The Dodgers have two chances at securing the franchise’s first World Series title in 32 years following a 4-2 victory over the Rays in Game 5 on Sunday night. They brushed off their Game 4 meltdown with ease.
Having the good October Clayton Kershaw on the mound (two runs in 5 2/3 innings) helped a lot; so did an unsuccessful baserunning move that took away a lot of the Rays’ offensive momentum.
SN lays out three keys to a victory that set the Dodgers up to clinch in Game 6 on Tuesday.
1. Manuel Margot stole an opportunity from the Rays
The outfielder ran Tampa Bay out of a fifth-inning threat with an unsuccessful attempt at stealing home. Margot thought he had timed Kershaw’s long stretch with runners on base right; he took off for home while Kershaw’s hands were high in the air.
LA first baseman Max Muncy alerted Kershaw, who stepped off the rubber and threw accurately to catcher Austin Barnes, who, in turn, got the tag down on Margot just in time.
“As soon as I saw [Margot] break, I sprinted straight towards Kersh and said, ‘Home! Home! Home!’ He knew what to do from there,” Muncy told reporters, per MLB.com. per MLB.com.
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The caught stealing kept the Rays’ deficit at 4-2. Tampa Bay did not get a runner past second base in the final four innings.
“I thought it was a good idea at the time,” Margot told reporters, per MLB.com.
2. Dave Roberts’ bullpen moves worked
Blasting the LA manager for his bullpen usage is required posting these days, but Roberts can crow after three relievers combined for 3 1/3 scoreless frames Sunday.
Dustin May got the first five outs after coming on for Kershaw in the sixth, a move Justin Turner objected to.
Justin Turner apparently not a fan of pulling Kershaw either pic.twitter.com/LKKHEgH9Wz
— Jack Harris (@Jack_A_Harris) October 26, 2020
May was replaced by left-hander Victor Gonzalez, who came on with one on and one out in the eighth. His first two hitters were right-handers Mike Brosseau and Randy Arozarena. Brosseau was pinch-hitting for Ji-Man Choi, who was announced as a pinch hitter for Yandy Diaz before Roberts went to Gonzalez.
Gonzalez walked Brosseau after throwing a wild pitch but then retired Arozarena on a fly to center fielder Cody Bellinger and lefty-swinging Brandon Lowe on a liner to Bellinger to end the Rays’ threat.
Wondering why Gonzalez was the one to face righties in a big spot? Because he was strong against them in the regular season: a .469 OPS in 42 plate appearances. He was even better against left-handers (.382 OPS in 38 PAs). His wipeout slider was a big reason why.
“For them to pick on Victor or make a three-player move to get a matchup was worth it,” Roberts told reporters, per MLB.com. “I like Victor spinning the baseball against Arozarena. I just liked the matchup, and Victor performed.”
In the ninth, Roberts went with Blake Treinen as his closer instead of Game 4 loser Kenley Jansen. Treinen gave up a leadoff single to Margot but then retired the next three batters for the save.
3. Brandon Lowe’s bat went silent again
The out to Bellinger was the only well-hit ball put in play by Lowe in Game 5. The Rays’ top power hitter in the regular season popped out twice and struck out once in his other three at-bats. He stranded three runners on the night.
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Lowe is 1 for his last 14 dating to Game 2, with the one being a three-run home run in Game 4. He’s 3 for 21, all homers, for the series. He has eight strikeouts and no walks.
Lowe will begin Game 6 with the platoon advantage against right-handed starter Tony Gonsolin.