World Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Los Angeles Dodgersby Alex Kielar October 20, 2020 0 comments
The World Series is here.
After the season was left in doubt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the championship for baseball is here. The Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers are set to meet after both teams swept their respective Wild Card Series. The Dodgers also swept the National League Division Series over the San Diego Padres, while the Rays took five games to get through the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series.
Then, for the first time since 2004, both Champion Series reached the deciding seventh game. The Rays held off a Houston Astros 3-0 series comeback as they won Game 7. The Dodgers came back from down 3-1 to take the series over the Atlanta Braves. Now, with the two meeting in the World Series, let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both sides.
Three Keys to Victory for Tampa Bay
Small Ball and Hitting with RISP
The Rays are hitting just .174 with runners in scoring position so far this postseason. They have yet to record a big inning and the most runs they scored in one game against the Astros was five (Game 3). To have any chance against the Dodgers, they will have to be a lot better with runners on. The Dodgers are a team that can explode at any time offensively. Instead of relying on the long ball so much, the Rays should use some small ball. Bunting a runner over, stealing a base, going the other way with a pitch, and taking the extra base will be important with so many of their hitters hitting sub-.240 this postseason. They can get on base via the walk, with Willy Adames leading the team with 13 walks. Once they do, they need to do whatever it takes to push runs across.
Big Bats Stay Hot, Others Get Going
The Rays’ offense has been carried by ALCS MVP Randy Arozarena and Manuel Margot thus far. Arozarena has hit seven home runs this postseason, including four in the ALCS. He has also driven in 10 runs and has hit .382. Margot only has an average of .256 but has been a consistent clutch bat. He has five homers and 11 RBI, getting the big hit when the Rays need it most. If they can stay hot, the Rays will have a chance.
Brandon Lowe, the Rays’ regular-season offensive MVP, has been a huge disappointment. After hitting 14 home runs and driving in 37 runs in the regular season, he has gone just six-for-52 (.115) with one home run. He is the main bat that has to get going. However, other guys also have to start performing better. Joey Wendle (.235), Willy Adames (.132), Kevin Kiermaier (.194), Austin Meadows (.114), Yandy Diaz (.125), Hunter Renfroe (.200) have all underperformed. For the Rays to win the series, these players have to start contributing more than they have. Kevin Cash could start getting creative with the lineup to try and get some of these guys going.
Bullpen Continues Dominance
Both the Dodgers and Rays have very good bullpen depth. As far as the Rays are concerned, Cash has mix-and-matched to near perfection. Three different pitchers (Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks, and Nick Anderson) earned saves in the ALCS. Anderson is one who will need to turn things around after a tough ALCS. After allowing just four hits, no walks, and two runs over 7.1 innings in the first two rounds, he got blown up for four runs over 4.1 innings. That included a walk-off homer to Carlos Correa. Cash always seems to push the right buttons and puts the right players in the right spots.
Three Keys to Victory for Los Angeles
Corey Seager Continues MVP Performance
Seager will look to continue the dominance that earned him the NLCS MVP award and be a leader for the Dodgers’ offense. He hit an NLCS-record five homers and drove in 11 runs (also an NLCS record). He is hitting .310 with six homers and 15 RBI overall this postseason. The 26-year-old shortstop is playing the best baseball of his career right now.
While the Dodgers did break out for an 11-run first inning in Game 3 of the NLCS, they haven’t gotten consistent run production. Outside of Seager, the rest of the lineup hasn’t offered much. Cody Bellinger didn’t get much going but did hit the game-winning home run in the seventh inning of Game 7. The Dodgers would like him to continue this into the World Series. Mookie Betts has gotten on base but the run production hasn’t been as good as expected. Justin Turner and Max Muncy have also been inconsistent, though Muncy did walk nine times in the NLCS. As mentioned earlier, the Dodgers’ offense can explode at any time, but they could also go five or six innings without scoring. The Rays have a pitching staff that doesn’t allow the big inning too often, so the Dodgers won’t be able to wait out for an explosion.
Clayton Kershaw Gets Over Postseason Hump
While Kershaw is one of the greatest pitchers of this generation, he hasn’t been known to be very “clutch” in the postseason. The three-time National League Cy Young Award winner will look to put the negative perception behind him and lead the Dodgers to the promised land. He will get the ball in Game 1 against Rays ace Tyler Glasnow. If he can have solid outings in Game 1 and Game 5 (if necessary), the Dodgers will likely win this series.
Good pitching will always beat good hitting in the playoffs. With the Rays having the advantage in the pitching aspect of this series, they will just need to have that pitching backed up with run support. The Dodgers’ arms are also very strong. Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, and the other arms will step up. The Rays may be able to steal a couple of games early, but the Dodgers’ offense can’t be kept quiet for too long. Once they start seeing Rays relievers more than once, they will start getting more production. The Rays’ offense has been cold outside of a couple of the hot bats mentioned, and it’s hard to see them producing enough to keep up.
Prediction: Dodgers in six
Take a listen to the latest Too Much Pod Tar podcast for an even more in-depth preview of the series.
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