By the fifth inning, the World Series already had gone off script.
Dave Roberts was supposed to be the manager to leave his starter in too long. After all, that's one of the main philosophies of the Clayton Kershaw Playoff Narrative—the Dodgers ask their future Hall of Famer to go a third time through the order, only for him to give up the lead.
Meanwhile, just three days ago, Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled Charlie Morton after 5 2/3 scoreless innings and 66 pitches because there were two runners on and the middle of the order was coming up. That's the way the Rays roll, right? "We believe in our process, and we’re gonna keep doing that,” Cash said after that game.
Except, they didn't keep doing that—at least not in Game 1 of the World Series, which the Dodgers won, 8–3. Tyler Glasnow labored through a 30-pitch fourth inning, with the damage coming from Cody Bellinger's two-run homer, a belt-high fastball over the inner part of the plate.
Yet, with Dodgers leadoff hitter Mookie Betts due up for the third time that night, Cash let Glasnow start the fifth inning. Nobody was warming up in the Tampa Bay bullpen.
Thou shall not let a starter face a lineup three times in one night. Cash disobeyed one of the Rays Pitching Commandments, and he was punished for it.
Betts walked and stole second; Corey Seager walked and stole second, with Betts stealing third on a Justin Turner strikeout; Betts scored on Max Muncy's fielder's choice; Will Smith singled home Seager. Finally, Cash relieved Glasnow, whose final line read: 4 1/3 innings, 3 hits, 6 runs, 6 walks, 8 strikeouts, 1 home run. His 112 pitches were the most for a Rays starter all season.
"I felt like he was the best guy to get a strikeout," Cash said of his decision to let Glasnow face Muncy. "We needed a strikeout after we weren’t able to hold the runners."
The Rays have a deep bullpen, with a stable of arms who are unfamiliar to the Dodgers' batters. But the Los Angeles hitters should grow more comfortable against those relievers each time they face them.
Cash will have to rely on his bullpen later on in the series if the Rays are going to win it; the less the Dodgers see the Rays relievers, the better off Tampa will be.
The silver lining for the Rays in leaving Glasnow in and falling behind, 6–1, after five innings is they didn't have to burn any of their high-leverage relievers. Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo all will be fully rested for Game 2.
Kershaw, on the other hand, was excellent. Over six innings, he allowed just one run, two hits, one walk, one home run and struck out eight. He generated 19 swing and misses while throwing just 78 pitches. Roberts went to the bullpen to start the seventh inning, with the Dodgers leading 8–1.
The 32-year-old lefty threw 31 fastballs, with an average velocity of 91.4 mph. He got five whiffs and 11 called strikes with it. The only bad pitch he threw on the night was a 1-0 hanging slider, which Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier hit for a home run.
As much as anything else, great baserunning gave the Dodgers the win.
The Dodgers stole three bases in the fifth inning against Glasnow. It was the first time since 1912 that a team stole three bases in the same inning of a World Series game.
Glasnow has a high leg kick, which he uses to generate velocity. But it takes time, allowing runners to take bigger secondary leads and get better jumps to steal bases.
Betts got such a good jump stealing second that catcher Mike Zunino didn't even bother to throw. Then, Betts and Seager each advanced 90 feet on a double steal, putting them in scoring position with one out for Muncy.
"We didn’t do a good job holding the runners on," Cash said. "We can’t let them double steal right there."
With the infield in, Betts took a textbook secondary lead and broke for home on contact to score on Muncy's grounder to first base. So good was Betts's read that it didn't matter that Yandy Díaz made a near-perfect throw home.