ARLINGTON, Texas — Major League Baseball, giddy over the hard work and good fortune that brought it to this unguaranteed World Series, had best hope its Fall Classic doesn’t turn into a War of Contrition.
Because neither team, both of which have endured quite a grind to get here, looked particularly high-energy in Game 2.
The Rays played well enough to win, 6-4 at Globe Life Field, and tie things up at a game apiece in an untidy three hours and 40 minutes. And I’ll bet that they’ll be just as excited to rest on Thursday — some down time in the bubble, no travel to Game 3 necessary — as they were to pull themselves back afloat. The Dodgers sure as heck sounded relieved to not be playing on Thursday.
“A day off will be nice for sure,” said Chris Taylor, who contributed a two-run homer Wednesday. “The biggest impact has been on our pitchers. They only had one day off from a hard-fought seven-game series against the Braves. I think that showed a little bit today.”
“An off-day, and I think that this old format that we’re used to, is certainly welcome by everyone,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, referring to the 2-3-2 schedule of this series.
“It was a good baseball game,” Roberts continued, and I’ll contend that he conflated “good” with “close.” In Roberts’ defense, he, not I, has had to manage nine postseason games in 10 days.
The Dodgers appeared far less like the dynamos that put on clinic in an 8-3 Game 1 win. Their bullpenning strategy, starting rookie right-hander Tony Gonsolin and getting four outs on him, didn’t necessarily bomb; rather, it emitted a sleepy drip of the Rays touching up four different hurlers for at least one run. Their lineup flailed against Tampa Bay starter Blake Snell, who to be fair showed off superb breaking stuff, before breaking through with Taylor’s two-run homer in the fifth inning and then tagging top Rays relievers Nick Anderson and Pete Fairbanks for a solo homer each.
You know guys are thinking big picture and working to psych themselves up when Roberts claimed it was a victory of sorts just to force the Rays to bring in their high-leverage guys Anderson, Fairbanks and Diego Castillo and get their first looks at them. “That can only benefit us moving forward,” the skipper asserted.
Baseball made a good call in expanding the postseason to 16 teams just this once — look at how the talented Astros, after a milquetoast 29-31 regular season, nearly upset their way into the Series — but the trade-off came in a frenetic schedule on top of the frenzied road to the playoffs. And while the Rays and Dodgers both thrilled the masses and the bosses by taking their League Championship Series to the maximum seven games in seven days, at some point you’ve got to pay the piper.
The Dodgers, who won the National League pennant at this ballpark, received just one day off before starting the World Series. The Rays, who went at it with the Yankees for five straight days in the American League Division Series, then got a single day off before their weeklong duel with the Astros kicked off, got two days off, the first one spent traveling here from San Diego and adjusting to a new bubble.
Hence the slog of a ballgame. If the Rays scored points for, well, scoring runs, their guys hardly dominated, and you need not dig too deep to find red flags. Anderson has now pitched in eight games this postseason, totaling 13 innings. For Fairbanks, it’s seven games and 10 innings. Castillo, who came in to record the final out, has clocked eight games and 8 innings.
“Who will survive?” doesn’t appeal as much as “Who will thrive?” On the other hand, it fits this tiring season rather perfectly, right?
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