Runs are back in the MLB playoffs
The first two games of the Rays-Astros series appeared to indicate that we were in for pitching duels. Games with few swings that would decide the outcomes. Game One of the NLCS also gave us that indication with the Braves managing a few good swings ultimately giving them the victory.
The first three games of the Championship Series produced 15 runs. Today we saw 15 total runs in just the Dodgers-Braves game. Expect the swings to remain powerful with the objective of hitting for the fences. Also, start to expect the runs to continue to pile in.
Freddie is ready for the spotlight
Freddie Freeman made his mark on the Championship Series last night when he rapped a homer in the top of the first inning. We now have seen Freeman prove that the swing in Game One was no fluke. With a runner on in the top of the fourth, Freeman worked the count full on Tony Gonsolin. Freddie Freeman was given an off-speed pitch in the lower inside part of the strike zone (Freeman's sweet spot for crushing baseballs). Freeman launched the pitch well over the right-field wall to give the Braves an early 2-0 lead.
In an inning where the Braves were putting together a string of runs, Freeman added to his incredible stat sheet. In the fifth inning, Freddie Freeman went up to the plate with to runners on and the score 3-0. Freeman proved why he is one of the best all-around hitters in the game and an MVP candidate.
He shortened his swing and laced an RBI single up the middle. Many hitters in today's game hit for power but few can hit for contact if the situation demands it. Freeman finished the night with two hits and 3 runs batted in. Those two hits displayed Freeman's ability to be an effective hitter even if it means sacrificing a potential long ball.
Dodgers appear to finally have broken through against the Braves pitching
After the Braves put seven runs on the board, the game looked all but over. This is where Dodgers fans can be somewhat optimistic. The Braves pitching was untouchable throughout the postseason, with four shutouts and one run allowed in Game One. The Dodgers finally cracked the Braves pitching. The trend might be able to continue in the remainder of the series.
Corey Seager was the first to break through against the dominant Braves pitching. Launching a 3-run homer in the seventh inning to shrink the lead to 7-3. Granted the pitch was left over the heart of the plate, but Seager was able to send it over the deep left-center wall with a swing that appeared to miss not have an ideal connection.
After another Braves insurance run, the Dodger were down 8-3 but the game was far from being over. Josh Tomlin needed only one more out for the Game Two win. Unfortunately, he served Max Muncy an inside pitch that was intended to be thrown on the outside of the plate (maybe to force Muncy to chase). Muncy pounced on the cream puff and sent it to double deck. Suddenly the lead was 8-6 and the Braves had to turn to Mark Melancon to close out the game. Two hitters later, Cody Bellinger pulled an inside pitch down the rightfield line to bring in the Dodgers seventh run. Moreover, it brought the tying run only 90 feet away. Mark Melancon was able to force the next batter (AJ Pollock) into a hard grounder to end the rally and the game.
The Braves take a 2-0 series lead but will be the first to tell you that this series is far from over. The Dodgers are starting to get good swings on Braves pitching. Clayton Kershaw is still available to pitch later in the series. Atlanta has a history of choking that does not need to be discussed. The early lead is hopeful but the Braves still have a lot of work to do.
Incredible plays win another game for Tampa Bay
The rays taught us the importance of building a team with great fielding. Throughout the series, we have seen the Rays get out of jams with incredible plays from the field. Game Three was filled with game-saving catches, it's hard to point to one as the play of the game. In a game that has teams so invested in finding power-hitting, great pitching, and bullpen arms, the Rays seem one step ahead.
The great field that they have composed allows their pitchers to make the risky pitches, it allows their pitchers to get into a jam knowing that their fielders can get them out of it. In the first two games, we saw Brandon Lowe sink the Astros' rallies with late-game double plays. Today we saw the Rays outfield bail out the Rays and seal the victory.
Sixth Inning power Rays victory
With only a Jose Altuve home run on the board, it looked like we were set up for another pitching duel with one or two deciding swings. After a few Rays runners managed to load the bases, Joey Wendle slapped a two-run opposite-field hit to gives the Rays the lead and momentum. After walking in a run (something you rarely see), Hunter Renfroe delivered the knockout punch. Renfroe appeared to be jammed by the off-speed pitch that ran inside but floated the ball to the opposite field to bring in another two runs. Jose Altuve did make a costly error but the theme of the inning was the Rays hitters making contact and hitting it where the Astros ain't.
Michael Brantley did hit an opposite-field homer to close the gap to 5-2 in the sixth inning but the effort was too little and too late. The Rays closed out the third game of the series with a bullpen that has been lights out throughout the season and now the postseason. The Rays now have a commanding 3-0 series lead and will trot out Tyler Glasnow tomorrow. The series is not over but the Rays have to feel extremely confident about the likely trip to the World Series for the first time since 2008.