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Hamstring discomfort delays Justin Turner’s return to Dodgers

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Justin Turner, expected to make his first start at third base in nearly a month, was a late scratch from the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ lineup on Tuesday because of recurring discomfort in his previously injured hamstring.

Turner, 35, missed two weeks because of a strained left hamstring but returned last Tuesday and served as the Dodgers’ designated hitter in his first five games. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was initially going to play Turner only a handful of innings at third base so as to not overwork him, but he replaced Turner with Edwin Rios about two hours before first pitch against the visiting Oakland Athletics.

Turner, who hasn’t played third base since Aug. 28, is batting .296/.396/.415 in 159 plate appearances this season.

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World Series 2020 — Tampa Bay Rays revel, Los Angeles Dodgers despair as Game 4 delivers baseball bliss

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ARLINGTON, Texas — It happened just past midnight on the East Coast, 34 years to the day from the last time a World Series game ended like this. There are so many possible outcomes for the final play of a baseball game. Home run. Strikeout. Single. Groundout. It’s a testament to how good players are that what unfolded in the earliest hours of Sunday morning was so jaw-dropping, an unforgettable October moment, when a fielding error ends a World Series game.

Actually, Will Smith — the Los Angeles Dodgers catcher who dropped a ball that allowed Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena to dash home and pound home plate with his right hand to gift-wrap their breathtaking 8-7 victory in Game 4 — wasn’t charged with an error, even though he had erred in a most egregious fashion. It’s what made the Rays’ win, which evened the series, even more improbable than Bill Buckner’s infamous gaffe Oct. 25, 1986. The Dodgers blundered twice on this final play.

How these 4 hours, 10 minutes of pure baseball bliss came together only adds to the implausibility of it all, but then that’s why this game is bound to go down in the annals of as one of the most memorable in the 116 World Series that have been played. Even before Brett Phillips looped a two-out, two-strike pitch off Kenley Jansen into center field, even before Chris Taylor committed the actual error booting the ball as he tried to field it, even before Arozarena stumbled after rounding third, even before Smith’s howler let him off the hook, this was a righteous ballgame, an emotional vise, squeezing tighter and tighter until the whole thing was too much and burst in spectacular fashion.

It all started around 2 p.m. on Aug. 27. Four days before the trade deadline, the Kansas City Royals had agreed to a deal to send Phillips, a backup outfielder, to the Rays. Phillips was elated. He was from Seminole, Florida, a 20-minute drive from Tropicana Field. It didn’t matter that he would get only 25 plate appearances and be used mostly as a pinch runner and defensive replacement. He was home. And this amazing Rays team embraced him, too.

Which admittedly isn’t difficult. Phillips is one of the most well-liked players in baseball. When he laughs, it sounds like a goose honking or a pterodactyl bleating. Last week in the ALCS, when he wasn’t even on the Rays’ roster, he nevertheless spent the games in the team’s dugout, walking around with a stopwatch and clipboard, a faux coach who would write motivational messages, most of which had to do with Arozarena’s postseason exploits.

It was fitting, then, for the Rays and Phillips, that the ninth inning of Game 4 unfolded in such fashion. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who had foolishly left reliever Pedro Baez in to blow two leads earlier in the game, forsook his hard-throwing rookie reliever Brusdar Graterol, who had finished the eighth inning, and at one minute past midnight East Coast time summoned Kenley Jansen, hopeful his magic had not vanished for good.

By no means in this series, or this season, were the Dodgers the Cinderellas of any manner or variety. They are leviathans in payroll and talent, and if Jansen could secure the 7-6 lead Roberts handed him, they would hold a 3-1 series lead and find themselves in prime position to win their first World Series since just two years after the Buckner error.

The Rays’ lineup and Dodgers’ defensive alignments were complete messes, owed to what had happened in the four or so hours prior. The first three games of this series weren’t duds exactly. The Dodgers had hit at a historic clip with two outs. The Rays had stolen the middle game. There wasn’t a single lead change. Good baseball was played by two excellent baseball teams. Drama has been hard to come by.

Game 4 made up for it. There were home runs. From the Dodgers’ Justin Turner in the first and Corey Seager in the second, highlights on a night when both went 4-for-5, and all for naught. From Arozarena and Hunter Renfroe and Brandon Lowe and Kevin Kiermaier as the Rays fought and clawed and tried to keep pace. Every time they did, the Dodgers answered with more. They barreled balls the whole evening, hitting 19 at 95 mph-plus to the Rays’ seven. That Tampa Bay was even here, within a run and ready to stare down Jansen, felt like providence.

When Jansen blew a sinker past pinch hitter Yoshi Tsutsugo for the first out, the crowd of 11,411 at Globe Life Field, which has turned into Dodgertown South, roared. This was it. They were going to win Game 4, and then Clayton Kershaw, pitching 30 minutes from his hometown of Highland Park, Texas, was going to pitch them to victory in Game 5, and the postseason demons of their iconic pitcher would vanish alongside those of an iconic franchise going on three decades without the most meaningful sort of hardware.

Kiermaier swung at a first-pitch cutter, 93 mph, the kind of velocity Jansen only found in recent days. It sawed Kiermaier’s bat all the way down to the knob. Broken bats don’t always equal outs, though, and the ball fell just out of the reach of diving Dodgers second baseman Enrique Hernandez out into center field. The hardest-hit ball of the inning came courtesy of Joey Wendle, who lined out to left field. With two outs, up stepped Arozarena.

For nearly a month, the 25-year-old rookie, almost a complete unknown outside of front-office circles and extra-deep fantasy leagues, has looked like the best hitter in the world. His home run in the fourth gave him nine this postseason, a major league record. His third hit of the night pushed his total to 26, tying the most in a single playoffs. Arozarena stood in against Jansen, his upper lip curled into a slight snarl. He took a cutter for a strike, stared at a slider for a ball, whacked a slider foul, spit on a cutter just off the plate, stared at another to run the count full, fouled off a slider and trotted to first after Jansen bounced a slider for ball four.

It wasn’t the worst outcome. In the previous inning, Phillips had entered as a pinch runner for Ji-Man Choi, who himself had come into the game as a pinch hitter. Under normal circumstances, the Rays might have pinch hit for Phillips, but the only bat left was catcher Michael Perez, whose career numbers are worse than Phillips’. The Rays are here in large part because manager Kevin Cash so astutely leverages his roster and makes use of his 28 players, but to say that with the game on the line the Rays wanted Phillips at the plate would be some kind of revisionism. This is playoff baseball. It’s the same reason Taylor, who had last played center field Sept. 12, found himself there in the ninth inning. Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers’ usual center fielder, had to DH because his back tightened up before the game, and Roberts had pinch hit for his replacement, A.J. Pollock, with Joc Pederson, whose single in the seventh pushed them ahead 6-5. The move looked deft until it didn’t.

Before it was clear Phillips would even bat, Paul Hoover, the Rays’ field coordinator, had told him that he was going to win the game. Rodney Linares, the Rays’ third-base coach who had managed Phillips when he was a highly touted prospect in the Houston Astros system, pulled down his mask after Phillips stared at a ball and then two strikes and yelled: “Just swing the bat, kid!”

On the fourth pitch, Phillips swung. It was a 92 mph cutter, middle-in, where Phillips likes it. Never mind that in his career with two strikes he was 22-for-205, a .107 hitter. Never mind that he hadn’t registered a hit since Sept. 25, two days before the end of the regular season. Never mind that he had logged only two plate appearances in October. Never mind that he had taken only 10 swings in the batting cage behind the Rays’ dugout to prepare for the biggest at-bat of his life. Never mind that the ball left his bat at only 82.8 mph.

Never mind any of that, because what players like Brett Phillips illustrate, what moments like this remind us, is that baseball’s unpredictability is its finest quality. Nothing about this lined up for Phillips to be the hero, and yet there he was, the kid who as an eighth grader screamed himself hoarse as the Rays advanced to a World Series in 2008 that they didn’t win, feathering a ball past the shift, toward Chris Taylor and into history.

Everything unfolded over the next 13 seconds. Kiermaier scoring the tying run. Taylor’s error. Arozarena never breaking stride until he stumbled. Linares screaming at him in Spanish to go back to third. Smith not realizing Arozarena had fallen and trying to sweep the relay throw from Max Muncy. The ball squirting away. Jansen not backing up the play. Arozarena reversing course, diving into home, pounding his right hand on the plate nine times.

Phillips rounded second and ran toward forever. He had seen Kiermaier spread his arms and run like an airplane and thought it looked fun, so he tried it. The Rays met him in left field and moshed around him. Phillips couldn’t breathe. He extracted himself from the pile and knelt and thanked God. His smile was iridescent. He wanted to hug his wife, Bri. She had been working at a jewelry store in St. Petersburg, Florida, and wasn’t in the bubble, so the closest they had gotten was pregame, when she stood on the concourse and told him she loved him, not knowing the biggest moment of his life — next to marrying her, Phillips made sure to note — would happen hours later.

This game, which had been 1-0, then 2-0, then 2-1, then 3-1, then 3-2, then 4-2, then 5-4, then 6-5, then 6-6, then 7-6 and finally 8-7, which Lowe said aged him 10 years on the final play alone and Roberts called “the unperfect storm,” which left the Rays with perma-grins and the Dodgers sulking off the field wondering how this could’ve happened, had everything. One more strike and the series is completely different. One more inch of movement on Jansen’s cutter. One more foot of defensive positioning on Kiermaier’s blooper. The permutations are endless and the lamentations inescapable. One’s cruelties are another’s beauties. The Dodgers had scored six runs with two outs. The Rays scored the only two runs with two outs that mattered.

“Baseball,” Kiermaier said, “works in mysterious ways.”

On a night like this, it’s easy to fall back on those kinds of clichés — on the baseball gods smiling upon one team, for whatever reason deities would do such things. It was impossible to listen to Brett Maverick Phillips, whose family calls him Maverick, and not appreciate or embrace or understand his platitude. As self-reverential as baseball can be, as much as the game can disappoint and frustrate, there are always going to be kids in the backyard pretending.

World Series.

Bottom of the ninth

Down a run.

Two strikes.

The hometown guy at the plate.

He wins it.

“Keep dreaming big,” Phillips said. “These opportunities, they’re closer than you think.”

He laughed, not one of his guffaws but more an aw-shucks. Thirty-four years after the most famous error in baseball history, he was right there for its cousin in infamy, rounding second, airplaning like a kid whose backyard dream actually became a reality.

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World Series Daily — Can Rays seize series lead over Dodgers in Game 5?

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After all the oddities of the MLB regular season and postseason, the 2020 World Series pits baseball’s top two teams against each other. While we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the Dodgers playing for the championship, this is the first Fall Classic for the Rays since 2008 and only the second in franchise history.

Here’s what you need to know for Game 5 on Sunday, including a look at the pitching matchup, predictions, odds, other key numbers and more.

Key links: Viewers guide | Schedule | Playoff Baseball Classic

What’s on tap

World Series Game 5: Tampa Bay Rays (Tyler Glasnow) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw), 8:08 p.m. ET in Arlington, Texas

ARLINGTON, Texas — Now that the series is tied 2-2, Clayton Kershaw won’t get the chance to pitch the Los Angeles Dodgers to a World Series championship after his team’s Game 4 collapse, but his importance in Game 5 on Sunday can’t be overstated. He’ll need to be the stopper the Dodgers always expect him to be — because all of a sudden, the Rays have grabbed some momentum.

Kershaw has a career 4.68 ERA in the World Series, though he pitched well in Game 1. He’ll take on Tyler Glasnow for a second time in this Series, and the wild and wacky finish to Game 4 will undoubtedly still be fresh on everyone’s mind.

Meanwhile, Glasnow could use some redemption after a Game 1 collapse. He walked six batters in less than five innings pitched and hasn’t completed a full six innings all season. After using their top relievers in Game 4, the Rays will take as many innings as they can get out of Glasnow in Game 5.

In a season that has been unexpectedly defined by a pandemic, followed by labor strife and a shortened, 60-game regular season, the World Series is down to a best-of-three. After the drama of Game 4, what kind of encore do the best two teams in baseball have in store? Stay tuned. — Jesse Rogers


Running World Series odds

Dodgers 66.1%; Rays 33.9%


Game 5 predictions

David Schoenfield: You want a prediction after THAT game? LOL. The Dodgers have been tested many times in the playoffs over the past eight years, but I don’t know if they’ve ever faced a tougher mental test than coming back from maybe the most shocking, heartbreaking playoff defeat since the infamous Pedro game for the Red Sox in the 2003 ALCS. What will happen? I have no idea, but I really, really want Clayton Kershaw to pitch a good game. Rays 5, Dodgers 4.

Dan Mullen: Did you see what happened last night? How is anyone supposed to pick against the Rays after that display of just-won’t-go-away magic? Throw in the fact that, as Dave writes today, the second time around in a postseason series has been the real issue for Clayton Kershaw in October, and I’m going to pick Tampa Bay to take a 3-2 series lead and send Dodgers fans into even more despair heading into another “travel” day. Rays 5, Dodgers 4.

Rogers: Kerhsaw will exorcise his World Series demons once and for all after throwing a solid effort in Game 1. We’ve seen him out-pitch Glasnow once, and he’ll do it again in Game 5, knowing the Dodgers need to get their swagger back after their Game 4 ninth-inning collapse. The Rays got their dramatic win in the series, so it’s the Dodgers’ turn to pull off a close one. Glasnow will be better than he was in Game 1, but Los Angeles wins. Dodgers 5, Rays 4.


Stat of the day

Game 4 was the third walk-off win by a team that trailed entering the bottom of the ninth in the past 15 World Series. The other two? Game 6 in 2011, the “David Freese” game for the Cardinals, and Game 1 in 2015, which ended on an Eric Hosmer sac fly in the bottom of the 14th after Alex Gordon hit a game-tying home run in the ninth. The Rays are the first team to win a nine-inning World Series game in which they trailed entering the bottom of the ninth since the Diamondbacks won Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.


Social media post of the day


Best moment of the MLB playoffs to date

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Brett Phillips’ bloop single is bobbled by Chris Taylor in center, and then Will Smith drops the ball at home, allowing two Rays runs to score and win the game.

If you were watching Game 4, you just saw it, when Rays journeyman Brett Phillips‘ two-out hit off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen — Phillips’ first hit since the regular season after Jansen walked Randy Arozarena — in the ninth scored Kevin Kiermaier from second for a 7-7 tie and then, improbably, plated Arozarena as well when catcher Will Smith lost the ball at home plate for a Rays walk-off win. Just like that, the World Series was evened up, making it a best-of-three showdown between L.A. and Tampa Bay.

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Brett Phillips’ bloop single is bobbled by Chris Taylor in center, and then Will Smith drops the ball at home, allowing two Rays runs to score and win the game.


The running MLB playoffs MVP

Randy Arozarena has gone from an unknown outfielder to this October’s breakout star. Going into the playoffs, you might have been asking, “Who is this guy?” But the Rays’ trade for him has been a huge factor in their postseason run. Arozarena is now a living, breathing postseason record book in cleats, having set MLB records for home runs (nine) and total bases (58), and he’s tied for the all-time record for postseason hits (26). What’s more, he has been flashing some leather in the outfield and some sweet celebration dance moves on the field.



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World Series 2020 – Why the second start of a series is Clayton Kershaw’s real postseason problem

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The narrative winds itself through every October, the constant that connects each postseason to the previous one for the past eight years, with many of the horrifying twists and turns of a Stephen King novel. Will Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher of his generation, finally get to celebrate a World Series title with his teammates?

Kershaw is back on the mound for Sunday’s Game 5 with a chance to put the Los Angeles Dodgers back on top after the ultimate gut-punch of a loss Saturday night. He has been effective this postseason, with a 13-strikeout game against the Brewers in the wild-card round and a 2.88 ERA over four starts. His one rough outing was a crucial one, though; in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, he gave up four runs over five innings as L.A. fell to the brink of elimination before rallying to win the final three games. It is perhaps notable that Kershaw did not pitch in any of those three victories. Walker Buehler is now regarded as the Dodgers’ ace, and Kershaw doesn’t have to win every game, as was expected — unfairly — for so many years. He is still one of the most valuable players on the roster, but the Dodgers have many valuable players.

That doesn’t make a Kershaw start any less full of intrigue, however. I suspect even if you’re not a Dodgers fan, you find yourself pulling for Kershaw this time of year. In his career in the regular season, he’s 175-76 with a 2.43 ERA. In his career in the postseason, he’s 12-12 with a 4.22 ERA. I saw a list similar to the one below on a recent broadcast. Since the advent of the wild card in 1995, Kershaw has the fifth-worst postseason ERA among pitchers with at least 70 innings:

David Price: 4.62
Charles Nagy: 4.46
Al Leiter: 4.38
CC Sabathia: 4.28
Clayton Kershaw: 4.22
Zack Greinke: 4.22

That’s out of 36 pitchers. Mariano Rivera tops the list, with Madison Bumgarner second and Curt Schilling third. What makes the above ranking stand out even more, of course, is the difference between that postseason ERA and the player’s career ERA:

Price: +1.31
Nagy: -0.05
Leiter: +0.58
Sabathia: +0.54
Kershaw: +1.79
Greinke: +0.85

Kershaw has been so dominant in the regular season, which has made his results in the playoffs only more frustrating. On top of that, he is held to an impossible standard. He is expected to duplicate the heroic performances of World Series legends such as Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson — who cares if they pitched in a different era and had to pitch in only one series per year — or to match an October run like his contemporary and rival Bumgarner had for the Giants in 2014.

Sunday night’s start will be a big test for Kershaw for another key reason: It’s the first time this postseason he’ll make a second start in a series. I had a theory that most of Kershaw’s postseason struggles have come the second time he faced a team in a series. Before putting theory to paper, I checked the numbers. I went back to 2013, the first postseason Kershaw pitched in after he had become the best pitcher in the game.

First game in a series: 102⅔ IP, 78 H, 44 R, 42 ER, 23 BB, 118 SO, 14 HR, 3.15 ERA
Subsequent appearances: 65⅓ IP, 55 H, 37 R, 34 ER, 16 BB, 72 SO, 11 HR, 5.44 ERA

So the theory holds. Kershaw’s major issues mostly have come the second time around. One thing I’ve heard people say is Kershaw has been pushed hard in the postseason, pitching on three days’ rest at times earlier in this run, plus making several relief appearances along the way. That’s true; he was pushed hard by Don Mattingly and then Dave Roberts. The trouble with that theory is Kershaw actually pitched well on short rest. He has made four starts on three days’ rest, all in Game 4 of a division series and his second start of a series:

2013 NLDS vs. Braves: 6 IP, 0 ER, 6 SO
2014 NLDS vs. Cardinals: 6 IP, 3 ER, 9 SO
2015 NLDS vs. Mets: 7 IP, 1 ER, 8 SO
2016 NLDS vs. Nationals: 6.2 IP, 5 ER, 11 SO

That’s a 3.16 ERA, and even the game against the Nationals is a little misleading. He left in the seventh inning with two outs and the bases loaded, but the bullpen allowed all three runners to score. That was the year he came on to get the final two outs in Game 5 for the save. He then started Game 2 of the NLCS on two days of rest (or four days of rest after his Game 4 start). You know what? He pitched seven scoreless innings against the Cubs. It was his second start of the series, in Game 6, when the Cubs knocked him around for two home runs and five runs in five innings.

So it doesn’t really hold that short rest has hurt Kershaw. Now, sure, maybe there’s a cumulative effect here. Maybe he was gassed by the time he faced the Cubs in Game 6. I keep wondering if seeing Kershaw a second time in short order helps opponents. Part of the mystery of facing Kershaw is he doesn’t look like any other pitcher with that hesitation and his windup and the over-top delivery. Maybe the familiarity of seeing him again a few days later helps — similar to how offensive numbers jump the third time through the order (part of that is pitcher fatigue, but part of that is hitters have seen the pitcher for two at-bats already).

I went back to the 2015 postseason and checked the numbers on starters for their first start in a series and then their second start. This gave a list of 80 pitchers (and 81 second starts, as Corey Kluber started three times in the 2016 World Series).

First start: 444⅓ IP, 344 H, 160 R, 153 ER, 148 BB, 454 SO, 51 HR, 3.12 ERA
Second start: 399⅓ IP, 338 H, 181 R, 168 ER, 138 BB, 434 SO, 61 HR, 3.79 ERA

So, yes, pitchers don’t fare as well the second time in a series. Their average innings pitched goes from 5.6 to 4.9. Their home runs per nine innings goes from 1.03 to 1.37. Their ERA rises 0.67 runs — but Kershaw’s ERA rises 2.29 runs.

It should be noted that Kershaw hasn’t pitched as badly as his ERA suggests. Compare his second-start numbers to the other 81 starts per nine innings:

Kershaw: 7.6 H, 2.2 BB, 9.9 SO, 1.52 HR, 5.44 ERA
Others: 7.6 H, 3.1 BB, 9.8 SO, 1.37 HR, 3.79 ERA

His raw numbers are basically the same as the control group — except the ERA. For whatever reason, his runs in the postseason too often come in crooked numbers or one bad inning.

Anyway, the Dodgers know this. Roberts won’t allow him to go too long, and the Dodgers have plenty of arms in the bullpen. In his four starts this postseason, Kershaw has thrown 93, 87, 87 and 78 pitches. He’ll be pitching on four days of rest. He gave up only two hits in six innings in the Game 1 victory over the Rays. All the signs point to another good start. I hope so.

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