All the Rays need right now is a hero. Randy Arozarena? Was that ninth-inning homer in Game 3 on Friday a start? Brandon Lowe? Can he build off two homers from Game 2 on Wednesday?
Anyone else? One hot hitter might make a huge difference. One might even light a fire, and the Rays’ dugout could use a few laughs at this point. At least it would be a start.
We’ve reached a critical point for the Rays in this World Series. They lost Game 3 to the Dodgers, 6-2, at Globe Life Field in Arlington, and they trail 2-1 in the series. To avoid a 3-1 hole, they need someone -- or several someones -- to step up in Game 4 on Saturday.
Thanks in large part to a pair of dominant pitching performances by Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 on Tuesday and Walker Buehler in Game 3, Tampa Bay is hitting .206 and has scored just 11 runs in three games.
Yes, the Rays are about pitching and defense. But they’ve shown flashes of being a solid offensive team this season. They led the American League in runs as late as Sept. 2, and they finished with an average of 4.83 runs per game, 12th most in MLB.
Also, Tampa Bay hit the third-most home runs in the AL (66) from Aug. 12 to the end of the regular season on Sept. 27. And while the overall numbers were nothing special, the lineup had depth and versatility.
The Rays had 18 players hit a home run, most in MLB, and they won 14 of 19 games when they didn’t homer. They were second in the AL in extra-base hits (197), tied for first in triples (12) and were successful on 84.2 percent of their stolen-base attempts. To put it another way, Tampa Bay was capable of being a noisy offensive club.
Right now, it’s about one player who could possibly create higher-leverage situations for the teammates surrounding him in the lineup.
Here are seven who can do it:
1) Randy Arozarena (.200, 1 HR in World Series)
Arozarena’s home run in Game 3 might be -- could be? -- the spark the Rays badly needed. Even better, it came after a 1-for-9 start in the Fall Classic, and it could be a shot of confidence leading into Game 4. He hit .382 in the first three rounds of the postseason, and he looked like the best player on Earth. But the Dodgers have gotten him so off-balance with a steady diet of breaking pitches that he was no longer catching up to fastballs before connecting on the homer. Tampa Bay hopes that swing gets things back into place.
2) Brandon Lowe (.154, 2 HR)
Lowe was an All-Star in 2019 and Tampa Bay’s best offensive player in ‘20. But his inability to lay off high fastballs has been exploited in a big way by the Dodgers. Lowe’s big Game 2 gave the Rays hope that he was back in his comfort zone, but he struck out three times on Friday.
3) Manuel Margot (.400, 1 2B)
Margot hit three homers in the seven-game AL Championship Series, including two in Game 6 against the Astros. His double on Friday was his fourth hit of the World Series, so he should enter Game 4 in a good place mentally.
4) Austin Meadows (.222, 0 HR)
Meadows has been unable to follow up on a breakout 2019 season (33 homers, .922 OPS), and his season-long slump has continued in the playoffs. Manager Kevin Cash has moved him around the batting order, but so far, nothing has worked. The Rays have seen him impact games enough to believe he’s capable of breaking out.
5) Willy Adames (.222, 2 2B)
Adames is the vocal leader of the Rays, and he is probably the player (aside from Arozarena) who is most likely to ignite the team. But after a solid offensive regular season (.813 OPS), the postseason has been a struggle.
6) Mike Zunino (0-for-9)
Zunino homered four times (out of eight hits) in his first 13 postseason games, but he has hit a wall in the World Series. The Rays badly need his power, or even a couple of singles.
7) Kevin Kiermaier (.222, 1 HR)
Kiermaier’s contributions are built around being one of the best defensive center fielders in the sport, but he has the speed and occasional power to win a game. His homer off Kershaw in Game 1 put the Rays in a better frame of mind heading into Game 2, which they won.