If you don’t hear from me in about a week, I likely had a heart attack, or a stroke, or both. This last week, the Tampa Bay Rays have made me the most stressed I have been in a long time. At the end of the day, the Rays are making their way to Arlington to play against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Before looking at the series ahead, let’s take a look at how the Rays got here.
American League Championship Series
The American League Championship Series had me ANXIOUS. The Rays got out to a 3-0 count, but let the Houston Astros get their way back into the series. Each game in the series was won by three runs or fewer.
Game One went down to the wire and set the tone for the first three games of the series. Blake Snell had a rocky start to the game, allowing a Jose Altuve homer in the first inning. He settled in and threw four scoreless after. The Rays got a pair of runs from a Randy Arozarena single shot and a Mike Zunino RBI. Rays take the win 2-1.
The Rays got another quality pitching performance in Game Two. Charlie Morton tossed five scoreless innings. He got just enough to run support from two homers: a three-run blast from Manuel Margot and an absolute moonshot by Zunino. 4-2 Rays. The Series is 2-0.
The Tampa Bay Rays took a stranglehold on the series in Game Three. Bulk pitcher Ryan Yarbrough threw five strong innings, rebounding from another Altuve solo home run in the first. The Tampa Bay Rays were characteristically opportunistic and scored all five of their runs in the sixth inning off of an Altuve error. Rays take Game Three 5-2. The series is 3-0 Rays at this point.
The Rays trotted Tyler Glasnow out in Game Four to try and close out the ALCS. While the towering starter didn’t pitch poorly, the Astros got to him early, scoring all four of their runs in the first five innings. The Rays got within one following a Willy Adames RBI double in the top of the ninth. Astros win 4-3.
The Game Four win proved to be a turning point for the Astros. The Tampa Bay Rays had to work around a depleted pitching staff in Game Five but still kept the game close. Rookie southpaw Josh Fleming threw three innings and allowed two runs. Star reliever Nick Anderson took care of the eighth inning but only got through a third of the ninth, as Carlos Correa took him deep for a walk-off homer. Astros take another close one 4-3.
Blake Snell and the Tampa Bay Rays played a poor Game Six. Snell went four scoreless but allowed two before getting pulled. The Rays’ bullpen couldn’t keep the Astros from hitting, as they racked up seven runs. The Rays put up some runs, but it just wasn’t enough. Astros take it 7-4. Series tied at 3 apiece.
Game Seven saw a pitching rematch between Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. Right out of the gate, everyone could see that Morton was locked in. He had his fastball, curveball, and sinker working to perfection. He went five and two-thirds of two-hit baseball, whiffing six. McCullers allowed three runs on a two-run jack by Arozarena in the first and a Zunino homer in the second. Pete Fairbanks closed out the game and was awarded the save. The Tampa Bay Rays win the game 4-2 and the series 4-3.
Rookie Randy Arozarena took home a well-deserved American League Championship Series MVP after yet another stellar series. He hit another four homers for six RBIs to go along with a very solid .321 batting average.
National League Championship Series
The Dodgers and Atlanta Braves had a tough series themselves. Walker Buehler and Max Fried had a pitching battle in Game One. Tied 1-1 through eight innings, the Braves broke the game open in the top of the ninth, creating a 5-1 final.
Game Two was more high-scoring and a lot closer. The Braves jumped out to a six-run lead after the fifth inning, but the Dodgers would cut it just one in the bottom of the ninth. The four-run outburst wouldn’t be enough as the Braves took a 2 game lead.
Kyle Wright had a night to forget in Game Three. The Braves’ starting pitcher only got two outs before getting yanked. He allowed seven runs as part of an eleven run first inning. The Dodgers took Game Three 15-3.
The Braves returned the favor with an offensive outburst to push the Dodgers to the brink. A six-run sixth was followed by runs in each of the remaining innings. Braves send ten across the plate in a 10-3 victory.
With the series 3-1 in favor of the Braves, the Dodgers were able to string together three straight wins. A bullpen day got the Dodgers through Game Five, allowing just three runs. Dodgers stay alive with a 7-3 win.
Game Six was a pitching masterclass by Buehler. He threw six scoreless innings, racking up six strikeouts in the process. Dodgers force a Game Seven, 3-1.
Game Seven was a tight affair. The Dodgers threw out a slew of starting and relief pitchers who held the Braves to just three runs. Cody Bellinger sent a ball into the right-field seats in the seventh to win the game for the Dodgers, 4-3.
Shortstop Corey Seager was named the NL Championship Series MVP after a huge series. He smacked five homers and collected 11 RBIs. He was the most consistent batter for the Dodgers in the CS and looks to continue his production into the World Series.
Keys to Winning the World Series
Tampa Bay Rays: Get the Bats Working!
The Tampa Bay Rays’ weak spot has always been its’ offense. After the Championship Series, we all know how good the Rays’ pitching and defense, is. That said, the bats will have to get to work.
In the World Series, Randy Arozarena cannot be the only batter who produces offense for the Rays. The Rays have to get production out of players like Yandy Diaz and Brandon Lowe, who had poor showings in the CS.
The Tampa Bay Rays may be taking a risk and promoting top prospect Wander Franco for the World Series, who posted his WS jersey on his Instagram Story. The 19-year old shortstop is arguably the best prospect in baseball and can absolutely rake. If he joins the big club for the biggest series, look for Kevin Cash to use him.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Wear Out the Rays’ Bullpen.
The Tampa Bay Rays have one of the best bullpens in baseball. This year they pitched more innings than the team’s starters and collected more wins as well. That said, the Dodgers are the deepest lineup in the league.
The Dodgers get production from every level of their lineup. If the Dodgers can chase the Rays’ elite starting pitchers and whittle down the bullpen, they have a much higher chance of winning this series.
World Series Prediction
Man, this is a tough choice. While the Los Angeles Dodgers have a much stronger and balanced lineup than the Tampa Bay Rays, I have a lot more trust in the Rays’ staff and ‘pen. Both of these teams play good defense and have succeeded in their clutch hitting. This series should be hard-fought by both teams. As the age-old adage goes, so do I. Great pitching beats great hitting. Rays in seven. Rays Up!
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