7 key storylines for World Series Game 4

October 24th, 2020

So far, as enjoyable as this World Series has played out to this point, it hasn’t been, you know, particularly tense. The Dodgers breezed through Game 1, the Rays took a nice lead in Game 2 and held on, and in Game 3, the Dodgers didn’t so much as break a sweat. We know we have all gotten spoiled -- three of the last four World Series have gone seven games, and each of them had some absolute jaw-droppers of games -- but it’d still be nice to get one of those tight, taut ones in before this Series takes the Game 5 turn. (If it takes the Game 5 turn.) Considering how talented these teams are, it seems just a matter of time. But now, though: Here are your Game 4 storylines.

1. Can the Dodgers bottle that a couple of more times?
The thing about the Dodgers is when they win, they win in a way that makes them look absolutely unbeatable. You wonder how they have ever lost. Game 3, like Game 1, was one of those games, one where the Rays looked outmatched and outclassed in every possible way. The way was pitching, it looked like ’s first-inning homer would be enough, but the Dodgers went ahead and put five more on the Rays, just to show off. It’s not always going to go as right as this for the Dodgers. But when it does, the mountain just looks impossible for the Rays to climb.

2. How worried should the Rays be after what happened to their aces?
One of the primary reasons to feel optimistic about the Rays coming into this series was their top three starters: , and is a triumvirate the envy of any team in baseball. Except for the Dodgers, as it turns out. The Dodgers have taken their 2-1 lead against those very three pitchers, and now they get to face the Rays’ bullpen game rather than one of those big three. Actually, those three Rays starters put up an 8.78 ERA in their three starts, and none made it out of the fifth inning. So maybe the scariest thing is this: The Rays have already had three bullpen games, all told. They need their Johnny Wholestaff Game 4 -- with as the bulk guy -- to save them Saturday, or they’re going to be facing elimination by Sunday.

3. Hey, what’s with the Rays’ supposed incredibly placed defense?
The major takeaway after the Astros series for many was the Rays’ seemingly preternatural ability to find themselves standing right where the Astros kept hitting the ball. (Especially in the outfield.) For casual fans who maybe were a little confused how a team with few players’ names they could immediately recall off the top of their head had gotten into the World Series, this emerged as maybe their secret recipe, what separated them from the rest of baseball. But, as our own Mike Petriello noted, it was more a matter of not making mistakes and enjoying some happy good fortune than any sort of special sauce. It sure seems that way right now: The Rays haven’t had a single play like that in three games.

4. Has Ji-Man Choi always been able to do that?
“How many times is going to do the splits?” has been one of the more amusing subplots of this postseason, but while it is one thing to pull one off during the American League Division Series or the AL Championship Series, the moves Choi is making during the World Series are expanding this global superstar on the widest stage possible.

Seriously, Choi is 33 years old and still able to do that. One highly doubts he’ll pull the old “hit a home run right-handed even though he’s a left-handed hitter” trick in the World Series, but if he does (and the Dodgers are starting lefties in Games 4 and 5!), along with the first-base gymnastics it’s probably required that he be given the MVP award regardless of who wins this series. It’s simply science.

5. Is Randy back?
Heading into the ninth inning of Game 3, you had to wonder if the Dodgers had figured out . Remember that hit he got in Game 2 that tied him with Derek Jeter for the most hits by a rookie in a single postseason? Until the ninth inning, that had been his last hit in the series, and it was an infield hit. But then, at the end of a game the Rays were comfortably losing (and did comfortably lose three pitches later), Arozarena smashed a Kenley Jansen meatball deep into the left-field seats, tying three other players (Barry Bonds, Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltrán) for the most home runs in a single postseason.

The Rays need more of that, please: As good as the Rays were all year, the one thing they were missing was an offensive superstar, the guy who could put them on his back and carry them, the guy who could turn everyone into his supporting players. Arozarena was that in the postseason at every stage and a primary reason they have reached the World Series. It had stopped cold in the World Series, though. Was the Jansen homer the spark he, and the Rays, needed?

6. Can return to the rotation in style?
Urías last started on Oct. 14, nine days ago, in that game where the Dodgers scored 11 runs in the first inning. Dave Roberts yanked him after five innings and 101 pitches in that game, in time to have him still ready to pitch three scoreless innings to close out Game 7 four days later. That means he’s not only fresh for Game 4, he’s back in his regular spot, making, remarkably, his 17th postseason appearance. (He just turned 24 in August.)

Urías has given up only one earned run in 16 innings this postseason, he’s fully rested and he’s in the perfect position to put the Dodgers a win away from a title. This is in fact his first World Series start, though he did appear in three games in the 2018 Series; for a guy with this much postseason experience at such a young age, this is unquestionably the biggest start of his career.

7. Is this the leg up the Dodgers have been waiting for?
As you might have heard, the Dodgers are trying to win their first World Series since 1988, and, as you also might have heard, they have reached the World Series three of the last four seasons. But here’s something they haven’t done in any of those World Series since 1988: Gone up 2-1. They fell behind 2-0 in 2018 to the Red Sox, and they lost Game 3 in 2017 to fall behind the Astros. (They tied it up in Game 4 before that notoriously insane 13-12 Game 5.) The point is, the Dodgers, in this current run, have never had control of a World Series. They might have it now. And if they can win Game 4, you’ve got to think they’re not going to give it up.