Rays Contain Dodgers in Game 2 by Sticking to Their Script

Tampa Bay trotted out the relievers it needed to and evened up the World Series
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Kevin Cash went to the bullpen at exactly the right time in Game 2 of the World Series.

Over the first 4 2/3 innings, Blake Snell had not allowed a hit and racked up nine strikeouts against the Dodgers. But then he walked Kiké Hernández and then left a curveball up to Chris Taylor, who stroked it over the right field wall for a homer to make it a three-run game in the Rays' eventual 6–4 win.

From there, Snell faded fast. Mookie Betts walked and Corey Seager singled to knock the lefty from the game. Cash called on Nick Anderson, one of his three high-leverage relievers, to get out of the jam.

Uncharacteristically, Cash left starter Tyler Glasnow in too long in Tampa Bay's Game 1 loss Tuesday. He said after the game it was because the Rays needed a strikeout and the hard-throwing Glasnow gave them the best option to get one. It didn't work, and Los Angeles scored four of its eight runs in the fifth inning.

The bright side to Cash riding Glasnow in Game 1 was the Rays didn't burn any of their best relievers—Anderson, Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo. The three of them were fully rested and, along with lefty Aaron Loup, locked down the final 4 1/3 innings on Wednesday.

Will Smith homered off Anderson with one out in the sixth, but that was all the Dodgers could score against him. The most bizarre moment of the night came right after Smith's home run, when the fan who caught it fake-threw the ball back and then, randomly, hurled his glove onto the field instead.

We don't know for sure if Randy Arozarena chucked the mitt back to the fan—no broadcast footage shows that happening—but later on when FOX cut back to the fan, he had the glove. "W-what?" was Joe Buck's reaction. 

Does this matter at all? No! But it was fun and weird, and I missed fan shenanigans this year and it's good to have that back.

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Brandon Lowe hit two homers Wednesday night, a solo shot in the first to left-center field and a two-run liner in the fifth to put the Rays up, 5–0.

Lowe, who was Tampa's best player in the regular season, was hitting just .107 (6-for-56) this postseason entering Game 2. The Rays need someone other than breakout star Randy Arozarena to fuel their offense if they're going to have a shot at winning the World Series. Maybe a two-homer game was exactly what Lowe needed to get going.

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Seager is reminding everyone why he is one of the best players in baseball.

The Dodgers shortstop led off the bottom of the eight inning with a solo homer, a 425-foot blast to center field. It was his second hit of the night and seventh home run this postseason, and it cut the Tampa Bay lead to two.

Remember when he won the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year and finished third in the MVP race? Seems like forever ago, because he missed all but one month of 2018 after having Tommy John surgery. He was playing catch-up last season after recovering from the surgery, and yet he still led the NL with 44 doubles. This year, he ranked first among Dodgers players with a .585 slugging percentage and second in WAR (1.9), trailing only Betts, an MVP candidate.

Of course, nobody is overlooking the 26-year-old Seager now. He hit five homers in the NLCS against the Braves and was named the MVP of the series.

Corey Seager swinging

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The Rays’ baserunning, both good and bad, decided the top of the second inning. Leading off the inning, with Dodgers opener Tony Gonsolin pitching, Manuel Margot walked, stole second and advanced to third on Joey Wendle’s flyout to center field.

Dave Roberts went to his bullpen after just five outs to get a fresh arm against Willy Adames. Interestingly, the Dodgers brought the infield in—in a one-run game in the second—a somewhat unexpected move considering they don’t struggle to score runs. Adames grounded to shortstop and Margot immediately broke for the plate. Seager threw home in plenty of time for the second out. Adames was then caught stealing second to end the inning, wasting an opportunity for the Rays to add to their 1–0 lead.

There’s a case to be made that a team such as the Rays needs to be aggressive on the bases when they are struggling to reach base. Their offense is dependent on hitting home runs—45 of their 66 runs in the playoffs have come via the homer—and they led the majors in strikeouts during the regular season.

However, there’s a difference between being aggressive and being a detriment; running on contact with one out, the infield in and a one-run lead in the second inning is the latter. We praised Betts for his brilliant baserunning in the fifth inning of Game 1, when he scored on an infield grounder. In Game 2, Margot didn't get the lead–and the jump–that Betts did, therefore he didn't score.