October 23, 2020

World Series Game 3: Dodgers 6, Rays 2

Dodgers - 102 201 000 - 6 10  0 
Rays    - 000 010 001 - 2  4  0 
Walter Buehler (6-3-1-1-10, 93) kept the Rays' bats in quarantine, while Justin Turner ignited the offense with a first-inning home run and a double in the middle of the Dodgers' third-inning rally. Mookie Betts had two hits, two stolen bases, and one RBI, while Max Muncy had two hits and knocked in two runs.

Rays starter Charlie Morton (4.1-7-5-1-6, 91) did not have it Friday night. He allowed at least two hits and one run in three of the four innings he completed. The last team to have two of their first three World Series starters give up five or more runs was the 2007 Rockies (who, you might recall, got swept by the Red Sox).

Turner's home run aside, in the early innings, it looked like this game could be a pitchers' duel. Buehler had faced nine batters and issued only a walk. Morton had struck out the first two Dodgers in the bottom of the third. Then he unraveled. He hit Corey Seager with a pitch and gave up a double to Turner. Muncy brought both runners home with a single to center. 

In the fourth, Morton gave up a leadoff single to Cody Bellinger and a one-out hit to Joc Pederson. Austin Barnes laid down a bunt that scored one run and Betts grounded a single up the middle to make it 5-0.

Buehler had a no-hitter going with one out in the fifth. Coupled with Blake Snell's 4.2 no-hit innings on Wednesday, this is the first time the World Series had back-to-back games with four no-hit innings by either team, since 1965 (Sandy Koufax in Game 5, Mudcat Grant in Game 6. They both allowed singles to start the fifth. (Jim Kaat had 4.1 no-hit innings in Game 2.))

The Rays got a run in the fifth on doubles by Manuel Margot and Willy Adames, but Los Angeles answered with a solo dong from Barnes. (He's the second player in World Series history with a home run and a run-scoring sacrifice bunt in the same game. Hector Lopez did it for the Yankees in Game 5 of the 1961 WS.) Randy Arozarena homered off Kelsey Jansen in the ninth.

Ji-Man Choi put on an entertaining show at first base. He went into a full stretch (an actual split!) for the putout on the first batter of the game. Betts grounded to shortstop; Adames went to his backhand and fired a low throw that Choi gloved on a short hop. Later in the game, Choi twice leapt and snagged errant throws and was able to tag the baserunner on his way down (Seager in the fourth and Betts in the eighth).

Betts is the first player in 22 years with multiple multi-steal games in the same World Series (Omar Vizquel, 1997). He is also the third player to have two hits, two steals, and at least one RBI in multiple games of same World Series. He joins Eddie Collins (1910 Philadelphia Athletics) and Bobby Tolan (1972 Reds). 

This is the the third game this postseason in which the Rays had four or fewer hits and struck out at least 13 times (ALDS 5 and ALCS 2). That is a record.

Also: After Tampa Bay's Ryan Thompson needed only six pitches in the top of the eighth and Los Angeles's Brusdar Graterol breezed through the bottom of the eighth on seven pitches, Shane McClanahan of the Rays had to work in the top of the ninth: 10 pitches to Seager, eight to Turner, and seven to Muncy. He got the final out on his only pitch to Will Smith.

Walter Buehler / Charlie Morton

Walter Buehler has pitched 53.1 postseason innings since the second inning of 2018 NLDS Game 3 and has allowed only 10 runs, for a 1.69 ERA.

Do-Hyoung Park, mlb.com, October 23, 2020:
Which WS Team Benefits More From Off-Day
The high-leverage trio of Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo has combined to pitch on back-to-back days only three times this postseason -- once apiece. That's particularly impressive considering that the Rays played so many close games against the Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros en route to the World Series.

That relatively measured usage has built to this point, when the Rays won't be afraid to fire those bullets with impunity in all manner of situations with everything on the line. . . .

If "The Stable" hasn't been pushed too frequently to this point, why is this rest important?

Just look at Anderson's outings. Six of his eight appearances this postseason have exceeded one inning, including all but one outing since the ALDS began. Following a two-inning scoreless appearance in Game 2 of that series against the Yankees, Anderson has allowed runs in each of his subsequent five appearances.

Though Anderson was among MLB's best relievers in 2020, he made only one regular-season appearance in excess of one inning -- his first, back on July 25. . . .

Fairbanks has been similarly tested. After four outings of more than one inning in the regular season, four of his past five playoff appearances have stretched beyond one frame. That includes a pair of two-inning stints, matching his career high. Castillo has mostly been spared -- likely part of why he's been the most effective of the bunch -- but even he pitched a season-long two innings in Game 5 of the ALDS. . . .

For all the benefit the Rays will gain in an important part of their roster with this rest, it certainly looks like the Dodgers stand to benefit more.

Los Angeles has a depth problem on its pitching staff. Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw are obviously a formidable 1-2 punch atop the rotation, but given the recent underperformance of Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, the Dodgers need all the help they can get to funnel most of their innings to Buehler, Kershaw and Julio Urías.

In a seven-game sprint, that wouldn't have been possible without significant risk. Buehler has never started on less than four days' rest -- in the regular season or playoffs -- and has allowed six earned runs in 5.1 innings when pitching in relief on short rest in his career. Kershaw had more success earlier in his playoff career when pitching on short rest . . . but he hasn't done that since Game 1 of the 2018 World Series, when he pitched on two days' rest and allowed five runs to the Red Sox in four innings. . . . 

The off-day allows the Dodgers to line up Buehler for Game 3 on extra rest, which squares better with his history, as he's made 37 career starts on five days' rest, as opposed to 12 on four days' rest . . . More importantly, the Dodgers can use an effective Urías in a straight start in Game 4 and line up Kershaw for Game 5 instead of needing to line up another bullpen game before the next off-day or pitch Kershaw on short rest. . . .

[T]he extra day of rest between Games 5 and 6 would also likely keep Urías, Buehler and Kershaw available in relief roles for the final two games of the series, were it to advance that far. . . .

The lack of bullpen games also has a percolating effect on relief usage. The Rays make a point to use all of their relievers -- even high-leverage options like Anderson -- in a wide variety of roles with openers, bullpen games and such throughout the season, making them all the more comfortable in these kinds of games. . . . 

For the Rays, this extra day of rest could make a difference in the efficacy of three short-relief situational pitchers who are already likely to be pushed out of their comfort zone in the coming days. For the Dodgers, it affords them a marked improvement in large swaths of innings early in games and keeps two of their most struggling arms out of the spotlight.
Michael Baumann, The Ringer, October 22, 2020:
If This World Series Becomes A Battle Of The Bullpens, The Dodgers May Be Out Of Luck
In Game 2, the Rays showed that they've found a formula to win games in this series—and it's one Dave Roberts and Co. could learn from 
This is the first postseason series in baseball history that features both off days and 28-man rosters. The expanded rosters were a necessary stopgap during the regular season, a crutch with which to weather scheduling- and health-related externalities. And in the first three rounds, played straight through without rest, teams might have needed a baker's dozen of pitchers just to navigate a series without risking unnecessary trips to the orthopedist. . . .

Increased use of relief pitchers has been a trend throughout baseball history, and over the past five years, that trend has lit its booster rockets and taken off into outer space, particularly in the postseason. . . . A generation ago, a team's 12th-best pitcher would watch the World Series on TV. Now, he might decide it. . . .

So far, Cash is doing a better job than Roberts—and here, the managers' names are metonyms for the front office analysts who advise Cash and Roberts on game planning—of getting his best pitchers into important situations, while avoiding overusing his big guns. But there are mitigating circumstances.

The Rays' top four starters—Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton, and Ryan Yarbrough—are probably better than the Dodgers' top four of Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Julio Urías, and Gonsolin. Tampa Bay's bullpen is markedly better than Los Angeles's, to the point that it's not useful to compare the Anderson-Fairbanks-Castillo trio to their Dodger counterparts because it's not clear who the Dodgers' three best relievers even are. That makes life harder on Roberts for obvious reasons.

Then there's the great reductor of managerial analysis: Whatever plan the front office and manager implement, however clever or foolhardy, is only as good as the players who execute it. In both games so far this series, the team whose starter pitched better and lasted longer won. . . . 

[T]his World Series is an interesting contrast of styles. Not just because the Dodgers' lineup is as imperious as the Rays' pitching and defense, but because the Rays are pushing their starters fairly deep into games (by today's standards) and finding opportunities for bulk relievers to take up the rest of the burden when possible. Meanwhile the Dodgers, the team in this series that has one of the best pitchers ever and did not invent the opener, are daisy-chaining middle relievers together and hoping they'll hold.

The Dodgers are going to have Buehler, Urías, and Kershaw—their three strongest starters—in the middle leg of this series. If those pitchers can give Roberts some length, this problem goes away. But the more this series becomes about bullpen depth and picking the right pitcher for the right spot, the more the scales tip in the Rays' favor. The Dodgers would likely win an orderly series, but the Rays are at their best in times of chaos.
Jay Jaffe, FanGraphs, October 22, 2020:
Mookie Betts' Postseason Tour de Force

Watching Mookie Betts on a daily basis makes it difficult to understand how his teams ever lose . . . The 28-year-old right fielder is one of the game's top hitters, but his contributions are hardly confined to the batter's box, and during this postseason — as it's been throughout his seven-year major league career — he has amply illustrated just how well-rounded his game is.

In Tuesday's World Series-opening 8-3 victory, Betts put on a show with his baserunning, that after working a five-pitch leadoff walk against a flagging Tyler Glasnow to start the fifth inning. The Rays had just trimmed the Dodgers' lead to 2-1, so when Betts stole second and then third base — the latter at the front end of a double steal with Corey Seager, who also walked — and then scored on a fielder's choice thanks to a great secondary lead and a well-executed slide, it was a big deal.

Betts' journey around the bases not only produced a run without the benefit of a base hit, it effectively tossed an anvil to Glasnow as he was trying to keep his head above water. . . . Glasnow continued to unravel before being chased after 4.1 innings. The Dodgers went on to score three more runs in that inning, easing the pressure on starter Clayton Kershaw and the rest of the lineup. . . .

[T]he case for [Betts] as the game's most complete player . . . is already well-established thanks to Wins Above Replacement, which in any flavor captures the multitude of his contributions. Dating back to his first full season (2015) he's second in the majors in terms of FanGraphs WAR at 38.4. Not only is he the only player within 10 wins of Mike Trout (46.8) in that span, but he's nearly 10 wins ahead of third-ranked Francisco Lindor (28.9), though admittedly, the latter didn't play his first full season until 2016. Narrow the window to 2018-20 and Betts trails Trout, whose defense has merely been average in that span, by just one win (21.0 to 20.0). . . .

Imagine being John Henry, which is to say having a net worth of a couple billion dollars, and looking at this remarkable, likable athlete with this elite collection of skills and intangibles and deciding, "Nah, the price tag is too high. Find me an executive to blow up this roster and demoralize this fan base while I put more money into European soccer — finally, I can hire Billy Beane! — and ballpark-adjacent real estate, because that's more fun than winning with the game's most complete player!" Henry may get the last laugh on the accountant's ledger, but it's the Dodgers, and everybody else captivated by Betts' play now that he doesn't have to worry about where that will be, who are the richer for it.

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