Sports Dodgers rake in any count, and other takeaways from their Game 3 win
'No hesitations': As COVID-19 lingers in Texas, fans relish return to ballpark for NLCS between Dodgers and Braves
Fans were allowed to attend Game 1 of the NLCS between the Dodgers-Braves game for the first time this season.Game 1 of the National League Championship Series pitted the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers and a group altogether absent from pandemic baseball: Fans.
The Los Angeles Dodgers retook control of the World Series on Friday, besting the Tampa Bay Rays 6-2 in Game 3 behind a brilliant effort from Walker Buehler and more timely hitting from their potent lineup en route to a 2-1 series lead. Here are a few takeaways from their Game 3 victory.
Dodgers hitters excel in any count
The Dodgers' preposterously deep and star-studded lineup excels in so many ways. No team, for instance, hit for morethan Los Angeles during the abbreviated 2020 regular season. No team made contact at a higher rate, either. And no team did a better job hitting with two strikes.
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The Tampa Bay Rays lead 2-0 in the best-of-seven ALCS against the Houston Astros, with Game 3 on Tuesday night in San Diego.Manuel Margot was the hero for Tampa Bay in Game 2, hitting a three-run homer and making a stunning catch in the 4-2 win. But the Rays managed just four hits in the game and needed their bullpen to work four innings, further stressing a staff that has been used heavily up to this point.
Highest weighted-on base average (wOBA) with two strikes, 2020
The club's collective knack for two-strike hitting has been on display throughout the postseason -of Mookie Betts' hits through Game 2 of the World Series came in two-strike counts, as did Cody Bellinger's go-ahead home run in Game 7 of the NLCS - but never more so than in Friday's victory.
Of the Dodgers' 10 hits in Game 3, all butcame with two strikes, including all four of their most impactful hits by added: Justin Turner's solo shot off Charlie Morton in the first; Max Muncy's two-run single in the third; Betts' run-scoring single in the fourth; and Austin Barnes' unexpected, lead-padding homer off John Curtiss in the sixth. The bulk of that damage was done off Morton, who allowed just one run through his first three postseason starts, and, more germanely, held hitters to a .170/.207/.284 line in two-strike counts this year.
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Carlos Correa's home run in the ninth inning gave the Astros a 4-3 win in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Rays.They know the baseball world will never forgive them.
Ultimately, Game 3 further evinced how difficult the Dodgers' lineup is to navigate for opposing pitchers, not only due to its abundance of All-Stars and former MVPs, but because the team's hitters, almost to a man, are comfortable hitting while behind in the count. Even with two strikes on them, they refuse to expand the zone, continuing to get off quality swings and produce.
Turner gets his moment
No player embodies the Dodgers' ongoing futility in October like Clayton Kershaw. But Justin Turner, their venerable third baseman, has also been around for most of the recent heartbreak. And just like Kershaw had his moment in Game 1, and his memory to savor should the Dodgers finally end their championship drought this year, Turner has made his mark, too, following a 2-for-5, two-run effort highlighted by that first-inning homer, which tied him with Duke Snider for the most (11) in Dodgers postseason history.
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Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin only 1.1 innings in Game 2, leaving six Los Angeles relievers responsible for getting 23 outs.So as casual viewers tuned into Game 2 of the World Series and saw a parade of pitchers head to the mound, only to get yanked, touched for a run or two here, slowly watching the game slip away and control of the series tilt back toward the Tampa Bay Rays, it was fair to wonder:
Prior to Friday, Turner's postseason had been somewhat of a disappointment. Through his first 14 contests, the Dodgers' No. 3 hitter in each of those games had slashed just .216/.328/.353, a far cry from his robust regular-season numbers. Meanwhile, Turner had recorded a negative win probability added in all but four games, a byproduct of his struggles during run-scoring opportunities. To date, he's hitting just .118 with runners in scoring position this postseason, and the veteran has driven in only three runs in 17 such at-bats.
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Suddenly, however, Turner's postseason is no longer a disappointment. He's now poised, should the Dodgers pull this off, to be one of the heroes, which would be well deserved considering how important the 35-year-old has been to this powerhouse franchise.
Arozarena struggling with offspeed diet
Until the ninth inning of Game 3, the Dodgers had all but silenced Randy Arozarena, the rookie phenom who hit .382/.433/.855 with seven home runs through the first three rounds of the postseason. Much of that damage came off, and he's generally experienced far more success against fastballs than any other pitch type throughout his nascent career.
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“There’s a lot of things that came from this season we might not have had the opportunity to do otherwise,” says Rays infielder Joey Wendle. “On the road we’ll have a designated suite where players could get together after the game and hang out, where had that not been the case, we might have gone back to our rooms or done our separate things. “So there was more time to bond as a team and now, more time to bond with families and have a little more interaction than before the postseason started and more than in a regular season, as well.
So the Dodgers decided to feed the prodigious 25-year-old a steady diet of offspeed and breaking pitches. Through the first two games of the World Series, as Arozarena notched just one measly infield single in six at-bats (albeit with three walks), fastballs accounted for less than a quarter of the pitches he saw.
That approach continued to pay dividends for the Dodgers in Game 3. Walker Buehler's fastball is electric, but he threw Arozarena just four heaters over three plate appearances (and only two inside the strike zone), resulting in a three-pitch strikeout, a flyout to deep center, and another strikeout. And that fourth-inning flyout, which rocketed off Arozarena's bat at 100.5 miles per hour and produced an expected batting average of .760, came off a fastball.
Yet, with two outs in the ninth inning and a four-run lead, deposed closer Kenley Jansen deviated from the plan that had been so effective to that point in the series, throwing Arozarena six straight fastballs while trying to secure the game's final out. He failed.
Jansen opted to just let it eat, as he does - nine out of every 10 pitches Jansen throws is some kind of, either a cutter or a sinker - and got burned for it, serving up a poorly located 3-2 cutter that Arozarena deposited into the left-field seats for his eighth postseason home run. It was also the game's hardest-hit ball, with an exit velocity of .
Simulated World Series: Dodgers stage epic comeback vs. Rays in Game 3 slugfest
In one of the highest-scoring World Series games in history, the Dodgers got the last word on Corey Seager's solo homer in extra innings for a 13-12 victory over the Rays.Game 3: Los Angeles Dodgers vs.
And as disheartening as it might've been for Jansen, it was an instructive at-bat for Los Angeles. Not only did it validate the Dodgers' game plan and reinforce how untenable it is to throw Arozarena fastballs in the zone right now, but it also illustrated why Jansen is a poor matchup for the burgeoning star. His one-dimensional repertoire makes him particularly vulnerable against Arozarena, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts should avoid using him in high-leverage spots for the remainder of the series if the outfielder is due up.
Bold strategy, Dave
The vulnerability of the Dodgers' bullpen looms large over this series. As such, it was a bit curious to see Roberts use three of his most trusted relievers - Jansen, hard-throwing rookie Brusdar Graterol, and ground-ball extraordinaire Blake Treinen - to close out a somewhat lopsided game, potentially limiting their availability (and/or reducing their effectiveness) over the next couple of games.
On one hand, neither Graterol nor Treinen had pitched since the NLCS finale, and Jansen hadn't appeared since Game 6 of that series, so they were overdue for some work. However, one or more of them could now be asked to pitch on three consecutive days after not doing that during the regular season, which generally seems ill-advised, especially with the three-batter rule in place.
This may end up being a non-issue, but if any of those three falter over the next couple of days, it'll be hard not to look back at Game 3 and wonder why, say, Victor Gonzalez, Jake McGee, and/or Dylan Floro weren't asked to handle the late innings with the Dodgers staked to a comfortable lead.
Jonah Birenbaum is theScore's senior MLB writer. He steams a good ham. You can find him on Twitter.
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Opinion: Justin Turner controversy again reveals selfishness of our broken society .
Justin Turner returned to the field Tuesday to celebrate the Dodgers' World Series win despite being removed from Game 6 for a positive COVID-19 test.That’s how we’re doing it, right? Personal satisfaction and happiness over the collective good, science and common sense be damned.