James Rowe Previews And Predicts The 2020 World Series
The World Series, the mecca for baseball fans, has arrived. Although the COVID-19 pandemic caused a funky shortened season and novel, enlarged playoffs, the Fall Classic is here in its normal format. And, unlike those of many prior seasons, the 2020 version actually matches up the best teams. In the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays, and in the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Many fans may have despaired of seeing a World Series this year. Instead, they have the best pairing in years.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the defending American League champion Houston Astros in seven games to win the franchise’s second AL pennant. The Rays almost blew a 3-0 series lead in the AL Championship series. But Houston could only claw back to even the series at 3-3. Tampa Bay pulled off a hard-fought, 4-2 win in Game 7 and hope to take home the first World Series championship in franchise history.
Tampa Bay Offense
The Rays rely on pitching and defense to win games, but the offense has come through in the clutch in this postseason. Left fielder Randy Arozarena has been the hottest hitter on the planet, slashing .382/.433/.855 with seven home runs and 10 RBIs in the 14 postseason games he has played for the Rays. The hope is that Arozarena can stay hot, bolstered by a supporting cast that includes second baseman Brandon Lowe, and right fielders Hunter Renfroe, and Austin Meadows. Whether the Rays lineup can match Los Angeles’ offense may be the key to the series.
Tampa Bay Pitching and Defense
Tampa Bay’s pitching has been one of the main reasons for the Rays success. The club had the second-best ERA in the AL at 3.56 in 2020. With a rotation that features Tyler Glasnow, who can throw 100 MPH, Blake Snell, a Cy Young caliber starter, and Charlie Morton, a veteran who has been one of the most consistent pitchers the past few seasons. But it is the bullpen that is Tampa Bay’s biggest asset.
Tampa Bay is 36-1 when leading after the sixth inning, 33-0 after the seventh, and 40-0 when taking a lead into the eighth. The hope is that the Rays can hand off a lead to the relief corps to shut it down. Arms like Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks, and Jose Alvarado have dominated in relief the entire season. Tampa Bay’s defense has also sparkled. The Rays have one of the best UZRs in the league at 14.6 and are fifth in Major League Baseball in defensive runs saved with a plus-24.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers are making their third appearance in the World Series in the past four seasons and are hoping that the third time is indeed the charm. The team lost to the Astros in 2017 and to the Boston Red Sox in 2018. Hanging over those two recent losses is the fact that Dodger fans have been deprived of a Fall Classic title since 1988–a period in which decades-deprived Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, and Chicago Cubs fans enjoyed their first titles since the early part of the 20th Century. Los Angeles had to come back from a 3-1 NL Championship series deficit to rally in Game Seven to beat the Atlanta Braves.
Los Angeles Offense
The Dodgers are one of the most balanced teams in the league and is arguably the deepest. The Dodgers probably have the most depth on the offensive side of the ball. Shortstop Corey Seager has been their hottest hitter in the postseason, belting five home runs and driving in 11 runs. Enrique Hernandez has been the team’s secret weapon off the bench–hitting two clutch home runs in the NL Championship Series. There are no easy outs in a lineup that includes right fielder Mookie Betts, center fielder Cody Bellinger, and first baseman Max Muncy.
Los Angeles Pitching and Defense
The pitching is also deep, though not quite deep as Tampa Bay’s. Clayton Kershaw remains the ace, but he dealt with back spasms in the NLCS. The hope is that his back improves and he leads Los Angeles to a championship. Rookies Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin will also need to keep up the success they had in the regular season through the World Series. Walker Buehler was phenomenal in the NLCS, with an 0.82 ERA in 11 innings–a stretch in which he allowed only one run and struck out 13. The bullpen has a lot of weapons–such as Brusdar Graterol, Joe Kelly, and Julio Urias–but it is unclear whether they can match what the Rays’ bullpen does game after game.
The other question is whether closer Kenley Jansen will continue to struggle. Although Urias pitched well enough in finishing Game Seven against Atlanta to give manager Dave Roberts an option. Otherwise, the Dodgers will have to find someone to rely on to close out games. Still, any pitcher will benefit from having the Los Angeles defense behind them. The Dodger defense ranked second in the league in defensive runs saved with plus-29.
Series prediction: Los Angeles in seven.
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