The Tampa Bay Rays don’t wait around. They are even less likely to wait around when their bullpen has had two full days off and all their starters will be on regular rest. For a few years they’ve had an organizational plan, which means they go to the pen when they want, which is usually quickly. And yet, in Game 1 of the World Series, manager Kevin Cash was sitting on his hands, to steal a term from the OTB I grew up in (don’t worry, I had a fine childhood).
Tyler Glasnow can be wayward. He’s got perhaps the best stuff in the game, certainly in the team photo, but he doesn’t always know where it’s going. He had labored through four innings. He had walked four in those four innings, was up over 80 pitches, and had given up Cody Bellinger’s two-run homer in the 4th and then had to duck another runner after walking Chris Taylor. He was circling to the top of the lineup for a third time in the 5th, which these days tends to be a blinking red light, marked “Master Alarm.” This is where you’d expect the Rays to turn things over to their rested pen.
And they just … didn’t.
Glasnow kicked off the 5th by walking Mookie Betts, which you can’t do because you know with the combination of Betts and Glasnow’s delivery, which takes a dog year to get to the plate, Betts is stealing. He walked Corey Seager, too, and then the conga line around the bases was on.
The three-batter rule was a factor. Thanks to the Dodgers going R-L-R-L all the way down the lineup, it is tricky to figure out where to drop in a reliever. Ryan Yarborough was going to be first out, but Cash couldn’t decide where he should go and against which righty he was comfortable having him see. Maybe he was hoping Glasnow could find a second out so he could use a reliever for just one cherry-picked hitter. Glasnow didn’t, Yarborough had to face Chris Taylor who singled, and the game was over. Dodgers win, 8-3.
To be fair to Cash, Glasnow was inches from that second out with Max Muncy’s grounder that only Betts (who added a home run to go with his two stolen bases) and Jesse Owens could score on. Maybe Cash is wary of exposing the pen early in the series so that the Dodgers get a lot of looks by the time this series goes long. But you have to win games to make the series go long, and with the normal off-days schedule, every game is worth going for. This is the same team and manager that hooked Blake Snell, a former Cy Young winner, after four innings in Game 6 against Houston with a much more worked pen. The one that pulled Charlie Morton in Game 7 after just 66 pitches. The Rays have gotten here by using their pen aggressively. It was an odd time to pull the, “Hang on a sec” method.
Perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered, as Clayton Kershaw was on his game, which apparently redeems his whole career (until he takes the mound again in Game 5). The Rays’ whiff-happy ways were the perfect tonic, as Kershaw struck out eight in six. And thanks to the Dodgers’ offense, Dave Roberts didn’t feel the need to pitch Kershaw until his arm was hanging down around his ankle. Could it be that Kershaw will get normal usage? 2020 truly is the through-the-looking glass year. (Insert Rocky IV speech of “If Roberts can change, and I can change…”)
It’s not exactly a heart-warming story out of Phoenix, because of the origin, but I suppose it’s rare that we see a semblance of honor anywhere these days.
The Phoenix Rising of the USL (second division soccer league), informed the league that it will forfeit its right to host the league’s championship game.
You may remember the Rising from such episodes as causing the San Diego Loyal, coached by Landon Donovan, to walk off the field after the Rising’s Junior Flemmings hurled a gay slur at the Loyal’s Collin Martin.
The Rising were given a win by forfeit due to the Loyal’s walk-off. Sidenote: Flemmings was suspended for six games and their coach, Rick Schantz, who had a very football coach response to the whole thing, was put on administrative leave.
With those three points, the Rising had more points than both Eastern Conference teams that could show up in the final. Without those three points, the Rising wouldn’t. So they’ve elected to travel to the USL final, should they make it.
Again, it comes from horrid circumstances, but it does show a team accepting responsibility, recognizing what they’ve gained through shady means, and at least making a passing attempt at making amends. Contrast that with the Houston Astros. Anything is possible if you hold yourself to a higher standard.