The Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers have split the first two games of the World Series, satisfying baseball prognosticators everywhere who called Dodgers in seven, or occasionally—wildly—Dodgers in six. This also satisfies those rooting for as much baseball as possible, in a year which otherwise had the least baseball in the history of MLB. Seriously: let’s please delay the offseason as much as possible. It feels like it was just the offseason yesterday.
But in that, and many other, regards, the Dodgers and Rays have played excellent baseball in the World Series. And we can only expect that excellence to continue.
The World Series Ahead
After an off-day, the Rays and Dodgers are slated to face each other for three games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Rays will be functioning as the home team in Globe Life Park for these games, batting in the bottom of the innings. Of course, it’s almost the home stadium for the Dodgers, who will have played nearly half as many games there as the Rangers by the end of the series, and are staging a campaign to rename some part of it the Corey Seager Rotunda. Especially if there isn’t an actual architectural rotunda.
The Dodgers will start their ace Walker Buehler in game three on Friday night. Buehler dazzled with his best start of the postseason so far last Saturday versus the Braves. Pitching six scoreless innings with six strikeouts, Buehler may have showed that his blister issues are behind him.
This would be an obvious advantage for the Dodgers if the Rays weren’t also starting their most reliable pitcher, Charlie Morton. Morton twirled two scoreless wins over the Astros in the ALCS, with 5 strikeouts in 5 innings and 6 strikeouts in 5.2. In the winner-take-all game on Saturday, Morton was exceptional, needing only 66 pitches to make it, almost, to the sixth. I picked Morton to win the AL Cy Young on a couple of preseason podcasts, and though he was sidelined with shoulder inflammation for much of the 60 game season, outings like Saturday were the reason I chose him.
Both pitchers, too, have an excellent track record in the postseason, when lights shine brightest, emotions run high, and fans throw their gloves onto the field in sheer elation. Buehler has a postseason ERA of 2.44 in 51 innings, while Morton sports a 2.84 ERA in 57 innings. Though Morton’s experience spans more years, some long outings for Buehler in 2018 and 2019 create more parity between the size of these samples.
Saturday’s game will see Julio Urias on the mound for the Dodgers. Urias shut down the Braves in his last appearance, closing out the dramatic game seven with three scoreless innings to earn him the win in the 4-3 game. This was the first time that a pitcher had closed a winner-take-all game with three or more perfect innings, according to Sarah Langs. Urias has yet to give up more than a run in any of his outings this year.
This matchup, contrary to the previous one, definitely confers an edge for the Dodgers, as the Rays are still technically running “TBD” out there. Most likely Ryan Yarbrough will take this start, having had plenty of time to rest from his 19-pitch appearance in Tuesday’s game. Yarbrough’s starts versus the Yankees and Astros were more than serviceable, giving up 2 earned runs in 5 innings of work both times. If the Dodgers jump out to an early lead, expect to see Cash use his B-team relievers to rest his highest-leverage relief arms on the back-to-back-to-back days.
Game Five looks to be Game One: Reprise, once again pairing Kershaw with Glasnow, although the Rays have yet to officially announce Glasnow’s start. Perhaps with a quicker hook for Glasnow and usage of his top-tier bullpen arms, Cash will eke out a win in the re-match. Still, the coin flip feels weighted in the Dodgers’ favor. If the Rays don’t take home the win in the Morton-Buehler match-up, they could be on the ropes by the time this game rolls around.