What The Dodgers Need To Do To Beat The Rays

Photo Credit: SportsNet LA

The Dodgers have beaten the Atlanta Braves in a winner take all game 7 that had everything in it, and the boys in blue came out victorious. They now face a different animal both literally and metaphorically, The Tampa Bay Rays.

With every single one of these games having no off day in-between, the Dodgers will look to rest up as the World Series goes back to what fans are used to. The World Series schedule will go two games, then an off day, three games, another off day, then the last two, if necessary. Both teams were forced to go to game 7 and use most of their bullpen, which could definitely benefit from the off days in between now. It will also benefit struggling hitters as they can use it as a mental break. These two teams are the most alike and not alike in every way, as they share some connection in one man, Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers president of baseball operations, who will be looking to beat the former club he helped assemble.

The biggest contrast that fans will undoubtedly see is the money in terms of payroll for the Dodgers and Rays. The Dodgers are a team full of big-name stars that cost roughly $221 million in payroll for the 2020 season. The Rays have a payroll of roughly $28 million and are a roster full of ragtag teammates that baseball fans from across the country will soon know as they are a team that has certainly earned their own right to be there. However, this is an article about the Dodgers and what they need to do to win their first World Series since 1988.

One of the toughest tasks will be containing the handful of sluggers in the Rays lineup capable of putting up crooked numbers and pose as a nightmarish threat to Dodger pitchers. Tampa Bay has one of the hottest postseason hitters in Randy Arozarena, named ALCS MVP, hitting .321 with 4 home runs and an OPS of 1.152. The Rays also have guys like Brandon Lowe, Ji-Man Choi, Joey Wendle, and Mike Zunino, who can all rake as they have this whole season, so it is important for Dodgers pitching staff to hold them and prevent them from rallying. Clayton Kershaw might be the obvious choice for the Dodgers in game 1, and with his known postseason struggles, it might not be too bad for him to start as the Dodgers can afford to be down 1-0 in this series. It will all be dependent on how Kershaw feels as he was dealing with back spasms, which pushed him back two days but will now be on regular rest as in his last appearance, it was in game 4, and he allowed one run over 5 innings of work. However, he was charged with 4 runs for the runners he left on base.

From an offensive side of things, the Dodgers certainly have the cast that makes up a World Series contender with Corey Seager getting the NLCS MVP after he hit five home runs and had 11 RBIs in six games of the series against the Braves and was a huge reason why the Dodgers kept alive, despite being down 3-1 in the series. Will Smith is another hitter looking to continue his consistent success as he had 1 home run with 7 RBIs in the LCS. Smith came up huge for the Dodgers in game 5 as he hit a home run off the reliever with the same name, Will Smith, and gave the Dodgers the lead in the 6th inning.

Mookie Betts has shown off the glove in the LCS with two spectacular grabs that helped fire up the Dodgers team and helped carry them past the Braves. However, in this series, Betts may look to be a star with his bat as he’s seen this Rays pitching before when he was with the Red Sox, and he may have some clues for his Dodger teammates as he can be the leader they need him to be. He has always mentioned that he wants to help his team any way he can, but he may have to step up to the occasion with his skill at the plate and hit something magical to get the boys in blue past the Rays.

The Rays bullpen is also something the Dodgers lineup will have to deal with as the Rays manager, Kevin Cash, isn’t afraid to going to the pen early and using them strategically. The three main relievers that Cash will most likely go to are Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks, and Nick Anderson, who are all effective in their own rights and can make a mess of the Dodgers lineup unless they can figure them out right away. Using his starters in the bullpen is also something the Rays have done, as they have shown in the LCS that they aren’t afraid to go to one of their starters late in the game if necessary. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will have to carefully navigate his lineup to match up with the Rays elite bullpen staff.

The last thing that the Dodgers will need to do is remember from experience, the Dodgers have been here before and the last two times in 2017 and 2018 and came away with nothing.  Their experience is something that the Rays don’t have, and it can work to the Dodgers advantage. Every series they’ve won has felt like any other series, and they just trucking along to the World Series. They know what’s at stake, and they are done being second for the last time. They need to keep that mentality in their heads if they are to finish it off. If they can do all these things, the Dodgers will be hoisting up that World Series trophy they have come so close to in the past, and it will be legitimate regardless of what others think of this interesting 2020 season.

Jacob Cisneros is a writer for Dodgers-LowDown. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @_JacobCisneros.