Wow Game One was a Dud
This was a rather anticlimactic start to the World Series. Unless you are a Dodgers fan or bet the Over on the betting lines, you likely were disappointed with this game. this series is not off to a good start and has the ability to get ugly if the Rays don't adjust. There are times as a baseball fan that you feel that we can really use a good series. With the season being delayed, everything that happened to reach this point, and baseball has the spotlight for the next seven days, we can use an exciting series. A great series can be what baseball needs to bring fans that have been recently turned away from the game and the casual fans that likely have little interest in baseball in comparison to the other major sports.
As though we weren't convinced prior to the series starting. Mookie Betts is one of the best the game has ever seen, mastering the five tools of the game. There was a strong belief that the Dodgers were going to rely heavily on Betts making an impact in this game one way or another. With the score 2-1, Betts got on base and immediately stole second to put himself in scoring position. In case one stolen bag wasn't enough, Betts stole third a few pitches later and aggressively attacked home on an infield chopper. I thought of the late great Lou Brock and his impact on the Cardinals' success in the 1960s. Betts did his best Lou Brock impression in the 5th inning by essentially scoring the Dodgers third run on the basepaths.
After Betts's brilliance, the Dodgers turned to situational hitting to drive in the next 3 runs. Will Smith took an inside heater and laced it to center field for an RBI single. With Ryan Yarbrough entering the game, Chris Taylor floated an outside pitch just over the reach of shortstop Willy Adames to drive in another run. Enrique Hernandez capped off the inning with a hard grounder just outside of third baseman Joey Wendle's reach to bring in the 4th run in the inning. Suddenly the score was 6-1 and the game was a lost cause for Tampa Bay.
It's hard to say whether the Dodgers hitters seeing Tyler Glasnow for the third time in the game was what led to the flood of runs. It's also hard to say if the pitch count got to Glasnow as he crossed the century mark in the decisive inning. Regardless, this inning was Kevin Cash's undoing. Cash should have removed Glasnow either before this inning started or once Mookie Betts beat the tag. Kevin Cash has the bullpen to keep games close. He failed to take advantage of the arms at his disposal and the bullpen battle that favors the Rays. I wouldn't expect Cash to keep a starter in longer than he's supposed to the rest of the series after seeing Glasnow exposed in the 5th inning.
Whenever someone watches Kershaw in the playoffs, they watch with bated breath. Kershaw's track record is mesmerizing considering he might be the best pitcher in this era. This game might have removed the skepticism as Kershaw silenced the critics with one of his best playoff starts in his career.
Kershaw struggled in the first inning with his location. He allowed two runners to reach base and throwing 20 pitches in the frame before retiring the Rays. After the first inning, Kershaw started to heat up and force many Rays hitters into errant swings and buckled knees. Kershaw finished the night allowing only 1 run on 2 hits while striking out 8 Rays in his 6 innings. What made Kershaw dominant tonight was his ability to establish his sinking pitches and the lower half of the strike zone. Of the 8 strikeout pitches Kershaw threw, 6 of them were in the lower half of the zone or sinking below the zone.
The Rays are not in trouble after Game One's 8-3 loss. The Rays lost to the Yankees in Game One of the ALDS 9-3 and dominated the next two games. They will however be in trouble if they struggle tomorrow. Falling 0-2 to the Dodgers is going to be nearly impossible to come back from. The problem with this defeat is that the Rays will likely face Walker Buehler tomorrow. Kershaw was the pitcher that Tampa Bay could have stolen a game from but not Walker Buehler. If the Rays want to win tomorrow, they will likely have to in a pitchers duel.
The Rays can bounce back in this series assuming they learned a few things from this game. Kevin Cash has to make some notes and enter Game Two with a different managerial approach to the game. The first note Cash has to keep in mind is to watch out for his starters. Glasnow looked great through 4 innings but between the Dodgers hitters getting their third at-bat against him and the pitch count reaching 100, Cash needed to pull Glasnow before he got exposed. Cash also has to let his batter know that they must work the Dodgers pitchers. The Rays need to take the Dodgers starters out of the game. Allowing Kershaw to get ahead in the count put the Rays at a disadvantage throughout the night.
The final and most important thing Cash must take note of from Game 1 is Mookie Betts. Mookie Betts can single-handedly control this series as he did in Game 1. The Rays can't walk Betts because he can steal any bag to put himself in scoring position. The Rays also can't pitch to Betts because he'll turn on any pitch as he did on Tuesday night.
So what should the Rays do? For starters you continue to gives Betts difficult pitches to hit, you don't let him beat you at the plate. The next thing the Rays need to do is find ways to keep Betts from taking off. One way that comes to mind is the pickoff play from the catcher that might catch him off guard. Either way, Betts must be watched throughout the series (by both the Rays and fans alike).