Plaschke: Dodgers put on a show and return World Series to status quo in Game 3 win

Bill Plaschke
·5 min read
Arlington, Texas, Friday, October 23, 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy.
Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy celebrates after hitting a two-run single in the third inning of a 6-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 3 of the World Series on Friday. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

There, that’s more like it.

Whew, sigh, dizzying and daring Dodgers normalcy has returned to the World Series.

Two days after tumbling, the greatest baseball show on Earth took flight again Friday, spinning the Tampa Bay Rays silly with an eye-popping array of baseball acrobatics.

The Dodgers won Game 3, 6-2, while taking a two-games-to-one lead with the sort of diverse dominance that surely left the Rays wondering.

How can they possibly gain control of this countless-ring circus?

The answer, of course, is that they can’t.

“I’ve been on the other side and it’s tough. … It’s kind of tough to stop the bleeding,” the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts said. “We did a good job of keeping the pressure.”

You want pressure? They turned the Rays a deep shade of Dodger blue with pressure.

The Dodgers beat them with their arms, ace Walker Buehler displaying his big-game magic by allowing one run and just three hits over six innings with 10 strikeouts.

The Dodgers also beat them with their feet, Corey Seager starting an early uprising by taking a curveball off his toes.

The Dodgers beat them long, Justin Turner beginning their scoring in the first inning with a blast into the left-field seats, Austin Barnes ending the scoring in the sixth with a homer that dropped over the left-center-field fence.

The Dodgers also beat them short, Barnes dropping the first successful squeeze bunt in the World Series in a dozen years. (That’s right, the same guy drove in runs with a homer and a bunt in the same game for only the second time in World Series history. Pretty neat for a part-time catcher, huh?)

“It’s a cool stat,” Barnes acknowledged.

The Dodgers beat them with their defense, Turner making a nifty snag of a wicked Mike Zunino grounder in the third inning to start a double play that stopped the Rays in their tracks.

The Dodgers also beat them with their bullpen, Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol and Kenley Jansen combining to hold the Rays to one hit — a Randy Arozarena homer off Jansen — in three innings.

Seen enough? The Rays certainly had enough.

By the time the game ended under the closed roof of Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, night was coming early for a Rays team that had collected just four hits, struck out 13 times and watched their October ace Charlie Morton get shelled for five runs in less than five innings.

The reality of this series remains clear. The only way the Dodgers can be stopped is if they stop themselves.

“Everybody’s aware of the drought in L.A.,” Barnes said. “The fans are itching for a championship, and we’re working hard with [manager Dave Roberts] to try to bring home a championship for the city of L.A.”

Even the most cautious Dodgers fan must acknowledge this weekend’s games are shaping up for the Dodgers to earmark Sunday as the day they clinch their first World Series championship in 32 years.

In Game 4 Saturday, the Dodgers have a huge pitching advantage, sending out Julio Urías with an 0.56 ERA in four postseason appearances against a bunch of Rays relievers.

In Game 5 Sunday, the Dodgers have a huge future Hall of Famer advantage, sending Clayton Kershaw against Tyler Glasnow.

Friday was supposed to be the best pitching matchup of the series, but only one ace showed up.

Buehler, the Dodgers’ best pressure pitcher with a 2.44 ERA in 10 previous postseason starts, didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning.

Morton, who was 5-0 with an 0.70 ERA in five career postseason starts for the Rays, couldn’t get out of the fifth inning.

Buehler’s dominance was verbalized early. After throwing two 97-mph fastballs past Brandon Lowe in the first inning, he struck him out looking on an 82-mph curve, after which Lowe shook his head and cried out something to the effect of, “Wow.”

On it went for six innings until Buehler struck out the last two hitters he faced, both Lowe and Arozarena flailing on pitches that left them wide-eyed as if they had just encountered ghosts.

“He was unbelievable, he really was,” Barnes said. “That might have been the best I’ve ever seen his stuff.”

Meanwhile, Morton was flustered and wearied by a Dodgers team looking for revenge. Remember, while pitching for the cheating Houston Astros in 2017, he was on the mound for the last 12 outs of the World Series at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers vexed him in ways big and small. On Morton’s fourth pitch to his third hitter, Turner unleashed a giant swing to give Los Angeles the early lead. The Dodgers scored twice more in the third after the tiniest thing, Morton bouncing a two-out curveball that nicked Seager in the foot. Six pitches later Turner struck again with a double, then he and Seager scored on a line drive by Max Muncy, giving the Dodgers a record 48 two-out runs in this postseason. By game's end it was 50.

Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes lays down a fourth-inning sacrifice bunt that brought in a run in Game 3.
Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes lays down a fourth-inning sacrifice bunt that brought in a run in Game 3 of the World Series on Friday. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

“Just not giving up,” Betts said. “There’s two outs but you can still build an inning. … That’s how you win a World Series.”

For Morton, the Dodgers saved their best for last, demoralizing him in the fourth when, with runners on first and third, Barnes laid down a perfect bunt toward first base to score a sprinting Cody Bellinger.

Nobody bunts anymore, do they?

“They ask you to do something, you need to do it,” Barnes said.

On this night, in creeping ever closer to answering prayers that have stretched more than three decades, the Dodgers did everything.

Two down, two to go.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.