Game 4 of the World Series was an instant classic, with the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers trading blows all night before a bizarre final streak resulted in a walk victory for the Rays.
What looked like a 3-1 lead in the Dodgers series is suddenly a 2-2 best of three.
The pressure is surely now on Los Angeles, which has a long history of recent playoff frustration. The Brave Rays have all the momentum, but the Dodgers have the right man on the mound to both change the narrative of an Los Angeles team that is synonymous with disappointment and further exorcise their personal demons in the playoffs.
Here are the main storylines to look out for before Game 5, which begins at 8:00 p.m. ET on Sportsnet and SN Now.
Kershaw’s Golden Opportunity
After a heartbreaking loss, there’s no one you’d rather see the next day on the rubber than your iconic franchise ace. It’s no hyperbole to say that Clayton Kershaw is one of the greatest pitchers of all time, and that he’s already come a long way from dropping his ‘playoff choker’ label in 2020. The southpaw started four games in October and threw at 2.88 ERA, which is significantly lower than his career of 4.22 in the playoffs.
This postseason differs from the previous ones in several ways. The shortened regular season meant Kershaw didn’t have to record so many innings going into the playoffs. And with Walker Buehler established as another staff ace – plus the Dodgers’ deeper pitching staff overall – Dave Roberts didn’t have to rely so much on Kershaw. In previous years, the Dallas native was frequently deployed on a short rest and even pushed into regular action out of the pen. This has not been the case so far and would probably only be considered if this World Series were to last seven games.
Kershaw started Game 1 of the series and thwarted the Rays, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out eight in six innings. Another performance like that to give his team a 3-2 lead could be the highlight of the 32-year-old’s career and help soften the blow of past failures for himself and the team in his. together.
The stars are shining brighter than ever
World Series titles are often determined by the most unlikely of heroes. Think of Steve Pearce of the Boston Red Sox in 2018, who was a bunch bat acquired on the trade deadline who went on to beat three homers in the Fall Classic. Brett Phillips provided one of those fairytale moments in Saturday’s Game 4, and there’s a chance we’ll see another over the next few days.
But so far, this World Series has been about some of baseball’s brightest stars who stood up in the moment and left their mark.
When not providing fireworks with the bat, Mookie Betts has been dazzling with the glove and on the bases. Corey Seager hits a ridiculous .500 with 1,560 OPS across the first four games in the series. Justin Turner is on the heels at 0.444 and 1.474, respectively.
For the Rays, Randy Arozarena has deservedly dominated the headlines, breaking a record nine home runs in that playoff series. Now Brandon Lowe, who was Tampa’s best player all year, has joined in the fun. Lowe cut .115 / .193 / .173 in the 14 games leading up to the World Series, but he came out of his crisis and hit three home runs against the Dodgers.
Sure, it’s always fun to watch bench guys steal a game or two with a clutch performance, but when the best baseball players rise to the occasion as they are right now, there is nothing to do but sit back, drop your jaw and enjoy the show.
This season, Dan picks an MLB issue, trend, news item, or story, and deals with it with a guest. And he does it five times a week for about 15 minutes a day. Enough time to inform and entertain, but also to bring fans back to all the sports going on.
Is the stable losing steam?
Rays manager Kevin Cash has demanded a lot from his enclosure in these playoffs, especially the trio of Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo. Besides Arozarena’s heroism, the Tampa Relief Corps is the number one reason the Rays even play for a championship.
Maybe all the wear and tear is starting to catch up. the stable. The Dodgers had no problem with the Rays relievers in Game 4 and collected three runs against Anderson, Fairbanks and Castillo in their 3 1/3 innings of combined work. Even the most electric of arms loses efficiency as the workload increases, stress soars, and the opposition becomes more comfortable with the arsenal and delivery.
Luckily for Cash there is another day off on Monday which will give his stable of lads who roll 98 a chance to reset. The Rays will need their enclosure to regain their form to win this series.