Dodgers @ Rays World Series Game 3: Buehler vs. Morton

After a much needed day off for this Dodgers team, they look to get back into the swing of things in Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Rays. With Walker Buehler unable to pitch in Game 2, the relative bullpen game for the Dodgers against Blake Snell was the most lopsided matchup for the entire series. Charlie Morton will take the mound for the Rays, and with a potential Game 7 next Wednesday, this lines up the same matchup if need be on that day.

5:08 P.M. Arlington
RF Betts DH Meadows (L)
SS Seager (L) 2B Lowe (L)
3B Turner LF Arozarena
1B Muncy (L) 1B Choi (L)
DH Smith RF Margot
CF Bellinger (L) 3B Wendle (L)
2B Taylor SS Adames
LF Pederson (L) CF Kiermaier (L)
C Barnes C Zunino
P Buehler (R) P Morton (R)

Austin Barnes will be starting at catcher just like in Game 1. Clearly, the team has decided that whatever benefits Barnes brings via his game calling, defense, and framing outweighs the potential issue his bat brings in the lineup. Will Smith will still remain in the game as the designated hitter. The Dodgers feature two players with an OPS above 1.000 against right-handed pitching, with Mookie Betts (1.061), and Will Smith (1.040). Following that up, Corey Seager (.998) and Justin Turner (.914) also tear up right-handed pitching. This lineup also includes Chris Taylor (.898), and Cody Bellinger (.854), and the reason I include both of those two is that all of those guys listed have a higher OPS against right-handed pitching than the top batter on the Rays, Brandon Lowe (.838). Needless to say, the Dodgers have the advantage there. Lowe also hit two home runs in Game 2 against Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May. That’s baseball.

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Like mentioned, the Dodgers hit very well against right-handed pitching in general. Their .837 OPS against right-handed pitching trailed only the Braves, while their 126 wRC+ was tied for first. Meanwhile, the Rays have been worse against right-handed pitching with a .738 OPS, good for 15th in the league.

Buehler has allowed just four runs over his four starts and 19 innings this postseason, good for a 1.89 ERA. While he’s struck out 29 over that span, it hasn’t all been pretty, as he’s also totaled 11 walks. However, during his Game 6 start in the NLCS, his control was much better — allowing no runs across six innings with six strikeouts and no walks. Barnes was also starting behind the plate that game.

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Morton has been great for the Rays this postseason, with a 3-0 record and a 0.57 ERA over 15.2 innings. He’s allowed just eleven hits and four walks over that stretch. As good as Snell and Tyler Glasnow can be at times, Morton has been their best starter thus far. Most recently, he allowed just two hits in his Game 7 ALCS start to close out the Houston Astros.

Overall this season, the Rays have struggled against fastballs, with a wOBA of .326, ranking 26th in the league. With Buehler on the mound, they’ll likely be facing a lot of fastballs, especially considering it seems to be the pitch least impacted by his blister issues. He was already 10th in the league with fastball usage among 158 qualified pitchers at 62.3%. Additionally, the Rays have also struggled against velocity, with a .299 wOBA on pitches 95 mph and above, 22nd in the league. With Buehler averaging 96.9 mph on his fastball, the Rays will likely see frequent high velocity fastballs tonight.

Morton on the other hand threw just 11.8% of his fastballs at 95 and above, with the Dodgers feasting on fastballs lower than 95. They feature a .404 wOBA on fastballs less than 95 MPH, once again trailing only the Braves. This is good news for Turner, because as Dustin outlined, Turner has recently been struggling against high velocity pitches. The Rays have also had the third highest strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this season at 26.3%, and with Buehler featuring a 34.9% strikeout rate thus far in the postseason, he’s a bad matchup for the Rays.

Regardless, none of this matters besides the scoreboard at the end of the day. This matchup favors the Dodgers but they have to show up. The Rays won Game 2, where they had the biggest pitching advantage they’ll have the entire series. It’s time for this team to execute in a game where they should have an advantage.

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In other news,

Sounds about right. The team and pitching staff seem to like pitching to Barnes. Buehler had his best start of the postseason with Barnes behind the plate and Clayton Kershaw did as well.

It’s cool to see Blake Treinen speak so highly of Buehler prior to his outing tonight. Hopefully Buehler can perform to those expectations, and so can Treinen whenever he pitches next.

Statistically, closing the roof should have a significant effect on scoring, but with such small sample sizes, it’s unclear how that’ll impact the scoring in these remaining games.

For the first time this postseason, the roof will be closed at Globe Life Field. I’m not sure how much of a difference that’ll make in terms of how the ball reacts or how a virus spreads. Unfortunately, I guess we’ll just find out. Of those fans, you have people coming from Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, and elsewhere, going to this venue with 12,000 people and then traveling back to their respective communities. Great.

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First pitch is at 5:08 PT on Fox.

About Allan Yamashige

Allan Yamashige
Just a guy living in Thousand Oaks, CA who happens to love the Dodgers and statistics. Hated baseball practice as a kid, but writing about adults doing baseball is alright.