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By RONALD BLUM
AP Baseball Writer
Tell the truth: How many people picked Arizona and Texas to meet in the World Series?
A Rangers-Diamondbacks matchup had 1,750 to 1 odds when wagering opened last fall.
But in an era when 12 teams make the playoffs, sustained excellence over the six-month regular season has become a boarding pass, not the journey, leading to a long shot Series that opens Friday night at Globe Life Field.
All the glamour teams are watching at home: the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves stumbled in the Division Series, defending champion Houston was ousted by Texas, and the New York Yankees didn’t even make it to the postseason.
Instead, Major League Baseball has its third all-wild card meeting, a Grand Canyon vs. Lone Star finale of second-place teams played in air-conditioned ballparks under retractable roofs — potentially the first all-indoor Fall Classic.
Both prior all-wild card matchups went seven games.
Texas and the Diamondbacks are both two years removed from last-place finishes and 100-loss seasons. Arizona is a No. 6 seed and Texas a No. 5.
Bruce Bochy, 68 and in his 26th year as a big league manager, joined the Rangers last October. He is going for his fourth title, which would tie Walter Alston and Joe Torre for fourth-most behind Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel (seven each) and Connie Mack (five). All prior managers with three or more are in the Hall of Fame.
Texas started play as the expansion Washington Senators from 1961-71 and has played 10,028 games without a title (9,964 regular-season games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, plus 64 in the postseason). That’s the second-longest drought behind Cleveland, which last won in 1948.
Arizona’s only title came on Luis Gonzalez’s ninth-inning single off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in Game 7 in 2001.
Texas headed into the playoffs with the sixth-highest payroll at $228 million. Arizona was 20th at $127 million.
Both teams rallied and earned their World Series berths on the road. It was the first time road teams won Games 6 and 7 in both leagues since the LCS expanded to a best-of-seven format in 1985.
Texas is 8-0 on the road in the postseason but has home-field advantage because it won 90 games to Arizona’s 84 — which could be the second-fewest for a World Series champion in a non-shortened season behind the St. Louis Cardinals’ 83 in 2006.