ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers are one of just a few teams in Major League Baseball that boast a biometric lab in their home ballpark. Labs have become all the rage in recent years, but generally, they’re housed in a team's spring training facility. At Globe Life Field, the Rangers have one right across from their clubhouse.
One of the advantages is that guys can take a snapshot of their mechanics when everything is working. Instead of using the lab just for training purposes, Rangers players can make a blueprint of their best selves to refer back to if and when they struggle. If the point is to capture peak performance, surely playoff star Adolis García is a prime candidate? What could be hotter than the newly crowned ALCS MVP, whose walk-off home run in Game 1 of the World Series was his sixth in five games?
But Donnie Ecker, the Rangers’ bench coach and offensive coordinator, says that actually, García has not stopped to take data-driven stock of his swing during this historic run.
“He'll come to me when he wants those things,” Ecker said Friday after the Rangers’ incredible, 6-5 comeback victory. “But he's kind of feeling so confident right now that sometimes you don't even want to make it objective. Just want to keep it flowing.”
Recently, Mitch Garver told his teammates not to try to be the hero.
“Just do what the game calls for,” left fielder Evan Carter recalled him saying.
Sometimes, though, the game calls for a hero in an obvious way — like when it’s the bottom of the ninth and the team is down by two and there’s a runner on and Corey Seager is at the plate.
This is the ballpark where Seager was World Series MVP in 2020 with the Los Angeles Dodgers during a postseason played in a neutral-site bubble. In Game 7 of the ALCS, to clinch the pennant, Seager’s solo shot in the top of the first gave Texas a lead it never lost. He has been more than twice as good as the average player on offense this October, according to wRC+. How could you not think he was going to do something heroic?
When he stepped to the plate Friday against Arizona Diamondbacks closer Paul Sewald, who had yet to surrender a run in eight appearances this postseason, Seager was prepared. In a hitters’ meeting two days earlier, Ecker had advised him to approach Sewald just like he did Cristian Javier — the Astros’ starter he homered off in that Game 7.
In that at-bat, Seager had swung at the second pitch, a four-seam fastball at the very top of the zone. Against Sewald, Seager saw basically the same thing — similar speed on the four-seam, almost identical location — on the first pitch of the at-bat, and he sent it 418 feet to tie the game.
Later, Ecker said it was the most emotion he has seen from Seager.
“I think we saw it in Houston,” Ecker said. “Then today, I think it went to a whole different level.”
Two batters later, Sewald hit García in the side of the hand with an inside pitch. This time, the Rangers weren’t worried about intent, but they were worried about García. Hands are delicate, and the ability to whip a bat through the zone is critical.
In an on-field interview after the game was won, García denied that he was hurting. But Ecker offered a more realistic evaluation.
“He's in pain,” he said. “I think he's got enough chemicals going through his body right now — his dopamine is so high — that he’s not feeling anything.”
Ah, yes, about that: In the bottom of the 11th, after another Arizona reliever, Kyle Nelson, got Carter to fly out, the D-backs made a pitching change, bringing in Miguel Castro to face García.
While García waited on the top step of the dugout for Castro to get ready, he was joined by Ecker with the iPad. They watched the previous two times García faced Castro — in which he saw almost entirely sinkers. Ecker told him it would probably be more of the same this time. Which was all García needed to know.
“He goes, ‘OK, watch me,’” Ecker said.
Castro threw García a slider followed by three changeups to start the at-bat. When he went to the sinker on a 3-1 count, García was ready.
“It was a good pitch they made,” Ecker said, “just a better swing.”
Since he hit it the other way, García wasn’t totally sure it was out until the ball came down on delirious fans’ side of the right-field wall. But his teammates didn’t wait that long.
“We might have been to home plate before he was to first,” Carter said of the ensuing walk-off celebration. The heroes everyone saw coming had powered the Rangers to a dramatic 1-0 series lead in search of the franchise’s first championship.
Ecker said Seager and García are really close — and that perhaps the former has started to become a little more expressive after seeing the theatrics of the latter. But still, they are incredibly different. Whereas Seager will undoubtedly study his home-run swing from Game 1 and find room for improvement, García doesn’t want to know what the data or the lab have to say about being the hottest hitter on the planet.
“There’s no need because the feeling is so good,” Ecker said. “Just kind of wants to keep repeating that feeling.”
Asked after the game how many more highlight reel-worthy moments he has in him, Garcia said: “I hope a lot of them.”