At the end of the 2021 season, it would have been difficult to envision this World Series matchup in 2023.
The Texas Rangers host the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 1 of the Fall Classic on Friday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington. Just two years ago, the Rangers had a 60-102 record, and the Diamondbacks were even worse at 52-110.
Yet here they are after getting into the playoffs as wild cards then moving through three rounds of the postseason in identical fashion to reach this point.
The Rangers swept both the Tampa Bay Rays in an American League Wild Card Series and the Baltimore Orioles in a Division Series before beating the Houston Astros in seven games in the Championship Series.
The Diamondbacks won the National League Championship Series in seven games over the Philadelphia Phillies after sweeping both the Miami Marlins in a Wild Card Series and the Los Angeles Dodgers in a Division Series.
Here are four players to watch in the World Series:
ADOLIS GARCIA, RANGERS
The right fielder was MVP of the ALCS as he continually wore out the Astros pitching staff. He went 10 for 28 (.357) with five home runs and 15 RBIs while also inciting a benches-clearing brawl in Game 6 when hit by a pitch from Bryan Abreu.
Garcia has driven in 20 runs in 12 postseason games. He is one away from the record of 21 in a single postseason set by David Freese in 2011 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The 30-year-old Garcia also had a fine regular season as he was selected to the All-Star Game. He batted .245/.328/.508 with 39 homers in 148 games.
In a shrewd move by former general manager Jon Daniels, the Rangers purchased Garcia’s contract from the Cardinals following the 2019 season when St. Louis dropped him from the 40-man roster.
NATHAN EOVALDI, RANGERS
Eovaldi has been the ace of the Rangers pitching staff this postseason, winning all four starts, and will pitch Game 1. His ERA in October is 2.42 and he allowed 21 hits and four walks in 26 innings while striking out 28.
That has continued a career-long trend of strong pitching in the postseason by Eovaldi. The right-hander has an 8-3 record and a 2.87 ERA in 15 games, including 10 starts.
The Rangers signed Eovaldi to a two-year, $34-millioon contract last winter as a free agent and he has proven to be a bargain for GM Chris Young. The 33-year-old went 12-5 with a 3.63 ERA in 25 starts in the regular season, though he was sidelined for seven weeks in the second half with a strained forearm.
KETEL MARTE, DIAMONDBACKS
The second baseman was the MVP of the NLCS during a series in which he hit a walk-off single to win Game 4. Overall, Marte batted .387 (12 for 31) with four doubles and a triple.
Marte also has a hit in all 16 career postseason games. That is one away from the major-league record for longest postseason hitting streak, which is held by Derek Jeter.
Marte’s postseason comes after a fine regular season in which the 30-year-old hit .276/.358/.485 with 25 home runs in 150 games.
Marte is in the second season of a five-year, $76-million contract that runs through 2027 and additionally contains a club option for 2028. The option is worth $13 million and has a $3-million buyout.
ZAC GALLEN, DIAMONDBACKS
The right-hander will oppose Eovaldi in the Series opener despite having a rough NLCS. Gallen lost both starts against the Phillies while allowing nine runs on 14 hits in 11 innings.
However, Gallen notched wins over the Brewers and Dodgers earlier in the postseason and is the Diamondbacks’ top starter. His regular-season record was 17-9 to go with a 3.47 ERA in 34 starts and 220 strikeouts in 210 innings.
Represented by powerful agent Scott Boras, Gallen is making $5.6 million this season. The 28-year-old becomes a free agent following the 2025 season and is on course for a potentially big payday if he reaches the open market.