ARLINGTON -- Throughout the postseason, the Rays have seemed to always find a way. They have consistently made the big pitch, gotten the big hit or turned the spectacular play to swing a game in their favor. Though it's unrealistic, nightly heroics have almost become expected.
But despite having many opportunities, the Rays never found the magic moment in their 4-2 loss to the Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday at Globe Life Field. Tampa Bay will be facing elimination for the third time this postseason on Tuesday.
Teams that win Game 5 in a best-of-seven series tied 2-2 have gone on to win the series 43 of 62 times, and the Dodgers now hold that advantage. One silver lining for the Rays? The Nationals were able to win last year’s World Series despite losing the pivotal Game 5 to the Astros.
“[I’m] always confident in this bunch,” said center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. “If there’s any team that can respond well with their backs against the wall, our group is the group that has come through when we need it the most. We’re going to enjoy the off-day [Monday], get off our feet a little bit and come back on Tuesday ready to work.”
The Rays will have to lean on their "never say die" attitude after a Game 5 loss that felt like a missed opportunity. After their emotional and improbable win in Game 4, the Rays were hoping the momentum would carry over for the remainder of the Series.
That momentum, however, was taken away just two batters into Sunday's game. Mookie Betts greeted starter Tyler Glasnow, who allowed four runs in five innings of work, with a double down the left-field line that was quickly followed by Corey Seager's RBI single. The Dodgers tacked on a second run in the first on another single, this one by Cody Bellinger.
The Dodgers scored in the first inning for the third consecutive game. If they extend that streak on Tuesday, the Rays might not get a chance to see a Game 7 on Wednesday.
“It is a problem,” said manager Kevin Cash, when asked about the first-inning runs. “There’s no denying it’s a problem, and we need to correct that, and we don’t have that much time to correct, so it needs to be fixed for Game 6 for sure. Home, away, it doesn’t matter. Prevent runs. I don’t care how we do it. We’ve got to do a better job at it.”
Tampa Bay had the leadoff runner on in five of the nine innings, but went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left five on base.
The biggest missed opportunity came in the fourth, and the moment might have completely changed the outcome of both the game and Series.
With the Rays trailing, 3-2, Manuel Margot opened the fourth with a walk. He stole second and advanced to third after the ball ricocheted off second baseman Chris Taylor’s glove. The Dodgers had the play reviewed, thinking that Margot overslid the bag, and after the call stood, it felt as though the Rays were going to have their moment once again.
Margot tried to steal home against Clayton Kershaw, as Margot felt he wasn’t paying much attention to him. Kershaw, however, was able to step off the mound and fire a perfect throw to Austin Barnes, who applied the tag and ended the threat.
“We had our opportunities there,” Kiermaier said. “We have to try and figure out a way of squeaking across at least one run there. We’re always trying to hit in those timely situations, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Now the Rays find themselves down three games to two, although they do have a knack of rising to the occasion when their backs are against the wall. They found a way to stay alive in win-or-go-home games against the Yankees and Astros earlier in the postseason, and they’ll have to do the same in Game 6 against the Dodgers.
The Rays will lean on Blake Snell, who allowed two runs over 4 2/3 innings in the Game 2 win, to limit the Dodgers’ offensive attack, especially early. They’ll also need a good offensive showing. Without those, their dream run will likely come to an end.
“One more loss and obviously it’s not a great position to be in,” Glasnow said. “But I think we’ve battled all year long, and we’ve come back before. So just go out and play like normal.”