World Series: Dodgers Top the Rays in Game 3 With a Stellar Pitching Performance
ARLINGTON, Texas — Walker Buehler wore a blue sweatshirt in the dugout and the contented smile of someone who had successfully completed his job. He had just provided the Los Angeles Dodgers with a commanding pitching performance worthy of the franchise’s legendary aces, and his teammates had done equally well on offense.
The result was a 6-2 win on Friday over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 3 of the World Series at Globe Life Field that gave the Dodgers a 2-1 advantage in the Series. Game 4 is set for Saturday night at the same stadium.
The roof at Globe Life Field — where all of the games are being played to limit travel and reduce the likelihood of transmitting the coronavirus — was closed because of inclement weather. The other things that changed were the uniforms and the batting order. The Dodgers, who were the home team in Games 1 and 2, switched to their road grays and batted first, while the Rays switched to their home whites and batted second.
It did not matter much where they batted in this game, because Buehler was almost impenetrable. With a fiery fastball and excellent location, he did not allow a hit until Manuel Margot’s double into the left-field corner with one out in the fifth inning, at which point he had faced the minimum number of batters.
In six dominating innings, Buehler allowed three hits, one run and one walk while collecting 10 strikeouts, three of them from Brandon Lowe, the hero of Game 2. Four of the Rays’ first six outs were by strikeout as Buehler set a tone.
“That might be the best I’ve ever seen his stuff,” said Austin Barnes, the Dodgers catcher.
The game featured a matchup of two superb starting pitchers — Buehler, who went into the game with a 1.89 earned run average in the 2020 postseason, and Charlie Morton, with a 3-0 record, a 0.57 E.R.A. and a reputation as a big-game pitcher.
But Buehler was the one left smiling in the dugout, while Morton struggled to put the Dodgers away with two outs.
Justin Turner, the former Met, sparked the Dodgers offense by hitting a bases-empty home run with two outs in the first inning, and then hit a two-out double his next time up, in the third inning. That set Max Muncy up to rap a two-run single to center field off Morton for a 3-0 Dodgers lead.
Turner also made a terrific play at third base, going to his left to backhand a sharp bouncer off the bat of Mike Zunino to initiate a double play and wipe away the only base runner the Rays had in the first four and a third innings.
While Buehler remained locked in a groove, the Dodgers also demonstrated that some of the small-ball tendencies of years past had not been entirely abandoned. Over the last several years, baseball has increasingly moved toward a heavy reliance on home runs and big innings, with techniques like stolen bases and sacrifice bunts consigned to the tactical trash heap.
But the Dodgers put both on display Friday, with Mookie Betts stealing a couple of bases and Barnes executing a perfect safety squeeze bunt.
In the top of the fourth, Cody Bellinger led off the inning with a single to right field. Morton struck out Chris Taylor, but Joc Pederson ripped a line drive over the outstretched glove of Ji-Man Choi, the Rays’ athletic first baseman, for a single. With runners at first and third, Pederson feigned embarking on a hit and run, which temporarily froze Lowe, the Rays second baseman.
On the pitch, Barnes gently tapped a bunt up the first base line. Bellinger ran toward home on contact, and Choi’s only play was to toss the ball to Lowe, covering first base, to force out Barnes. Not only did the sacrifice bunt score a run, it also moved Pederson to second base, and he scored on a single by Betts.
Of course, Barnes is also capable of playing the more modern game: He whacked a home run in the top of the sixth that was an exclamation point on an emphatic Dodgers win.
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