Let there be no doubt now that the Rays don’t need to have as many household names as the Dodgers to hang with their Fall Classic foe.
“We’re good,” lefty Blake Snell said after helping the Rays to a 6-4 victory in Game 2 on Wednesday night to even the World Series up at a win apiece. “We’re here to play.”
After what rates as a rare off-day (after both League Championship Series went seven games in seven days) on Thursday, the Rays and Dodgers play again Friday night at Globe Life Field in what now stands as a best-of-five. And history tells us Game 3 can swing things significantly. The Game 3 winner in best-of-seven series tied 1-1 has gone on to win the series 65 of 94 times (69.1%)
The Dodgers rode their star power to a strong Series opener, but the Rays took advantage of a more rested pitching staff to knot things up. Now there’s no telling which direction this Fall Classic will take with two proven postseason pitchers lined up for Game 3.
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Veteran Charlie Morton is 5-0 with the Rays in the postseason, including a 3-0 record and a 0.57 ERA this year. It’s why Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash referred to him as a “postseason stud.”
But Walker Buehler wears that label, too. At just 26 years old, he’s already made 10 postseason starts and posted a 2.44 ERA and a .562 opponents’ OPS. This year, even while pitching with a blister issue that has forced him to basically abandon his cutter, he has a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings across four starts. He hopes to draw on his already extensive postseason experience.
“You feel lucky and blessed to be in these positions,” Buehler said. “But at the end of the day, [the World Series] is kind of the expectation of this culture. If you're going to be a part of that and be successful in it, you have to take that as it comes with yourself.”
With temperatures expected in the low-50s, even lower wind chills and the potential for rain, the roof will be closed at Globe Life Field for the first time during the World Series.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
The game will air on Friday at 8 p.m. ET/5 PT on FOX. It is also available to stream on MLB.TV with authentication.
Who will be the home team?
The Dodgers, as the top overall seed, were the home team for Games 1 and 2, but the Rays will be the home team for Games 3-5 and will bat last.
What do the starting lineups look like?
Rays: With Buehler on the mound, the Rays will trot out the same lineup they did in Game 2. Tampa Bay got 10 hits Wednesday, so there won’t be a need to tweak anything for Game 3. Yandy Díaz could have been an option, but the Rays will benefit from having Díaz and Mike Brosseau as the two main right-handed bats off the bench.
1) Austin Meadows, DH
2) Brandon Lowe, 2B
3) Randy Arozarena, LF
4) Ji-Man Choi, 1B
5) Manuel Margot, RF
6) Joey Wendle, 3B
7) Willy Adames, SS
8) Kevin Kiermaier, CF
9) Mike Zunino, C
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Dodgers: Los Angeles struck out 15 times in Game 2, a drastic departure from its disciplined approach in Game 1. Manager Dave Roberts chooses Austin Barnes to catch Buehler with Will Smith the designated hitter, as he did in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.
1) Mookie Betts, RF
2) Corey Seager, SS
3) Justin Turner, 3B
4) Max Muncy, 1B
5) Will Smith, DH
6) Cody Bellinger, CF
7) Chris Taylor, 2B
8) Joc Pederson, LF
9) Austin Barnes, C
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Who are the starting pitchers?
Rays: Morton hopes to continue his postseason dominance and give the Rays a 2-1 Series lead. Morton is 5-0 in five postseason starts with Tampa Bay, including 5 2/3 scoreless innings in the Rays’ Game 7 win over the Astros in the American League Championship Series on Saturday.
Dodgers: Buehler, who dodged traffic and shut out the Braves for six innings in Game 6 of the NLCS on Saturday, gets the ball with the Dodgers expecting a win. His ability to go six innings and throw 89 pitches despite dealing with finger blisters is the reason.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Rays: With Thursday’s off-day, the Rays likely will have all their key arms available out of the bullpen. If Tampa Bay falls behind, it could be more conservative with its bullpen usage, especially considering there’s a scheduled bullpen day for Game 4 on Saturday. But if the Rays have a chance to win, they’ll lean heavily on Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo, just as they have all postseason long.
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Dodgers: The back end of the bullpen -- Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Pedro Báez and Brusdar Graterol -- is well-rested if Buehler can give it a lead to protect.
Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Rays: Fairbanks went 1 2/3 innings in Game 2, but the right-hander threw just 23 pitches so he should be available for Game 3. The rest of the bullpen should be fresh after having Thursday off.
Dodgers: Joe Kelly and Victor González have pitched in both games, but they should be available after a day off on Thursday. Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May, who both pitched in Game 2, will probably be held back to be available for Game 4.
Any injuries of note?
Dodgers: In his second game since dislocating his right shoulder, Bellinger went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout.
Who is hot and who is not?
Rays: With a ninth-inning single in Game 2, Arozarena has 22 hits in the postseason, tying Derek Jeter for the most hits by a rookie in postseason history. Arozarena is one homer away from tying Carlos Beltrán, Nelson Cruz and Barry Bonds for the most in a single postseason.
Lowe’s struggles in the postseason have been well-documented, but the All-Star second baseman hit two home runs in Game 2. The Rays hope those are signs of things to come for the team’s offensive MVP.
Dodgers: Seager, after walking three times in Game 1, went 2-for-4 with a homer in Game 2 that set a postseason record for homers by a shortstop. Hot really is an inadequate description of how he’s playing. Smith also homered.
Anything else fans want to know?
Rays: With his start at first base on Wednesday, Choi became the first Korean-born position player to appear in a World Series game. He also recorded a base hit.
Dodgers: Starting for the Astros against the Dodgers, Morton allowed one run on three hits in 6 1/3 innings for a no-decision in Game 4 of the 2017 World Series. Los Angeles won the game, 6-2. Morton then tossed four innings of one-run ball in relief to notch the win for Houston in Game 7.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.
Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.