Dave Roberts had to have a difficult conversation at the start of the postseason with Dylan Floro. The right-handed reliever had a bounce-back regular season, posting a 2.59 ERA, 165 ERA+ (100 is average) and striking out 19 in 24⅓ innings.
However, he was one of the last cuts from the Dodgers’ wild-card-round roster, the best-of-three format prompting the team to carry only 13 pitchers.
"He was upset,” Roberts said at the time, “and he had every right to be upset."
Three weeks later, Floro is not only on the Dodgers' World Series roster, but pitching key innings. He struggled in Game 1, charged with two hits and two runs while getting only one out.
But in Wednesday’s Game 2, the 29-year-old was one of the few bright spots in the early innings of an underwhelming bullpen game from the Dodgers, retiring all three batters he faced to keep the score close.
When Floro entered with one out in the second inning, the Rays had a runner on third and a 1-0 lead. With Willy Adames at the plate, the Dodgers brought the infield in to prevent another score. In a 2-and-2 count, Floro induced a grounder to shortstop.
The Rays runner, Manuel Margot, broke for home on contact, allowing Corey Seager to throw him out at the plate. Adames took first but was thrown out during the next at-bat trying to steal second against Floro, who had kept him close with two pickoff attempts, to end the inning.
Floro got the first two outs of the third inning as well before turning the ball over to left-hander Victor González. Back in the dugout, Roberts walked up to Floro with a wide smile and wrapped him up in a hug. It was his third scoreless appearance in five outings this postseason.
Twists and turns
Chris Taylor had never sprained ankle before last Friday, so he thought the worst when he heard his right ankle “pop” in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the NLCS. Taylor rolled the ankle after firing a throw to second from the left-field line. He writhed in pain on the ground. He thought his season could be over.
“Once I put some weight on it,” Taylor said Wednesday, “I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was initially.”
The ankle swelled up the next day, forcing Taylor to miss Game 6 against the Braves. But he returned for Game 7, going two for four with a double in a 4-3 comeback win.
“I was able to do some things in the training room and thankfully have a quick recovery,” Taylor said.
He then went two for three with a walk and an RBI in Game 1 of the World Series and started in left field in Game 2. His home run got the Dodgers on the board in the fifth.
If it sounds like Dodger Stadium on your television set, it’s not just because the Dodgers, as the home team in Games 1 and 2, control the soundtrack and stadium video boards. It’s because Dodgers fans have taken over Globe Life Field.
According to data compiled by Vivid Seats, Dodgers fans outnumbered Rays fans two-to-one Tuesday night. That was apparent in the tepid reaction Kevin Kiermaier got when he homered off Clayton Kershaw in the fifth inning to cut the Dodgers’ lead to 2-1.
“Dodger fans travel so well,” Kershaw said. “They're everywhere. So for as much we would have liked the game to be in Dodger Stadium with 56,000 chanting, after everything that's gone on this season, to have 10,000-11,000 people in the stands and a good bit of them be Dodger fans is pretty cool.”
Crowds at typical neutral-site games are normally split evenly. California accounts for 35% of ticket sales for the series, Texas 25% and Florida 10%, according to StubHub.
Not even the pro-Dodger crowd could dampen the excitement of the Rays, who played in front fans for the first time this season after spending the previous two playoff rounds in San Diego.
“It was fun just to hear real reactions from real people,” Joey Wendle said, “whether it was good or bad, whether for or against us.”
Tuesday night’s game received record-low national viewership. With an audience of about 9.2 million, it was the least-watched Game 1 of a World Series on record (dating back to 1973) and a drop of more than 4 million compared to last year.
However, the game performed better than other sporting events during the industry’s return-to-play following this summer’s COVID-19 shutdowns. For comparison, Game 1 of this year’s NBA Finals between the Lakers and Miami Heat failed to attract even 7.5 million views — half the size of its 2019 Game 1 audience.
Tuesday’s World Series game outperformed the Finals opener in the Los Angeles market as well. The Dodgers-Rays game received a 20 rating locally (the percent of all L.A. households with a TV that watched) compared to the 13.2 rating for the Lakers-Heat opener.
Staff writers Jorge Castillo and Maria Torres contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.