After all the oddities of the MLB regular season and postseason, the 2020 World Series pits baseball’s top two teams against each other, which is something that doesn’t happen every year. And while we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the Dodgers playing for the championship, this is the first Fall Classic for the Rays since 2008 and only the second in franchise history.
After the Dodgers’ 8-3 win in Game 1 on Tuesday evening, here’s what you need to know for Game 2 on Wednesday night, including a look at the pitching matchup, predictions, odds, other key numbers and more.
What’s on tap
The last time we saw Blake Snell pitch, he was unhappy after Kevin Cash removed him from Game 6 of the American League Championship Series in the fifth inning while he was still spinning a shutout (although he had allowed a walk and a single to start the inning). Look for a similar quick hook in this game, no matter how well Snell is pitching, given the Rays didn’t use any of their top three relievers (Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, Peter Fairbanks) in Game 1 — especially considering Cash’s curious decision to let Tyler Glasnow throw 112 pitches, the most of any Rays starter this season.
Look for the Dodgers to take the same approach against Snell that they did with Glasnow, making him throw strikes with his fastball and spitting on the breaking ball. The difference is that while Glasnow is just a two-pitch pitcher, Snell has four offerings with his four-seamer, curveball, slider and a changeup that he throws exclusively to right-handed batters. Snell has a 3.20 ERA with seven runs over 19⅔ innings in the postseason, but his fastball command has been shaky, and he has run up high pitch counts and walked 10 batters. In the regular season, his fastball was located in the strike zone 58% of the time, but in the playoffs, that has dropped to 49%. Maybe that adds up to only a few strikes over one start, but a 1-0 count instead of 0-1 can be a huge factor.
Watch that first-strike percentage for Snell. Also keep in mind that the Dodgers have been crushing lefties in the postseason — posting a .990 OPS while homering every 14.7 at-bats — and 11 of their 20 postseason homers overall have been off southpaws. The key for the Rays will be getting the ball to Anderson, Castillo and Fairbanks with a lead. With the off day and trailing in the series, Cash will certainly allow all three of those guys to get more than three outs, as needed.
For the Dodgers, Tony Gonsolin is starting, but this looks like a bullpen game. Gonsolin has pitched just twice, with one start, for a total of 6⅓ IP. Maybe Dave Roberts will see if he can get a few innings from Gonsolin before he turns the game over to the bullpen, but he doesn’t have to go too far with Gonsolin. The wild card would be Julio Urias, who finished off Game 7 of the National League Championship Series with three perfect innings. He only threw 39 pitches in that outing, but that came on three days of rest after throwing 101 pitches in Game 3. Roberts might want to preserve Urias for a Game 4 start. (Walker Buehler goes in Game 3.) That leaves Gonsolin and Dustin May as the likely options to get the game to the shorter-stint relievers. But given the Tampa Bay lineup, look for a lot of mixing and matching from Roberts between the lefties and righties in the pen and forcing Cash to counteract with his own lineup moves. — David Schoenfield
Running World Series odds
Dodgers 80.9%; Rays 19.1%
Game 2 predictions
David Schoenfield: The Dodgers showed everything in Game 1: great approach against Glasnow, power, speed and defense. They became the first team since the Minnesota Twins in Game 1 of the 1991 World Series to hit at least two home runs and steal three bases. We can analyze many ways, but maybe it comes down to this simple fact: The Rays’ cleanup hitter batted .156 in the regular season. (Granted, the Dodgers’ cleanup hitter also hit under .200. Baseball in 2020!) Anyway, this game comes down to Snell having to hold down the Dodgers and then handing the ball to the shutdown part of the Tampa Bay bullpen. Unfortunately, I think Snell’s control will be a problem and the Dodgers will get to him for a few runs, while seven L.A. pitchers do shut down Tampa Bay. Dodgers 4, Rays 2
Alden Gonzalez: The Dodgers, who taxed their pitching staff through the tail end of a seven-game NLCS that didn’t end until Sunday night, will have to stage some semblance of a bullpen day in Game 2. And their bullpen hasn’t been great this month. Also: Mookie Betts has surprisingly struggled against lefties this year, and the Dodgers’ offense doesn’t function as efficiently when he isn’t producing. Rays 6, Dodgers 2
Dan Mullen: The Rays are starting a former Cy Young winner in Game 2. The Dodgers are throwing up a shrug emoji in Game 2. Tampa Bay needs to win this game or this series could be over in a hurry. And I do think the Rays will get this one with Snell able to get deeper into the game than Glasnow did and an offense that hit the ball hard after Clayton Kershaw exited. Rays 5, Dodgers 3
Stat of the day
Betts joined Chase Utley as the only players in World Series history with a home run and two stolen bases in a World Series game. Utley did it in Game 1 of the 2008 World Series — also against the Rays.
Social media post of the day
— Dustin Parkes+ (@dustinparkes) October 21, 2020
Best moment of the MLB playoffs to date
Cody Bellinger managed to one-up … Cody Bellinger. The Dodgers outfielder had held this crown since he robbed Fernando Tatis Jr. of a home run in a thrilling Dodgers-San Diego Padres NL Division Series Game 2; but his NLCS-deciding Game 7 home run to put Los Angeles in the 2020 World Series was just enough to take over the top spot.
CODY BELLINGER GIVES THE DODGERS THE LEAD ?
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 19, 2020
The running MLB playoffs MVP
Randy Arozarena has gone from an unknown outfielder to this October’s breakout star. Going into the playoffs, you might have been asking, “Who is this guy?” But the Rays’ trade for him has been a huge factor in their postseason run. And while his MLB-high seven long balls have made a big impression, Arozarena also leads all hitters in the postseason with 47 total bases (and is leading in hits and tied for the lead in runs). Also, he has been flashing some leather in the outfield and some sweet celebration dance moves on the field.
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