Tonight brings us Game 1 of the 2020 World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers. In preparation for the beginning of the end of a weird year of baseball, let’s take a look at three things each team needs to go their way in order to bring home the trophy by the end of October.
3 Keys to Winning: Tampa Bay Rays
Key #1: Top Pitching Playing Like Top Pitching
The Tampa Bay Rays boast fantastic starting pitching in Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, and Charlie Morton, but they’ve each had some concerns in the postseason so far. Morton has been by far the best of the bunch, only allowing 1 earned run, but hasn’t pitched past the fifth inning in his three starts. It’s worked so far, but it might create an issue if the bullpen gets overused in the other games. That means Glasnow and Snell have to step up and maybe eat up a few more innings than they have thus far. That might prove difficult against the stellar LA offense.
Key #2: Playing Like A Team
The Rays are the underdogs in this series, and despite their record it felt as if they’ve been the underdog all postseason. They don’t have any offensive stars, but they know how to play together and each player has had to step up in order to get those timely hits and score to support their pitching. If they want to win the Series, they have to continue playing as a cohesive unit. They give me the vibes of the 2004 Pistons, and they’ll need to channel their inner Pistons in order to #BeatLA.
Key #3: “some mfer named Randy”
One player in particular that’s stepped up this postseason is Randy Arozarena. The 25-year-old wasn’t even an every day player for the Rays in the regular season, but he’s stepped up big time this postseason, hitting .382 with seven home runs in his 14 games. That matched the amount of HRs he had in the regular season this year, albeit in just nine more at bats. That still shows how ridiculous his tear has been, and I’m curious to see if he can keep up the Cinderella heroics in the World Series. If so, it’s about to get wild on Twitter.
3 Keys to Winning: Los Angeles Dodgers
Key #1: Playoff Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw‘s playoff history is….well, not great. In 35 games pitched (28 starts), he has an 11-12 record with a 4.31 ERA and 193 SOs. That’s not a stat line you’d normally see from a future Hall of Famer. Kersh has some serious playoff woes and he needs to figure them out. This year has been a little better (2-1, 3.32 ERA and 23 SOs), but he’s still not pitching like he does in the regular season. As he’ll be going up against Tyler Glasnow tonight, he needs to be on his A-game. The Dodgers need it.
Key #2: Talent
Overall, this LA team is much more talented than Tampa Bay. If I were to make a list of the top 5 position players in this series, at least 4 of them would be in Pantone 294 (Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, and maybe Max Muncy). As great as Randy Arozarena has played, he doesn’t exactly have the body of work the others have. And who else is there? Kevin Kiermaier? Manuel Margot? Ji-Man Choi?? The balance of talent is well on LA’s side this series, and they need to play like it if they want to win.
Key #3: Closing Duties
Kenley Jansen has had his own share of playoff struggles, and this postseason it came early in a 30-pitch, 2-out effort in the NLDS against the Padres. Since then, he’s pitched well, but also hasn’t been given as many save opportunities. Instead, the Dodgers have turned to Brusdar Graterol and Joe Kelly at important moments this postseason. Against a team that can capitalize on your mistakes in a hurry, though, they need Kenley to be reliable if they use him in the closing spot again. They need whoever is closing the game to be on point, because the Rays will always have a chance if the score is close. Like Kershaw, Jansen needs to be on point in order for the Dodgers to close the door on the Rays in those close games.
– Pat Shuman (@PShu1996 on Twitter)
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