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SportsPulse: With a shortened season and an unconventional playoff construction, will have to the Rays or Dodgers get an asterisk within the file books in the event that they win the International Sequence?

USA TODAY

ARLINGTON, Texas — It’s the most efficient in opposition to the most efficient, and Main League Baseball can’t steadily say that about its jewel tournament.

For the primary time since 2013, the groups with the most efficient information of their respective leagues will meet within the International Sequence. And the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers had been each so dominant on this pandemic-shortened season, it’s onerous to mention the consequences would had been a lot other had they performed greater than the 60 video games.

So what occurs when the platoon-happy, heat-bringing Rays event up in opposition to the star-laden, October-seasoned, title-starved Dodgers?

“It sort of feels like they’re within the International Sequence yearly, each and every different yr,” muses Rays heart fielder Kevin Kiermaier. “They’ve an ideal, younger core staff of fellows and a large number of veteran management as neatly. We’re going to must carry our A sport this collection, however we all know we’re a excellent workforce as neatly, and we’re bad.

“Two 1 seeds dealing with every different. That is the way you script it as much as what you wish to have to look within the International Sequence.”

With Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman’s fingerprints on each golf equipment, and his protégé, trade-happy Rays GM Erik Neander espousing an identical philosophies, those golf equipment will have to have a excellent really feel for one some other.

But their paths to victory will diverge considerably. Right here’s a breakdown of the whens and whats and whys – and who wins – on this neutral-site Fall Vintage:

Time table, projected starters

All video games at Globe Lifestyles Box, eight:08 or eight:09 ET, on Fox. * – if important

Recreation 1, Tuesday: Rays (Tyler Glasnow, Five-1, Four.08 ERA) at Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, 6-2, 2.16 ERA)

Recreation 2, Wednesday: Rays (Blake Snell, Four-2, Three.24 ERA) at Dodgers (TBA)

Recreation Three, Friday: Dodgers (Walker Buehler, 1-Zero, Three.44 ERA) at Rays (Charlie Morton, 2-2, Four.74 ERA)

Recreation Four, Saturday: Dodgers (Julio Urias, Three-Zero, Three.27 ERA) at Rays (Ryan Yarbrough, 1-Four, Three.56 ERA)

Recreation Five*, Sunday: Dodgers at Rays

Recreation 6*, Oct. 27: Rays at Dodgers

Recreation 7*, Oct. 28: Rays at Dodgers

Dodgers gamers have a good time the Recreation 7 win in opposition to the Braves. (Photograph: Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports activities)

The Rays will win…

As a result of they have got probably the most dominant pitcher: Glasnow will get started Recreation 1 and, possibly, Recreation Five in opposition to Kershaw, and can carry an overwhelming repertoire and bat-missing skill that are supposed to play neatly on this Sequence. Glasnow struck out 14 batters according to 9 innings this yr, and obviously overcame 2019 ALDS woes via beating the Yankees in a pivotal ALDS sport and coming again on two days relaxation to toss 2 1/3 shutout innings within the decisive Recreation Five.

As a result of The Strong is not any comic story: Supervisor Kevin Money’s “solid stuffed with guys who throw 98 mph” within the bullpen have were given them this some distance, surviving a deadly playoff stretch of 12 video games in 13 days.

With two days off sooner than the International Sequence, and rancid days after Video games 2 and Five, this should really feel like a relative breeze.

It’s true: The combination-and-match components that noticed 12 Rays earn saves all through the common season transferred crisply to October: 3 pitchers – Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks and Nick Anderson – earned saves within the ALCS in opposition to Houston. They leaned onerous on Anderson within the first two rounds, tabbing him for 7 1/3 innings of reduction in opposition to Toronto and the Yankees, and he used to be decreased in opposition to Houston, giving up 4 runs in Four 1/3 innings, together with a walk-off homer to Carlos Correa. We envision a rejuvenated Anderson in opposition to the Dodgers.

As a result of Money is cash: He used to be panned for his fast hooks of Snell and Morton within the ALCS – one transfer backfiring, the opposite leading to a Recreation 7 victory – however Money is a grasp at shooting matchups and getting Anderson and different most sensible hands into high-leverage scenarios without reference to inning. Now in his 6th yr, Money brings a startling point of conviction to what’s now an excessively advanced activity – in particular when the Rays have simply 3 same old beginning pitchers. That is going for competitive platooning or going to his best possible reliever as early because the 6th inning, if important.

“It takes a unique mindset to get the closing 3 outs of the sport,” says Money. “We’re lucky to have guys who were given some reps doing it. Pronouncing that, now not all video games are misplaced within the 9th inning. Some are misplaced within the 6th, 7th and 8th.” 

His aces would possibly chafe now and then. However few managers event Money’s skill to push the proper buttons – or his chutzpah to shield the strikes that move sideways.

The Dodgers will win…

As a result of they’re so onerous to kill: Figuratively, after all, and that is going for inside a sequence and each and every plate look. In roaring again from a Three-1 NLCS deficit in opposition to the Atlanta Braves, they put to relaxation any perception a gaggle that’s gained 8 consecutive department titles grew too complacent. And in chewing via Atlanta’s pitching the second one time round in that collection, they displayed the next-level plate self-discipline that pressured supervisor Dave Roberts to name this his best possible workforce but.

3 Dodgers regulars – Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor – noticed extra pitches according to plate look at than the league moderate, and Muncy’s Four.43 pitches according to time up ranked fourth within the primary leagues. Their Four-Three, Recreation 7 conquest of the Braves used to be a grasp elegance in plate self-discipline.

They trailed 2-Zero with two outs and no person on when Justin Turner labored starter Ian Anderson for an eight-pitch stroll. Two batters later, Will Smith hit a game-tying two-run unmarried.

Kiké Hernandez’s game-tying homer? An eight-pitch at-bat. Identical with Cody Bellinger’s pennant-winning shot within the 7th, which got here with two outs.

Within the Dodgers’ 4 NLCS victories, 20 in their 29 runs scored – 69% – got here with two outs. The lesson: You’re by no means completely out of the woods.

As a result of they’re affected person – however too can hit: That is no “3 true results” workforce, despite the fact that the Dodgers can hit, stroll and strike out with any workforce. Lest we disregard, Mookie Betts is a batting champ and profession .301 hitter. Justin Turner has 4 .300 seasons to his credit score (together with this shortened yr) and Bellinger posted a .305/.406 on-base yr in his 2019 MVP marketing campaign.

Playoff hero Smith batted .289 this yr and walked just about as time and again (20) as he struck out (22).

Batting moderate is empty, you are saying? Perhaps over 162 video games. However the skill to position the ball in play in opposition to actual, elite pitching – or a minimum of lengthen the at bat – takes on a some distance better price in a International Sequence.

As a result of Walker Buehler is a big-game pitcher: Buehler’s Recreation 6 efficiency – together with his shocking get away from a bases-loaded, no-out jam – used to be the most recent in a bankruptcy of save-the-season efforts. Buehler is 26 now, no stranger to postseason force – now not after he gained a Recreation 163 to clinch the 2018 NL West identify, now not after sterling performances in Recreation 7 of the 2018 NLCS and Recreation Three of the 2018 International Sequence, each Dodger victories.

He has 73 strikeouts over his first 10 postseason appearances, which ranks 8th all-time on an inventory headed via Bob Gibson. He’ll most likely get started Recreation Three and a conceivable Recreation 7, and excellent good fortune making a bet in opposition to him.

The X components

Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw. The one gamers round for all 8 department titles and each and every closing postseason intestine punch, their inventory continues to vary. Kershaw had an incredible common season and two very good playoff begins sooner than wobbling in NLCS Recreation Four, a get started behind schedule via again spasms. Jansen just about pitched the Dodgers into peril in opposition to the Padres within the NLDS – after which discovered his rhythm in time to near out a couple of NLCS victories.

Have they regained, for higher or worse, the entire vital leash Roberts generally afforded them? We’ll to find out.

Prediction

Disregard the loss of a revenge perspective Dodgers-Astros would have produced. This might be a tightly-contested, a laugh and – to these uninitiated to the trimmings of the fashionable sport – interesting International Sequence. But for the entire Rays’ skill to check the Dodgers within the combination, and platoon and event up and pester and bear, there is simply too a lot ability at the different aspect of the sphere. A 32-year International Sequence drought is damaged – in all probability with the embattled Kershaw incomes the decisive victory.

Dodgers in Five.

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