to win three straight playoff series in which they were the underdog – including a seven-game nail-biter against their in-state rivals, who happened to be the defending champs.

But Monday night in Houston, what so often seemed like a long shot became reality: The Rangers are going to the World Series. Their 11-4 win over the Astros sealed their first berth since 2011. On Friday, they’ll open the series against either the Philadelphia Phillies or the Arizona Diamondbacks, who face off in Game 7 of the NLCS tonight.

Mike Piellucci, sports editor for D Magazine, said it’s been an exciting time for the city, which hasn’t had a champion since the Dallas Mavericks’ NBA Finals win in 2011.

“Over the last 12 years, there’s only been one other team that’s made a championship series of any kind. That was the Stars – but that was in 2020, at the height of the pandemic. So everybody’s home; nobody is celebrating this together the way that sports so often bring us together as a community,” he said. “So this is really the first time in a long time that Dallas has had a team that everybody’s been able to rally round in person, the way it should be done in a big sports town like this one.”

And that excitement extends to those who don’t usually follow baseball, Piellucci said.

“Dallas is the sort of town that it’s always eager to get behind a winner, and this team is that. When you look at some of the other teams in town, the Dallas Stars are really good, but in terms of biggest teams in the market, you know, they’re not the Cowboys; they’re not the Mavericks. They might not even necessarily be the Rangers,” he said. “So you look across town: The Cowboys haven’t won in 27 years, and people here are sort of of the mindset of ‘you got to prove it,’ right. No matter how good they look in the regular season, until they see a deep run for the Cowboys, they’re always wary.

“The Mavericks two years ago were in the Final Four in the NBA, and then they collapsed and fell out of the playoffs last year. Everybody was miserable about that. So this has really been a breath of fresh air. Now that it’s here and now that there’s something to rally around, yeah, the city is going crazy for it.”

» MORE: Rangers headed to World Series with win over reigning champion Astros

Piellucci said the Rangers’ success over the past few weeks can be attributed to two things:

“One, like a lot of Rangers teams, this team can hit. This lineup, not everybody’s performed the way they should one through nine, but there are dangerous hitters one through nine,” he said. “And I think two is just they’ve got the best manager in the game. You know, Bruce Bochy’s won three World Series. He’s never lost a game seven. He knows how to push the right buttons.

“And so even though the pitching is a bit thin, when you’ve got the hitters, you’ve got a couple of great starters at the top of the rotation and you’ve got an all-time great manager, that’s been working so far.”

» GET MORE NEWS FROM AROUND THE STATE: Sign up for Texas Standard’s weekly newsletters

So who should Dallas fans be hoping to see against the Rangers in the World Series, the Phillies or the Diamondbacks?

“Hope and planning with this team is kind of a fool’s errand, right? Just on paper, Arizona’s an easier matchup; Philly’s a bit more of a complete team. Philly has been there before, so they have World Series experience,” Piellucci said. “So I feel like Texas would probably rather play Arizona. But again, predicting anything that this team has done all year is just, you know – you never know what’s actually going to happen.

If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support it here. Your gift helps pay for everything you find on texasstandard.org and KUT.org. Thanks for donating today.