Dodgers vs. Rays: Five things we’ve learned from Games 1 and 2 of the World Series

The World Series is now a best-of-five. The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2 on Wednesday night (TB 6, LA 4) to knot the series up at a game apiece. The Dodgers won Game 1 handily on Tuesday (LA 8, TB 3). Thursday is an off-day and Game 3 will be played Friday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

This is the first World Series featuring the two No. 1 seeds since 2013, and while two games don’t tell us much in the grand scheme of things, there is some stuff we can learn from Games 1 and 2. Here are five things we’ve learned in the first two games of this year’s Fall Classic, in no particular order.

1. We could be in for a high-scoring series

The Dodgers and Rays are two of the best run prevention teams in baseball. Los Angeles allowed 3.55 runs per game during the regular season, second fewest in baseball behind Cleveland (3.48), and Tampa Bay ranked fourth at 3.82 runs per game. (The Twins sat in third at 3.58). Two great run prevention teams means we’re in a low-scoring series, right? Not exactly.

Through two games the Dodgers and Rays have combined for 21 runs and 47 baserunners. Eight home runs too. That damage came even though Clayton Kershaw was marvelous in Game 1 and the Rays threw their two best starters in Games 1 and 2 (Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell), and their top relievers in Game 2. Great pitchers have not led to great run prevention yet.

The Dodgers have scored 12 runs in two games because they always score a ton of runs. Their lineup is deep, powerful, and patient, and they wear down opposing pitchers. The Rays broke out for six runs in Game 2 because Brandon Lowe finally snapped out of his postseason slump with two homers, and because Joey Wendle provided a rare hit with runners in scoring position.

Lowe went into the World Series in a 6 for 52 (.112) skid with one home run in the postseason and the Rays as a team were hitting .174/.301/.362 with runners in scoring position this October. In the span of five innings in Game 2, Tampa seemed to get the monkey off their back offensively. Lowe broke out and they scored runs on something other than a home run.

“He can go quiet for a little while, but he can get as hot as anybody in baseball. Hopefully that’s the trend that we’re looking at moving forward,” Rays manager Kevin Cash told reporters, including MLB.com’s Juan Toribio, about Lowe’s breakout game. “You gotta be able to be tough-minded, and Brandon is, a lot of our guys are. You feel for them when it’s not coming as easy as you’d like, but we owe it to our guys to stick with them. And Brandon, go ahead and get hot now and feel good about yourself.”

Will the series continue to be high-scoring? Eh, probably not given the two pitching staffs, but Games 1 and 2 show that good hitting can beat good pitching. It’s not always the other way around. The Dodgers are really great offensively and Game 2 might be an indication Tampa is about to break out of their postseason offensive funk.

“We have a complete offense,” Cash told Toribio. “I know they’ve been quiet, but we have a lot of confidence in this group that we can be really balanced and have good at-bats and put pressure on pitchers and opposing defenses.”

2. The Dodgers will not give in to Arozarena

Randy Arozarena, the breakout star of the postseason, is 1 for 6 with three walks and a strikeout through two World Series games. He socked three homers in the ALDS and four more in the ALCS, and the Dodgers have taken notice. They are attacking him with breaking balls, even in three-ball counts, and are willing to walk him rather than give him something over the plate.

Here are the pitches and locations Arozarena has seen in the World Series:

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The Dodgers are attacking Randy Arozarena with breaking balls. Baseball Savant

Arozarena has seen 29 pitches in the World Series: 16 sliders, seven fastballs, three changeups, two curveballs, and one splitter. Only seven fastballs among 29 pitches. It became painfully obvious the Dodgers will not challenge Arozarena with fastballs in the ninth inning of Game 2, when Jake McGee threw him three sliders four-pitch at-bat. McGee is an extreme fastball pitcher who threw only two sliders the entire month of September (out of 124 pitches).

Los Angeles is not willing to pitch Arozarena in the strike zone and, to his credit, he is not expanding the zone and is taking the walks when they come. It’s not the Barry Bonds treatment entirely, but it is close. The Dodgers have apparently decided they will not let Arozarena beat them and have pitched him accordingly.

“I don’t blame anybody for being very careful with him. They’re throwing him a heavy dose of breaking balls. He’s going to get one here eventually,” Cash told reporters, including MLB.com’s Adam Berry. “He’s going to get timed up and see it. We saw him make those adjustments against New York and Houston, and he’s going to do it again here, too. I’m impressed — we’re all impressed — with what Randy’s plate discipline has been. He’s still making good decisions at the plate, which is very encouraging for a young player.”

3. Anderson is still in the Circle of Trust™

The postseason has not been kind to Rays relief ace Nick Anderson. He surrendered a solo home run in Game 2 and has now been scored upon in five straight games and in six of his eight postseason games overall. This is a guy who allowed a run in only five of his 42 regular season appearances with Tampa.

To be fair, Anderson did record maybe the biggest out of Game 2. He entered with runners on the corners and two outs in the fifth inning, with Justin Turner at the plate representing the tying run, and he blew a fastball by him for the inning-ending strikeout.

That strikeout was Anderson’s first in 24 batters, which is hard to believe because he struck out 44.2 percent of batters faced during the regular season. One of the game’s premier strikeout relievers has had trouble missing bats in October. He’s also given up three homers to righty batters this postseason after allowing one hit to righty batters during the regular season.