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The Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks took long, bumpy roads back to the World Series.

For both of these long-shot pennant winners, it’s become part of their DNA.

Both teams rallied on the road in their League Championship Series, winning Games 6 and 7 away from home to punch their tickets to the Fall Classic – the first time that happened in both leagues since the LCS went to a best-of-seven format in 1985.

“I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again: A connected team is a very dangerous team,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “No matter what happened in those times of crisis, these guys stuck together.”

Texas hasn’t played in the World Series since twice being within one strike of winning the 2011 title against St. Louis. The Rangers have never won it all.

“We’ve had some hard times recently. Those are over,” general manager Chris Young declared soon after the Rangers took their third AL pennant.

The Diamondbacks are back on baseball’s biggest stage for the first time since 2001, when Luis Gonzalez’s ninth-inning single off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in Game 7 earned the franchise its only title.

It’s certainly not the showdown fans expected. A Rangers-Diamondbacks matchup had 1,750 to 1 odds when wagering opened last fall.

Betting favourites

The Rangers opened as nearly 2-to-1 betting favourites over the Diamondbacks and are favoured at -162 to win the Series, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Game 1 in Texas

Rangers right-hander Nathan Eovaldi starts the opener Friday night against Zac Gallen and the Diamondbacks in baseball’s third World Series matching two wild-card teams. Texas has home-field advantage in the best-of-seven Series because it won more regular-season games (90) than Arizona (84). But is that really a plus for a club that’s already equalled a postseason record by winning its first eight road games? Corey Seager and the Rangers have played only four home games over the past month – and they lost all three to Houston in the AL Championship Series. “We’ve learned throughout the losses in the [ALCS] that maybe we need to keep our emotions a little calmer in the big moments,” second baseman Marcus Semien said. “Because the fans expect a lot out of us, and the home crowds throughout the playoffs expect the home players to do big things.”

Diamondbacks journey

After beating defending NL champion Philadelphia in the NLCS, some say Arizona is ahead of schedule, advancing to the World Series with a young roster that was supposed to need a few more years of seasoning before hitting the sport’s biggest stage. Lovullo and general manager Mike Hazen have a different perspective. The two friends and colleagues have navigated a difficult five years – both personally and professionally – that have made the D-backs’ improbable run to the Fall Classic even sweeter. The Diamondbacks lost 110 games in 2021, and Arizona’s president, CEO and general partner Derrick Hall admits that earlier in his career, he might have made a change at GM and manager. But Hall said he “had a hunch” his patience would be rewarded if he stuck with Hazen and Lovullo. There was also personal tragedy mixed into those tough seasons. Nicole Hazen – the GM’s wife – was diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2020 and fought the brain cancer for more than two years. She was 45 when she died. When the D-backs clinched a playoff spot on Sept. 30, Mike Hazen admitted the emotions were still raw. “It has been long. A lot of stuff has happened,” Hazen said. “There is somebody for me that is not here that was here six years ago that was a huge Diamondbacks fan. Was a huge Merrill Kelly fan. He was her favourite player.”

Leading the way

Texas slugger Adolis Garcia homered in the past four games of the ALCS and set a record for RBIs in a postseason series with 15. He had four hits and scored three times in Game 7 against defending World Series champion Houston. Garcia’s 20 RBIs are one shy of the postseason record set by David Freese, whose 2011 St. Louis Cardinals beat the Rangers in a seven-game World Series. “He’s a bad man, isn’t he?” Seager said. “To be able to come into this atmosphere and get booed every at-bat and do what he did was really special. It was really fun to watch.”

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