October 25, 2020

World Series Game 5: Dodgers 4, Rays 2

Dodgers - 210 010 000 - 4  6  1 
Rays    - 002 000 000 - 2  7  0  
The Dodgers extinguished any lingering momentum the Rays might have possessed from their improbable victory in Game 4 by scoring one run after only two at-bats, adding a second run later in the inning and taking a 3-0 lead with a leadoff home run in the second. The Rays trailed for the entire nine innings.

Clayton Kershaw (5.2-5-2-2-6, 85) was not as sharp as he was in Game 1, but he was able to work out of a couple of jams, including a first-and-third-and-no-outs situation in the fourth. He retired his final seven batters, before manager Dave Roberts turned the task of getting the final 10 outs to the bullpen. The Rays managed only one runner as far as second base against a trio of Los Angeles relievers.

Mookie Betts put Tampa Bay starter Tyler Glasnow under pressure immediately, doubling to left on the eighth pitch of his first-inning at-bat. Corey Seager, who had a 1.560 OPS through the first four games, grounded a single into right field, putting the Rays in a hole they never climbed out of. It was also Seager's fifth hit in his last five at-bats, something no Dodger hitter had ever done in the World Series.

After Justin Turner struck out, Glasnow's 0-2 pitch to Max Muncy was in the dirt, and rolled a little ways away from Rays catcher Mike Zunino. Seager took off and was safe at second. Glasnow reacted by throwing three more balls and walking Muncy. 

He recovered to strike out Will Smith, but history repeated itself on an 0-2 pitch to Cody Bellinger. Again, the ball had barely escaped Zunino's glove when Seager dashed for third. A second wild pitch. Bellinger grounded the next pitch into the shift. Second baseman Brandon Lowe, in short right, slid to his right to grab it, but he had no play, and Seager scored. Glasnow fanned Chris Taylor, prompting Fox's Joe Buck to erroneously claim the Rays pitcher had "struck out the side". What he had done is throw 34 pitches, the most in any first inning of his regular season or postseason starts.

And for the fourth consecutive game in this World Series, at least one run was scored in the top of the first inning. That has happened in only one other WS, when the Yankees swept the Cubs in 1932.

Yandy Díaz led off the Rays first with a single up the middle but Randy Arozarena hit into a double play and Lowe fouled to the catcher. (On Fox, John Smoltz said no matter how long your pitching career might be, having a double play turned behind you feels great, especially in the early innings, because "you never want to get off to a bad start". I was so knocked out by this insight into the mindset of a major league pitcher, I had to share it with you. I'm sure you got as much out of it as I did.)

Glasnow struggled in the second, as well. Joc Pederson crushed a 1-2 pitch to the opposite field, a solo home run to left-center. Again, Glasnow seemed momentarily rattled, walking Austin Barnes on four pitches. But Barnes was thrown out trying to steal and although Glasnow walked Seager and his rhythm appeared off, he finished the inning without additional trouble.

(Pederson's long ball meant Tampa Bay's starting pitcher in each of the five games has allowed at least one dong, giving the 2020 Rays membership in a small group consisting of the 1925 Pirates, 1970 Reds, 1995 Clevelands, and the 1997 Marlins.)

Manuel Margot led off the Tampa second with a bunt single towards third base and was on second with one out. Kershaw stranded the runner by getting Joey Wendle on a called strike three and Willy Adames on a grounder to third.

Muncy led off the top of the third with a single and went to second on Glasnow's third wild pitch of the night, but he was stranded there. When Kevin Kiermaier beat out a tapper to the mound to start the bottom of the third, Game 5 became the second game in postseason history where each of the first six half-innings began with a hit (the first was 2014 NLCS 4 between Cardinals and Giants). With one out, Díaz lined a triple to right that skipped past Betts's left side and went into the corner. Arozarena hammered a high pitch into left for a single and the Dodgers' lead was cut to 3-2. The inning was abruptly ended when Lowe struck out and Arozarena was thrown out trying to steal.

Glasnow retired the Dodgers in order in the fourth, snapping their streak of 13 straight inning with at least one baserunner. The Rays had a golden opportunity to tie the game or take the lead in the fourth. Margot walked and took off for second on Kershaw's first pitch to Hunter Renfroe. Margot stole the base and Smith's throw to second was not caught by Taylor. The ball went into shallow right-center and Margot made a late decision to go for third. He was safe, but it was close; the call was upheld on a challenge. When Renfroe eventually walked, the Rays at runners at the corners and no outs.

Kershaw and the Dodgers snuffed out the rally with only seven pitches. Wendle popped up a 1-0 pitch to shortstop, Adames struck out on three pitches, and with Kiermaier at the plate with a 0-1 count, Margot tried to steal home when Kershaw went into a long set with his hands above his head. Kershaw's throw home was high and away, but Smith was still able to get the tag down on Margot. (The last runner to be caught trying to steal home in a World Series game was Shane Mack of the Twins, in Game 4 of the 1991 WS against Atlanta.

The Dodgers have turned answering any Rays runs with runs of their own into an art in this series. This time they answered Tampa Bay's squander with a run, when Muncy belted a two-out (of course) home run to right-center, giving them a 4-2 lead.

Muncy's dong extended the Dodgers' streak of postseason games with multiple home runs to eight games. They had established a new record in Game 4, topping the 2019-20 Yankees' mark of six games. Also, Pederson and Muncy are the eighth and ninth Dodgers to hit home runs in this World Series. Having nine different dongers is a new World Series record, surpassing the 1989 Athletics (eight).

Glasnow (5-6-4-3-7, 102) achieved a couple of distinctions he won't put on his resume. He is the first pitcher to strike out seven or more batters in multiple games of the same World Series and lose them both. And he is the first pitcher in postseason history to throw three wild pitches and allow multiple home runs in the same game.

Kershaw had a clean fifth, with two strikeouts, and got the first two Rays in the sixth before Roberts went to Dustin May. It was a wildly unpopular decision among the Dodger fans in attendance, but May's performance justified the call. He got the final out of the sixth, pitched a perfect seventh, and after a leadoff single in the eighth, got the first out. 

Ji-Man Choi was announced as a pinch-hitter for Díaz. Roberts called on lefty Victor González. Rays manager Kevin Cash countered by having Mike Brosseau pinch-hit for Choi, giving Tampa Bay the platoon advantage with two right-handed hitters. It was the second time in this series Choi has been announced as a pinch hitter and then replaced before getting a chance to bat. The only other player in World Series history to have that happen twice is Don Mincher of the Athletics (1972, Games 5 and 6).

González and Brosseau (the potential tying run) battled for nine pitches (#6 was wild, putting Kiermaier at second) and Brosseau won, drawing a walk. Down by two, runners at first and second, one out, with Arozarena and Lowe due up. It was a promising situation for the Rays, but it ended in a relative eyeblink. A-Roz went after the first pitch, a low, outside slider, and skied to Bellinger in right-center. Lowe hit a 0-1 pitch to shallow right-center and Bellinger ran in and caught that one on the run. It was the second major squander of the night for Tampa Bay.

Facing Blake Treinen in the bottom of the ninth, Margot singled to center, again giving the Rays the opportunity to bring the potential tying run to the plate three times. Austin Meadows, who had batted for Renfroe in the seventh, swung under and missed a high 1-2 fastball for the first out. Treinen jammed Lowe, which resulted in a routine fly to center. Adames was the Rays' last hope. Treinen threw him four low sinkers. He fouled the first one at the plate, swung and missed the second, took the third, and swung and missed the fourth.

This game was the 28th consecutive World Series game in which both teams have scored, a new record. The last WS shutout was Game 3 of the 2016 World Series (Cleveland 1, Cubs 0).

The Dodgers lead the series 3-2. Game 6 is Tuesday night, with the Dodgers as the home team.

Clayton Kershaw / Tyler Glasnow

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