Another game, another standout defensive play by a Dodgers outfielder. Cody Bellinger made a nifty catch in center field, racing back and then jumping in front of the wall to rob Austin Meadows of an extra-base hit.
To finish off the Rays, Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly tossed a 1-2-3 inning on just 10 pitches to complete the 8-3 victory.
Boston Red Sox fans, look away again: Mookie Betts has done it all again for the Dodgers in a playoff game.
He has manufactured a run with his legs (two stolen bases and a run in fifth inning), blasted a home run (in the sixth inning) and added a single (in the eighth inning). During the National League Championship Series, he helped save the Dodgers with his glove, too.
The Rays could do little in the eighth, and the Dodgers are three outs away from a 1-0 lead in the series.
The Rays threatened in the seventh inning with Clayton Kershaw out of the game. With an 8-1 lead, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts lifted Kershaw after 78 pitches and six innings.
Facing Dodgers reliever Victor Gonzalez, Mike Brosseau and Kevin Kiermaier each laced run-scoring singles to trim the Rays’ deficit to 8-3. This forced Roberts to get Pedro Baez up in the bullpen — a small victory for the Rays as the Dodgers likely hoped to avoid using their best relief arms with such a large lead.
Gonzalez escaped the jam when he caught Mike Zunino’s comeback liner and turned an inning-ending double play.
Josh Fleming then retired three Dodgers in a row, which, believe it or not, was the first 1-2-3 inning of the night for the Rays.
After sitting around for more than 30 minutes because of the Dodgers’ long fifth inning at the plate, Clayton Kershaw had a 1-2-3 sixth. He was aided by a slick play by third baseman Justin Turner, who stabbed a ground ball to his left and threw out Yandy Diaz at first base from his knees. Kershaw has thrown 78 pitches through six innings, which helps a Dodgers’ bullpen that was worn out by Game 7 of the N.L.C.S. two days ago.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Dodgers continued to outperform the Rays at the plate. Mookie Betts gave his team a 7-1 lead with a solo blast to right field off Josh Fleming. It was his first home run of this postseason. The Dodgers extended the lead to 8-1 when Max Muncy doubled to bring home Turner.
Kevin Kiermaier, the Rays’ longest-tenured player, got a slider from Clayton Kershaw right over the heart of the plate and sent it over the right-center field fence for a solo homer. It halved the Rays’ deficit to 2-1 and snapped Kershaw’s streak of 13 straight batters retired.
Kiermaier was hit on the wrist by a pitch in Game 3 of the American League Championship and started only one more game in that series. He felt better on Tuesday and was in the starting lineup.
The blast also epitomized the Rays’ modus operandi this postseason: they walk, strike out and, when they do score, it is often via the long ball. Entering tonight, about 72 percent of the Rays’ runs this postseason came on home runs.
But the Dodgers responded in a big way in the bottom half of the inning. Mookie Betts drew a walk off Tyler Glasnow to lead off the inning, stole second base and then third (as part of a double steal with Corey Seager), and then beat first baseman Yandy Diaz’s throw home on a fielder’s choice.
As Glasnow labored through the inning, Rays Manager Kevin Cash had Ryan Yarbrough warming in the bullpen. But the Dodgers tacked on another run before Cash could bring in Yarbrough, with Will Smith smacking a single into center field to score Seager. The hit gave the Dodgers a 4-1 lead and chased Glasnow from the game.
With Yarbrough in the game, the Dodgers’ buzzsaw continued. Run-scoring singles by Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez moved the Dodgers ahead by 6-1. Glasnow was charged with all six runs.
Tyler Glasnow’s six walks tonight are the most in a World Series game since St. Louis’ Edwin Jackson in Game 4 of the 2011 WS, across the street at the old Texas ballpark.
— Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) October 21, 2020
If you were Clayton Kershaw, you would keep throwing that slider, too. It has been biting, and is still fooling the Rays. He has six strikeouts through four scoreless innings, and five have come on that pitch. He has thrown it 22 times already. In all, the Rays have whiffed at 16 of Kershaw’s 55 pitches so far.
At the plate, the Dodgers finally broke through against Tyler Glasnow. Cody Bellinger, who hit the winning home run in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday, smashed a two-run blast that gave the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.
This time, Bellinger celebrated with his teammates with a foot tap. On Sunday, Bellinger dislocated his right shoulder, which he said has happened before, when he forcefully smacked elbows with Enrique Hernandez in celebration after his homer. Tonight, Bellinger’s swing showed no ill effects of any lingering shoulder soreness, too.
Clayton Kershaw and his slider are in a groove. He struck out Mike Zunino and Brandon Lowe, a Rays standout during the regular who has struggled immensely in the postseason, on a combined eight pitches. He has fanned four batters so far.
The Rays’ offense is susceptible to strikeouts (they led the major leagues in the category during the regular season) and has been carried by a handful of hitters, such as Randy Arozarena. Entering Game 1, the Rays averaged four runs per game this postseason.
The Dodgers, on the other hand, have averaged nearly six runs per game during these playoffs. But Tyler Glasnow has also been in command on the mound, striking out three in the third inning. He has struck out five in all.
Corey Seager worked his second walk in two plate appearances, holding off on Glasnow’s offerings near the edges. This is one area where the Dodgers can pounce: Glasnow walked 22 batters in 57 ⅓ regular-season innings, and eight in 19 ⅓ postseason innings entering Game 1.
Clayton Kershaw looked much sharper in the second inning. He needed just 11 pitches to get a flyout from Joey Wendle, a strikeout from Willy Adames and flyout from Kevin Kiermaier. He got Adames to whiff on a sharp slider, a key pitch for Kershaw: Opponents hit .197 against his slider during the regular season, the lowest mark of his main three offerings.
Tyler Glasnow, who mainly relies on his fastball and curveball, used his wicked breaking ball to strike out both Will Smith and Joc Pederson. That helped Glasnow pitch around a single by Chris Taylor, which represented the Dodgers’ first hit of the game. The Rays’ talented pitching staff faces a stiff challenge in the Dodgers, who led the major leagues with 5.82 runs per game during the regular season.
During the pregame ceremonies at Globe Life Field, Vin Scully, the iconic Dodgers broadcaster, uttered his famous introduction — “It’s time for Dodger baseball” — in a recorded video message played on the big screen.
Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ ace, threw 20 pitches in a scoreless top of the first inning. He coughed up a single to Yandy Diaz, the Rays’ leadoff hitter, and seemed to pitch around Randy Arozarena, the Rays’ slugger who walked. But the Rays, whose offense has been inconsistent throughout the postseason, couldn’t capitalize.
It was a smoother first inning for Tyler Glasnow, the Rays’ hard-throwing starter. He walked Corey Seager, the Dodgers’ shortstop, on six pitches, but got two flyouts and a groundout. He hit 100 miles per hour a few times, and 101 once.
It will be a marquee pitching matchup in the first game of the best-of-seven series: the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Tyler Glasnow of the Rays.
Kershaw, 32, is a three-time Cy Young Award winner and arguably the best starting pitcher of his generation. He had a stellar regular season with a 6-2 record and 2.16 earned run average. But he has a complicated postseason legacy, which is checkered with both strong and poor performances, including this year. In 35 career playoff appearances, he is 11-12 with a 4.31 E.R.A.
Glasnow, 27, doesn’t have Kershaw’s track record but he is certainly talented. He is better than his 2020 regular season numbers — 5-1 record and a 4.08 E.R.A. — suggest. His arsenal — a 100-mile-per-hour fastball and a wicked curveball — makes him one of the best strikeout starters in baseball. He, too, has had both stout and middling outings this postseason.
The Dodgers have not yet announced a Game 2 starter, but the Rays said they would go with Blake Snell, a 2018 Cy Young Award winner.
During the last week of the regular season, M.L.B. asked teams in position to qualify for the playoffs to quarantine in hotels, even at home. So, both the Rays and the Dodgers have been living out of hotels for about a month. Players’ wives and children were allowed to join them as long as they also quarantined.
When M.L.B. and the players’ union agreed to play in a handful contained environments for the playoffs, the country’s virus hot spots were changing and both sides wanted to limit their exposure by cutting down on the travel of a normal postseason. So they picked warmer-weather venues as neutral sites: Southern California for the A.L. and Texas for the N.L.
The World Series will be held at Globe Life Field, the Texas Rangers’ new stadium in Arlington, Texas, that features a retractable roof and artificial turf. It will be the first World Series held at a neutral site and first since 1944 to be played all at one stadium. A limited number of tickets have been sold to the World Series, and fans were also allowed into N.L. Championship Series games at Globe Life Field.
While the Rays played the past two weeks at Petco Park in San Diego, the Dodgers are already familiar with Globe Life Park, where they played the past two rounds of the playoffs.
Although the traditional days off were removed from the first three rounds this year, which complicated teams’ pitching plans, they are back in the schedule for the World Series. The Dodgers and Rays will have a day off after Games 2 and 5.
The starkest difference between the Dodgers and the Rays is money. Before the pandemic shortened the season and trimmed salaries, the Dodgers’ opening day payroll was set to be the third-largest in the major leagues at $225 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
The Rays, who play in an outdated stadium and are regularly near the bottom of baseball’s attendance list, are on the receiving end of M.L.B.’s revenue-sharing and had a pre-pandemic opening day payroll of $94 million, the fourth-smallest in the majors.
The Rays rely on strong scouting, analytics savvy and robust player development to build their roster — or trade for hidden gems in other organizations, such as postseason star Randy Arozarena or starter Tyler Glasnow. They play stellar defense and have a deep group of players, particularly on the mound, that Manager Kevin Cash swaps out frequently to exploit matchups.
Despite failing to win a World Series title recently, the Dodgers have been a juggernaut the past several years under Andrew Friedman, their president of baseball operations. He was the Rays’ general manager from 2005 to 2014, the architect of the team that reached the 2008 World Series. During his tenure there, he hired Erik Neander, now the Rays’ G.M., as an intern.
Friedman brought his acumen to Los Angeles, where the Dodgers have both built a strong farm system (which has produced stars like outfielder Cody Bellinger and starter Walker Buehler) and flexed their financial muscle (they gave superstar outfielder Mookie Betts a 12-year, $365-million extension after trading for him before this season).
Madness was expected during this postseason. Instead of the usual 10, 16 teams were included in a new playoff format cooked up for this coronavirus-altered season, and each of them started with a three-game series. Still, though both series went down to the wire in the previous round, the two best teams during the regular season now meet in the World Series: The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Dodgers, one of the oldest franchises in baseball, were the best team in the majors during the truncated 60-game regular season, claiming 43 victories, their eighth straight National League West division crown and the N.L.’s top seed in the playoffs. This is their third World Series trip in four years, having lost both of the previous two — in 2017 against the Houston Astros and in 2018 with the Boston Red Sox — to teams that were later accused and penalized for breaking the rules during those seasons. Still, the Dodgers have not won a title since 1988.
The Rays, on the other hand, are one of the youngest franchises in baseball, added in 1998 along with the Arizona Diamondbacks as expansion teams. In the regular season, the Rays won 40 games, their first American League East title since 2010 and the A.L.’s top spot in the playoffs. Their only other trip to the World Series was in 2008, which they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in five games.