Major League Baseball: 4 Keys Moving Ahead in the World Seriesby Jacob Benge October 22, 2020 0 comments
Following Wednesday’s Game 2 victory by the Tampa Bay Rays, the 2020 World Series currently stands at a tie, 1-1. Unlike in other playoff rounds this year, there are off days interspersed between games like there typically have been in previous seasons. This allows for teams to review film and rest their bodies after just several breaks in postseason baseball over the last three weeks. The Los Angeles Dodgers are still in pursuit of their first World Series title in 32 years; meanwhile, the Rays are chasing their first championship.
Here are two keys for each team that will be crucial to their success once the Fall Classic resumes Friday.
Tampa Bay Rays
Offense must remain alive
The Rays offense at the start of the Series wasn’t completely shut down, but if several swings of the bat are taken away, their runs come off the scoreboard. Held to just six hits in Game 1, Tampa Bay came out in Game 2 with 10 base knocks and held Los Angeles to just five. Five Rays batters reached base more than once and kept the pressure on the Dodgers.
According to Jesse Rogers of ESPN, Tampa Bay is now an MLB-best 32-7 when scoring first this season, including in the playoffs. Walker Buehler is scheduled to start on Friday, marking his 12th start of the year including the regular season. He’s allowed at least a run in all but three of those appearances, but held teams to less than four hits in four of those starts.
If the Rays can continue their invigorated offensive abilities into the middle of the Series, things will get interesting.
Starting pitchers must reduce walks
Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell are two of Tampa Bay’s top starting pitchers. The latter having already won a Cy Young in his career and the former finished fourth in the American League in strikeouts this season (91). But the two also combined for 40 walks during the regular season. Glasnow allowed six free passes during Game 1 and Snell surrendered four in Game 2.
The Dodgers took advantage of Glasnow’s jitters and scored six runs off of him, and it could’ve been worse as Los Angeles left nine runners on base compared to Tampa Bay’s three. Snell didn’t see as similar a fate as he allowed just two runs and the Dodgers left five on base in Game 2. It’s intriguing because Glasnow and Snell combined to pitch nine innings and allow just five hits, but their 10 combined walks were an issue.
Charlie Morton is slated for a Game 3 start, and his 10 walks in the regular season were the lowest for any pitcher who started nine games on the Rays’ staff. Morton hasn’t walked more than two in an outing in 2020, and it’s crucial he follows that pattern Friday.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Keep applying pressure on the basepaths
Likewise, with what was mentioned above, the Dodgers have left 14 runners on base through the first two games of the Series. Los Angeles has taken advantage of critical baserunning moments such as Mookie Betts’ third to home score in the fifth inning of Game 1, Betts’ two stolen bases in the same game, and Corey Seager’s swipe as well.
Tampa Bay has just one stolen base in the Series, and the only caught stealing. With as many runners as the Dodgers are getting on base, they must find a way to get them into scoring position to mount pressure on Rays pitchers. However, the Dodgers were 0-6 with runners in scoring position in Game 2. Despite drawing walks and getting runners on, Los Angeles wasn’t able to get them around without the long ball. The Dodgers must find a way to rid that 0-fer with runners primed to score.
One of the reasons why Los Angeles extended the 2017 World Series to seven games was due to the bat of Joc Pederson. Pederson hit .333 with three home runs and a .400 on-base percentage in six games against the Houston Astros three years ago. The first hit of the 2020 World Series was a single by Chris Taylor, who has played both second base and left field.
Following the first two games, Taylor has accounted for 20% of Los Angeles’ base hits and Pederson is 0-3 with two strikeouts. Taylor was a part of the Dodgers roster in each World Series appearance in ‘17 and ‘18, playing in all 12 games. He’s got experience on the grand stage, One drawback is that Taylor has struck out at least once in all but one game during the Postseason. His versatility is keeping him in the lineup, and his positive start to the Series will keep him in it if he can be a table-setter.
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