ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Texas Rangers have played only four home games over the past month, and lost all three in the AL Championship Series.
Yet, there they were back at Globe Life Field on Wednesday getting ready to host Game 1 of the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
So is it really home-field advantage for a team that’s already matched a postseason record by winning its first eight road games?
“We love playing here,” All-Star catcher Jonah Heim said before the Rangers worked out. “Throughout the whole year, we’ve played pretty good at home.”
Except against the Houston Astros, which is why the Rangers went into these playoffs as a wild-card team that didn’t have home-field advantage until now.
Game 1 is Friday night in the retractable-roof stadium that hosted MLB’s neutral-site World Series in 2020, the first year the ballpark opened.
Texas and Arizona both had to win Games 6 and 7 of their respective League Championship Series on the road to get to the World Series. That had never happened in both LCS matchups since those series expanded to a best-of-seven format in 1985. But it set up the third World Series matching wild-card teams.
“We’ve both played in tough environments. It’s kind of been the theme all postseason of the road teams have been playing really well,” Texas second baseman Marcus Semien said. “That’s just how it’s gone this year for whatever reason. But the focus now for us is playing well at home.”
Take away the Rangers’ 1-9 record at home this season against Houston, including those ALCS games last week, and they are 50-25 against everybody else they’ve hosted. They won their only other playoff game at Globe Life Field, completing a three-game sweep of Baltimore in the Division Series.
Arizona, which clinched the NL pennant Tuesday night in Philadelphia, split its quick two-game set at Texas in early May.
The Rangers have home-field advantage in the World Series because their 90 wins in the regular season were six more than Arizona had. They would have also had it against Philadelphia, which won 90 games but was swept in three games at Globe Life Field in the very first series this season for last year’s NL champions.
Houston had 90 wins as well, but took the AL West title on a head-to-head tiebreaker because of its 9-4 mark against the Rangers during the regular season. The Astros won six of seven in Arlington, including a three-game sweep in September when they homered 16 times while outscoring Texas 39-10. And they needed every one of those wins to force the tiebreaker scenario.
When the Rangers played their regular-season home finale Sept. 24, they had seven road games left and controlled their own playoff destiny. But they went 3-4 on that final trip, losing 1-0 at Seattle on the final day of the season to squander the division crown to Houston.
Texas then had to fly coast-to-coast, going over North Texas along the way, but swept Tampa Bay in a best-of-three Wild Card Series before traveling up the East Coast to face the Orioles for two games. Then came the Lone Star State rematch with the Astros that became the second best-of-seven postseason series in which the visiting team won every game — the other was Houston’s loss to Washington in the 2019 World Series.
“It was tough. It was rough for us,” rookie third baseman Josh Jung said of that last trip before the playoffs. “I don’t know what switched or what turned on. But it was just this mentality that we were kind of playing hero ball in Seattle.
“Where you see it this postseason, it’s just pass the baton to the next guy. Have the best at-bat you can, the next guy’s going to do it. We’re not worried about being the hero.”
The Diamondbacks, who lost all three games at home to Houston in the final series of the regular season, also quickly turned things around in the postseason. They also swept through their first two playoff rounds, winning both games in the wild-card round at NL Central champion Milwaukee before winning twice in Los Angeles and then wrapping up the Division Series at home against the 100-win Dodgers.
Texas was 50-31 at Globe Life Field during the regular season, with only Tampa Bay, the Dodgers and Atlanta winning more home games.
“Once we saw what the NLCS matchup was, we knew if we win our pennant we get home field, and here we are,” Semien said. “It’s great for the fans. It’s great for us. We’ve learned throughout the losses in the (ALCS) that maybe we need to keep our emotions a little calmer in the big moments. Because the fans expect a lot out of us, and the home crowds throughout the playoffs expect the home players to do big things.”
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