PHOENIX — Bruce Bochy barely had time to raise his arms toward the sky. His coaches crowded him with hugs and back slaps as soon as the final pitch of the 2023 season entered the strike zone, ending the 5-0 victory by the Texas Rangers over the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 5 of the World Series. When reliever Josh Sborz’s curveball landed in catcher Jonah Heim’s mitt Wednesday night, Bochy disappeared, if only for a moment, re-emerging to join his players on the field. He had thought about returning to nights like this in a dugout in Germany and on his couch in Nashville. He had wondered if he might manage again. Now he had reclaimed his usual place at this time of year: hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy to commemorate a title.
For the first time in franchise history, the Rangers can call themselves champions of the world. Yet for newfound kings of the sport, their cast was quite familiar with the stage. Bochy managed his fourth team to a title. Corey Seager collected his second World Series MVP trophy. Nathan Eovaldi buoyed the Rangers pitching staff much like he did with the Boston Red Sox en route to the 2018 crown. Texas general manager Chris Young will add a World Series ring to a collection that already includes the ring he won as a player with the Kansas City Royals in 2015.
Bruce Bochy is one of just five managers to win 4 #WorldSeries titles.
t-1⃣ Joe McCarthy: 7 💍
t-1⃣ Casey Stengel: 7 💍
3⃣ Connie Mack: 5 💍
t-4⃣ Bruce Bochy: 4 💍
t-4⃣ Walter Alston: 4 💍
t-4⃣ Joe Torre: 4 💍
Bochy has won 15 of his last 16 postseason series. pic.twitter.com/NaGlpjs7u6
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) November 2, 2023
Seager sparked the go-ahead, seventh-inning rally. Eovaldi survived six rocky innings without capitulating. Bochy pressed the proper buttons to stave off Arizona in the final frames. To watch Bochy acting like a maestro with his relievers felt like a trip into the sport’s recent past. He exuded delight as Texas put together a four-run flurry in the ninth.
Bochy once ruled October. His San Francisco Giants captured three titles within five years in the 2010s. He became renowned for his bullpen management. At 68, the skill has not deserted him, even if the act of removing a pitcher has become more perilous. Bochy walks as if there is a rock in his shoe but he cannot discern which one. He once proselytized so much about the joys of walking that he wrote a book about it. But that was nearly a decade ago, before his first retirement from managing in 2019, after which he underwent a series of surgeries on his back, hips and knee. He spent the intervening hours golfing and fishing and feeling grateful to not take part in the Covid-wrecked 2020 season.
A little more than a year ago, Bochy returned to the dugout. He wore the tricolor of France, the country where he was born, as he managed the club in the trials of the World Baseball Classic in Regensburg, Germany. The French were routed, but the experience awakened something within Bochy. “I said, ‘Man, I really miss this,’” he said before Game 5.
Rosenthal: ‘He’s made for this’ — Rangers manager Bruce Bochy wins fourth World Series
The opportunity to return came from Young, who played for Bochy in San Diego in the 2000s. Young considered Bochy the ideal candidate to shepherd the Rangers, a club brimming with unproven young players and high-priced free agents. Young visited Bochy at the retired skipper’s home in Nashville and convinced him to return. The team intended to contend, but could not be sure about the timeline. At times in 2023, Texas looked ready for primetime. At times, the Rangers looked bound for a third-place finish and an October spent on the couch. The club rode a rollercoaster, but rode it all the way into November, displaying the resiliency and mettle befitting a champion.
The Rangers refused to fold when $185 million offseason addition Jacob deGrom required Tommy John surgery after only six starts. The team refused to fold when the Houston Astros captured the American League West on the final day of the regular season and later blitzed Texas for three consecutive defeats in the AL Championship Series. The team refused to fold when outfielder Adolis García and starter Max Scherzer suffered season-ending injuries in Game 3 of the World Series.
After deGrom went down, Young upholstered his starting rotation at the trade deadline. After Houston grabbed control of the ALCS, Texas crushed their in-state rivals in Games 6 and 7 on the road at Minute Maid Park. After García and Scherzer got hurt, the Rangers just kept humming, running roughshod over Arizona relievers in Game 4 before finishing the job on Wednesday.
Game 5 cleansed the palate after a wretched, reliever-dominated Game 4. For Texas, Eovaldi overcame five walks and a boatload of traffic. Arizona countered with Zac Gallen, their most accomplished starting pitcher. The series had reached this point because the Diamondbacks lacked depth in their rotation and bullpen.
Texas overwhelmed Arizona during the first two nights at Chase Field. The Rangers pitching staff kept the Diamondbacks off the bases in Game 3. A night later, Seager and Marcus Semien upended manager Torey Lovullo’s bullpen game. In the hours before Game 5, Lovullo lamented not intentionally walking Seager in the second inning of Game 4. When reliever Kyle Nelson hung a slider, Seager delivered his third home run of the series. In the aftermath, Lovullo admitted he agreed with his online critics, a group he referred to as “basement keyboard pounders.” The cellar-dwellers, in this case, were right. “It wasn’t a great decision by me,” Lovullo said. “I gotta be better, no doubt about it.”
Lovullo had fewer decisions to make in the early innings of Game 5. Gallen, Arizona’s last line of defense, took the field at 5:03 p.m. local time. Fireworks burst above the ballpark as Gallen led the Diamondbacks onto the diamond. For many years, as Arizona stumbled around the basement of the National League West, Gallen offered hope. A sluggish September cost him a chance at this season’s NL Cy Young award. Gallen dealt with early-inning troubles throughout this October. Arizona still trusted him to keep the season alive.
Gallen operated with pristine fastball command at the start of Game 5. He sat down the first 14 batters he faced. He used the heater to challenge the Rangers inside the strike zone and set up offspeed pitches outside the zone. In the first inning, he retired Seager with a well-placed, 1-2 changeup. Seager fished for the pitch and grounded out. Three innings later, Gallen flung a first-pitch changeup to a similar spot. Seager reached again and rolled a grounder over to the right side of the infield. Seven of Gallen’s first 12 outs came on the ground. He needed 35 pitches to finish four innings.
The Diamondbacks placed far more stress on Eovaldi. Arizona rookie Corbin Carroll led off the first inning with a four-pitch walk and stole second base on Eovaldi’s fifth pitch. Outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. opened the second with a single. Carroll recorded a hit of his own to start the third, with second baseman Ketel Marte walking behind him. On all three occasions, Eovaldi stranded the runners. After veteran infielder Evan Longoria blooped a two-out double in the fourth, Eovaldi did not panic. He caught No. 9 hitter Geraldo Perdomo looking at a 94 mph fastball to escape. Arizona went hitless in eight early at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Nathan Eovaldi’s resilient Game 5 embodies Rangers’ championship run
Texas taxed Gallen in the fifth. He still kept them off the board. Gurriel ran down a well-struck drive from rookie third baseman Josh Jung in the left-center gap. A two-out walk by first baseman Nathaniel Lowe ended Gallen’s unlikely bid for a perfect game. Gallen recovered by whiffing Heim with a curveball in the dirt.
Eovaldi bent and bent and bent some more in the bottom of the inning. He did not break. Marte walked and first baseman Christian Walker sprayed a single into right field. A walk by designated hitter Tommy Pham loaded the bases. Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux visited the mound. It is unlikely he instructed Eovaldi to float a curveball at the top of the strike zone. But that is what Eovaldi did — and Gurriel tapped the bender into Seager’s glove for the third out.
Gallen permitted his first hit in the seventh. Of course, it was Seager. His single lacked the concussive thump of his homers earlier in the series. He swung at a curveball, located again by Gallen in the low-and-away quadrant that befuddled Seager earlier in the game. This time, Seager clipped enough of the baseball to shoot it through the vacated dirt near third base.
A miniaturized rally ensued. Texas rookie Evan Carter cracked a double off a misplaced curveball. Mitch Garver, the designated hitter, stroked a go-ahead single up the middle to score Seager and give Texas a 1-0 lead. Gallen received a standing ovation for his effort. He would still exit the game on the hook for the hard-luck loss.
Bochy turned to his trio of high-leverage relievers for the final nine outs. Aroldis Chapman picked up two. Bochy made the long trek to the mound to activate Sborz. Sborz finished the seventh and worked around a two-out walk in the eighth. The tension eased for Texas in the top of the ninth. The Rangers strung together three singles against Arizona closer Paul Sewald. The third, hit by Heim, skirted beneath the glove of center field Alek Thomas and led to two runs.
The Texas dugout erupted as Heim’s ball rolled to the wall. Bochy stood at the top step. He offered one of his massive mitts for a high five as his players crossed the plate. He clapped his hands and sported a grin a few batters later when Semien put the champagne on ice with a two-run home run. Bochy could grin through the final three outs. He had stood at this summit before. He understood that it never got old.
On a couch in Nashville, in the dugout in Germany, a night like this might have felt like a dream. On Wednesday night, for the fourth time in his decorated managerial career, Bochy could call himself a champion.
(Photo: Christian Petersen / Getty Images)