The Dodgers find themselves in a semi-familiar place, tied 1-1 with the Rays in the World Series.
The Dodgers played their patient at-bat game, and riding a fantastic outing by Clayton Kershaw, they outlasted Tyler Glasnow in the first game, winning 8-3. They then had to turn to a bullpen game in Game 2, and ended up losing 6-4 when they couldn’t out-slug their bullpen’s woes.
There’s no doubt that the Rays have an excellent array of pitchers that can quiet the Dodgers’ bats at any time. However, the Dodgers have scored 12 runs in two games, so they’re not exactly shutting them down yet.
The biggest issue for the Dodgers is the state of their own pitching staff. As stated, Kershaw was fantastic, going six innings of two-hit, one-run ball with his only mistake being a home run off the bat of Kevin Kiermeier. But, they had to turn to a bullpen game in the second contest, and the Rays’ bats took advantage.
Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May, rookie starters who had had great seasons, are not showing up in the postseason. There could be numerous reasons for this. Their usage is a lot different than it had been during the season. Going into a game knowing you’re only getting one to two innings, depending on how well you do, can mess with you if you’re used to having more time to work your issues out, not to mention the pressure of the postseason. May seems to be doing slightly better than Gonsolin in this regard, but both need to pitch better.
The Dodgers bullpen also seems to get in trouble when pitchers are brought in with runners on and two outs, and they can’t quite shut it down. Personally I would have left Victor Gonzalez in Wednesday’s game, but I understand the analytics and pre-game plan they were using. With the big deficit at one point, Alex Wood could have been brought in earlier to eat some innings.
The normally patient at-bats were not so patient in Wednesday’s game, but they did manage to make a 6-0 game a 6-4 game, causing the Rays to put in their better bullpen arms when they might not have, had the game not gotten close. Any time they can get the Rays to use those arms, the Dodger bats can see them more and learn, coaxing more high pressure innings out of them.
Kiké Hernandez flubbed a play that could’ve gotten them out of the inning, and the umpiring wasn’t the best. Still, the pitching staff should be able to adapt and get out of sticky situations.
Now, the Dodgers look ahead to the next three games after the off day on Thursday. Walker Buehler will take the mound for the Dodgers in Game 3, going up against Charlie Morton. Morton just won Game 7 against the Astros to get the Rays to the World Series, and he was lights out. The Dodgers faced him in the 2017 World Series in Games 3 and 7, when the Astros won both of those games. So far this postseason, Morton is 3-0 and has only allowed one run in 15 and two-thirds innings.
The Dodger bats will have their work cut out for them. But, if they get back to their patient ways, and get to Morton the second or third time through the order about like they have been to the previous starters, they will continue to make Tampa Bay dip into that bullpen. Buehler, for his part, needs to miss bats and not allow the Rays to gain any more confidence or momentum.
The Dodgers have not officially announced who will be pitching in Games 4 and 5, but it is expected to be Kershaw and Julio Urías, in some order. The Rays may have Ryan Yarbrough start in Game 4 in what is expected to be the Rays’ bullpen game, and Glasnow would be presumably their Game 5 starter.