Dodgers’ smallball offense propels Los Angeles to 2-1 seed

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ARLINGTON, Texas – Austin Barnes squared up and dropped a cavity – a most exquisite cavity – to score Cody Bellinger at the top of the fourth. Two innings later, he put a slider on the field and led it into the survey pen in left center field. Barnes is a career backup wide receiver who was left off the Los Angeles Dodgers playoff roster last year. He was ninth in Game 3 on Friday, a possible 6-2 win to take a 2-1 series lead over the Tampa Bay Rays, and appeared in the roster largely because of his relationship with starting pitcher Walker Buehler. And yet, he only became the second player in World Series history to drive in one race with a sacrificial decay and to lead another with a home run.One ball from his bat went 4 feet and traveled 35 mph. The other traveled 425 feet and did 104 mph. Together, they served as an exaggerated representation of what might set the 2020 Dodgers apart and what might ultimately make them 32-year-old first-time champions – they can beat their opponents in any way.

It has not always been the case. The Dodgers in recent years have been hampered by offenses that often turned cold as the stakes rose in October; who struggled to adjust to a higher level of throwing and seemed to sit at times and wait for home runs that wouldn’t come. These Dodgers look different.

“It’s not about driving the ball,” said Mookie Betts, the man who set the tone for their change of approach. “We’ve proven that we can do it, and we’ve proven that we can take our singles too. There is a time and a place to do both. I think we did a good job putting our pride aside and putting the long ball to the side and playing pepper. Sometimes that’s the way to play the game. ”

The Dodgers, who have spent the last 18 days playing in a sprawling Globe Life Field, scored five runs in the first four innings for Charlie Morton, who came in with a 0.70 ERA in 25⅔ playoff innings. he pitched for the Rays. Barnes’ Homer marked the fifth time the Dodgers have scored with two strikeouts and two strikeouts, giving them 50 points with two strikeouts and 36 points with two playoff strikes – both records.

It started with Justin Turner, who clocked a two-strike-out, 1-2 fastball in the first inning and hit him for his 11th career playoff homer, tying Duke Snider for the most in history. franchise. With two strikeouts in the third, Corey Seager was hit with a pitch, Turner doubled up on a 2-2 curve ball and Max Muncy pushed them both with a single fielder to center right on a 3-2 cutter. After the safety pressure from Barnes – the third sacrifice of any playoffs by any team – Betts lined up a 3-2 lead in the middle for another two-strikeout RBI.

“From top to bottom, we do the little things,” said Chris Taylor, a Dodgers utility. “We take what they give us. This is not all for the long ball. Obviously, with our hitters, we’re going to meet some of them. But I think we take our simple and work the counts, putting the guys on the ground. more systematically. ”

It was even evident in terms of losses. Like Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, when they staged a four-run ninth inning and came within 90 feet of an unlikely comeback. Or Game 2 of the World Series, when they weren’t touched in the first four innings, fell behind 5-0 after the start of the fifth, but still limited Blake Snell to 14 strikeouts and brought in the tie race three times. in the eighth. These Dodgers are equally patient, resourceful, and relentless, traits that have become more and more apparent with each pass.

Here’s a look at their postseason numbers from the last few years:

2017: .242 / .338 / .448, 23,0 K%, 11,2 BB%
2018: .205 / .299 / .344, 27,6 K%, 10,7 BB%
2019: .220 / .303 / .428, 32,8 K%, 10,3 BB%
2020: .253 / .353 / .463, 24,3 K%, 12,3 BB%

And the percentage of playoff races they’ve scored via home runs:

2017: 46,3%
2018: 54,2%
2019: 59,1%
2020: 43,7%

And how they did with the scoring runners in October:

2017: .726 OPS
2018: .657 OPS
2019: .691 OPS
2020: .878 OPS

“Stay in ourselves, know how good the next one is and not have the pressure to do it,” Barnes said of what made the Dodgers better in those situations. “Pass the baton, and when you get that throw, hit it. ”

The Dodgers have apparently adjusted this month. In their 43-17 regular season, they placed second in home run points percentage and 25th in shots seen from home plate – traits that typically epitomize impatient, one-dimensional teams struggling in this period. of the year. Through it, however, Turner explained how these Dodgers are better equipped for production runs, and Betts compared them to a 2018 Boston Red Sox team that was particularly adept at grinding bats. Then the playoffs came on, the stakes went up and they got it right.

Barnes’ sacrifice drew all the attention, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was equally impressed with Seager in the ninth, with his side scoring five points, scoring a goal against Rays reliever Shane McClanahan on the 10th batting. .

It might be boring, but it might also be what ultimately makes the Dodgers champions.

“I think it’s just more of a core philosophy to try to really grind, to try to gain some ground and move the ball forward, to beat the shift if we have to do that and try to shorten our swings if necessary, ”said Roberts. “It’s something, after years of playoff experience for us, as a group, that when you meet 1s and 2s these guys are going to make good pitches, quality pitches. To be able to use the other side of the court, to shorten your swing, give yourself a better chance – to the credit of the batting coaches, they did that. “

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