How the Dodgers and Rays match up position by position in the World Series

Mike DiGiovanna
·10 min read

The Dodgers had the best regular-season record in baseball at 43-17 and are 9-3 in the postseason after sweeping the Milwaukee Brewers in the wild card round and San Diego Padres in the National League Division Series before needing seven games to defeat the Atlanta Braves in the NL Championship Series.

The Tampa Bay Rays had the best regular-season record in the American League at 40-20 and are 9-5 in the postseason after sweeping the Toronto Blue Jays, dispatching the New York Yankees in a five-game ALDS and the Houston Astros in a seven-game ALCS.

Total record: The Dodgers are 52-20; the Rays 49-25. They've won 101 of 146 games between them, a .692 winning percentage. Let's see how them compare, position by position:

WORLD SERIES POSITION-BY-POSITION MATCHUPS

STARTING ROTATION

Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, who has a mediocre 11-12 record and 4.31 ERA in 35 career playoff games, 28 of them starts, will start Game 1, but being pushed to seven games in the NLCS will disrupt the team’s World Series pitching plans. Manager Dave Roberts said he’ll “have to be creative” in Game 2, which could be a bullpen game featuring Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin. Walker Buehler will pitch Game 3, aligning the ace for a potential Game 7, and Julio Urías likely will start Game 4.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw pitches.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw pitches against the Atlanta Braves in Game 4 of the NLCS at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Rays: Tyler Glasnow, the 6-foot-8 right-hander who will start Game 1, can dominate with his high-90s fastball and big curve, but he’s also given up six homers in 19 1/3 playoff innings. Blake Snell, the left-hander who will start Game 2, features a 95-mph fastball, slider, curve and changeup and has a 3.20 ERA in four playoff starts. Charlie Morton, the veteran right-hander with an 0.46 ERA in three Game 7 appearances (including with the Astros against the Dodgers in 2017), is lined up to start Game 3 and … Game 7.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow pitches.
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow pitches during Game 4 of the ALCS against the Houston Astros on Oct. 14 in San Diego. (Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

EDGE: Even

BULLPEN

Dodgers: Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol all rebounded from earlier playoff hiccups, and Pedro Báez was dominant in his last three NLCS outings, giving up one hit and striking out five in three innings, giving Roberts four solid options from the right side. Rookie left-hander Victor González has shown promise, but fellow left-handers Adam Kolarek and Jake McGee have been erratic.

Rays: A deep, versatile and often dominant relief corps has allowed manager Kevin Cash to have a short leash with his starters. Right-handers Nick Anderson, who has a lively 95-mph fastball and sharp curve, Pete Fairbanks, who has a 98-mph fastball and wipeout slider, and Diego Castillo, who features a 98-mile two-seam fastball, share closing and setup duties. There are sidearm throwers from the right (Ryan Thompson) and left (Aaron Loup) sides.

EDGE: Rays

FIRST BASE

Dodgers: Max Muncy hit .192 with 12 homers and 27 RBIs in 58 games, a significant drop from a 2019 All-Star season in which he hit .251 with 35 homers and 98 RBIs. But his plate discipline remains superb — he’s drawn 15 walks against 17 strikeouts in 12 playoff games — and he’s provided pop with two homers, three doubles and eight RBIs.

Rays: Ji-Man Choi, who debuted with the Angels in 2015, has provided surprising power, with a .952 OPS, two homers and four RBIs in 12 playoff games, but he’s best known for his Gumby-like ability to stretch and contort his stout 6-foot-1, 260-pound frame while stretching for errant throws. Right-handed-hitting Yandy Diaz or Mike Brosseau could start against the left-handed Kershaw.

EDGE: Rays

SECOND BASE

Dodgers: Chris Taylor suffered a right-ankle injury in Game 5 of the NLCS, but after sitting out Game 6, he returned for Game 7 and had a single and a double. After crushing a game-tying pinch-hit homer in the sixth inning Sunday, Kiké Hernández could see playing time at second, especially against the Rays’ left-handed starters.

Rays: Brandon Lowe hit .269 with a .916 OPS, 14 homers and 37 RBIs in the regular season but has struggled in the postseason, batting .115 with 18 strikeouts. The improved plate discipline that served him well in the regular season, when he swung at 20.9% of pitches outside the strike zone, has disappeared in playoffs, Lowe swinging at 34.3% of pitches outside the zone.

EDGE: Dodgers

SHORTSTOP

Dodgers: Corey Seager has been a beast in the playoffs, batting .298 with a 1.124 OPS, six homers, four doubles, 15 RBIs and 13 runs in 12 games, earning NLCS most valuable player honors and the admiration of teammate Mookie Betts, who said his job as leadoff man is “to get on base and stay there until [Seager] hits me in, which doesn’t take long.”

Dodgers' Corey Seager celebrates his home run against the Atlanta Braves.
Dodgers' Corey Seager celebrates his home run against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning in Game 6 of the NLCS on Oct. 17 in Arlington, Texas. (Eric Gay / Associated Press)

Rays: Willy Adames is no match for Seager offensively — he hit .259 with eight homers and 23 RBIs in 2020 and is batting .132 with three RBIs in 14 playoff games. But the 25-year-old from the Dominican Republic is a defensive whiz with superb instincts and reflexes, the range to make plays up the middle and in the hole.

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Willy Adames tries to catch.
Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Willy Adames tries to catch in Game 7 of the ALCS on in San Diego. (Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

EDGE: Dodgers

THIRD BASE

Dodgers: Justin Turner has had a quiet postseason compared to his usually robust Octobers, batting .209 with one homer and four RBIs, but that one homer was huge, a solo shot in a three-run first inning of a 3-1 NLCS Game 6 win. He also made a huge defensive play in Game 7, diving to tag Dansby Swanson in a rundown between third and home, scrambling to one knee and throwing out Austin Riley at third to complete a double play.

Rays: Joey Wendle went six for 11 with four runs, one strikeout and one walk in the first three games of the division series, but in nine games since he’s hit .111 with two RBIs and nine strikeouts. If Wendle continues to struggle, he could lose playing time to Diaz.

EDGE: Dodgers

LEFT FIELD

Dodgers: AJ Pollock emerged as the everyday starter by hitting a team-high 16 homers and 34 RBIs in the regular season, but his .229 average), no homers and two RBIs in 11 playoff games could turn the position back into a platoon with the left-handed-hitting Joc Pederson, who is batting .375 with a homer and five RBIs in 10 playoff games.

Rays: Randy Arozarena, the 25-year-old rookie from Cuba who missed the start of the season after a positive COVID-19 test, has been the breakout star of the playoffs, batting .382 (21 for 55) with a 1.288 OPS, seven homers 10 RBIs and 14 runs in 14 games. The slugger has more than twice as many postseason hits as any other Rays player.

EDGE: Rays

CENTER FIELD

Dodgers: Cody Bellinger didn’t come close to replicating his 2019 MVP season, batting .239 with 12 homers and 30 RBIs, but he’s been more locked in October, batting .250 with three homers and 10 RBIs. Bellinger is shortening his swing with two strikes and spoiling tough pitches like he did Sunday, when he capped an eight-pitch at-bat with a game-winning homer in the seventh.

Rays: Kevin Kiermaier won’t strike fear into opposing pitchers, but his glove will frustrate opposing hitters. Kiermaier has been one of baseball’s best defensive center fielders since 2010, as he showed in Game 3 of the ALCS, when he made two diving catches, one of a Carlos Correa flare to shallow center with runners on second and third in which Kiermaier covered 64 feet in 3.8 seconds.

EDGE: Dodgers

RIGHT FIELD

Dodgers: Mookie Betts made brilliant plays in each of the final three NLCS games, racing in to make a shoestring catch of Swanson’s flare with runners on second and third in Game 5, leaping at the wall to rob Marcell Ozuna of extra bases in Game 6 and robbing Freddie Freeman of a homer in Game 7. He’s hitting .311 with 10 runs and eight walks in 12 playoff games.

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts robs Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman of a fifth inning homer.
Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts robs Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman of a fifth inning homer in Game 7 of the NLCS. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Rays: Manuel Margot has provided surprising power in the playoffs, with five homers and 11 RBIs in 13 games. He also made a superb play in Game 2 of the ALCS, racing into foul territory to make a leaping catch of George Springer’s slicing drive with two on before tumbling over the wall and falling six feet to the ground. He held onto the ball for the final out.

Tampa Bay Rays' Manuel Margot hits a solo home run.
Tampa Bay Rays' Manuel Margot hits a solo home run against the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the ALCS in San Diego. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

EDGE: Dodgers

CATCHER

Dodgers: Austin Barnes will catch Kershaw, but Will Smith will handle the bulk of the catching duties. Smith had a five-hit, three-RBI game in the division series-clincher against the Padres and two huge hits in the NLCS, a score-tying three-run homer in the sixth inning of Game 5 and a score-tying two-run single in the third inning of Game 7.

Rays: Mike Zunino is a subpar defender who has thrived at the plate in his first postseason. The all-or-nothing slugger is batting .216, but four of those hits are homers, and he has eight RBIs. Zunino hit a solo homer and a sacrifice fly in Tampa Bay’s 4-2 win over Houston in Game 7 of the ALCS.

EDGE: Dodgers

DESIGNATED HITTER

Dodgers: Pederson, Smith, Pollock, Turner and Edwin Rios have been rotating , but they’ve combined to hit only .195 with one homer, four RBIs, with 12 strikeouts and two walks as the DH.

Rays: Diaz, Hunter Renfroe, Yoshi Tsutsugo and Austin Meadows have provided minimal production, combining to hit .135 with a .526 OPS, two homers, two doubles, three RBIs and 13 strikeouts in 14 playoff games.

EDGE: Dodgers

BENCH

Dodgers: Hernández can play every position but catcher and provides a potent right-handed bat against left-handed starters or relievers. Pederson and Rios are solid left-handed-hitting options to pinch-hit, DH or play the field. Backup catcher Barnes is a strong defender and game-caller.

Rays: There isn’t nearly as much firepower as the Dodgers’ bench, but Cash can create platoon options with right-handed-hitting corner infielder Diaz, outfielder Renfroe and first baseman Mike Brosseau, and outfielderTsutsugo provides a bat from the left side.

EDGE: Even

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.