It hasn't been easy all series for the Dodgers.
It doesn't appear as though it will start Tuesday.
A win away from their seventh World Championship -- and their first since 1988 -- the Dodgers will have to overcome the Rays and 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell to finish the feat. On the other side, the Rays will need to continue battering embattled starter Tony Gonsolin to keep hopes alive for a Game 7 and, possibly, the franchise's first-ever title.
Both starters have faced opposing hitters already this series, with different results. Snell went 4 2/3 innings in Game 2, allowing two runs but walking four while striking out nine in a no-decision. The Rays won the 6-4 affair to even the series at 1-1 at that point.
Opposing him that day, as he will Tuesday, was Gonsolin. Unlike Snell, Gonsolin wasn't long for Game 2 after having pitched in Game 7 of the NLCS just three days prior, getting four outs while allowing a solo homer before Dodgers manager Dave Roberts went to his bullpen.
That won't be the case this time around, Roberts said Monday.
"He's a starting pitcher," Roberts said of Gonsolin, telling reporters that if the 25-year-old went five or six innings in Tuesday's game it "would be great."
In that Game 2 start, Gonsolin was victimized by Brandon Lowe, who hit a pair of homers in the Rays win. Lowe is the only Rays batter with a hit off Gonsolin in an albeit-small 12 plate appearance sample. All three of Lowe's hits in the series have been homers, in fact.
Against Snell, Mookie Betts is the only one with a notable sample size, having faced him 30 times in his career. As he does against many pitchers, Betts has hit Snell well, batting .280 with a .480 slugging percentage and .358 wOBA against the southpaw for his career. The two-run homer Snell served up in Game 2 was to Chris Taylor, who's likely to be in there again Tuesday.
Although the 27-year-old Snell is an established starter and can bring an ace-like performance any time he takes the mound, Rays manager Kevin Cash suggested it might be Snell, and not Gonsolin, who hits the showers early Tuesday if the Rays get on the board first.
“We’re going to get aggressive tomorrow,” Cash said Monday. “If we can somehow get a lead and limit them, we’ve got some of the big guys in the back end of the bullpen that are ready to go.
"I know that’s our strategy, to get a lead then to get aggressive where we feel like we can limit whatever offense is out there.”
As it has to this point in the series, Tuesday's elimination game very likely could come down to each team's No. 3 hitter. Justin Turner has done plenty of damage through five games in a run-producing spot in the Dodgers' lineup, hitting .364/.391/.818 with a pair of homers in 23 plate appearances in the World Series.
And of course, nobody has done more for his stock this postseason than Randy Arozarena. The 25-year-old is hitting .333/.455/.667 during the series and has hit .370/.439/.808 in 19 games this postseason. His nine home runs during these playoffs are an MLB record -- not for rookies, not just this year, but for all of time. The Rays freshman has simply hit more homers during this postseason than any player has ever hit during a single postseason.
Two relatively likeable teams, two sizable championship droughts (including the chance for a first-time champ), literal history -- the only thing that would make this series more fun is a do-or-die Game 7 on Wednesday. Here's to hoping.
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Alvarez advances to running after surgery
There actually was a small bit of non-World Series news in the baseball world Monday.
Yordan Alvarez, two months removed from surgery on both his knees, posted a video on his Instagram stories showing him jogging on a treadmill. The video was short and didn't offer any details, but the activity proves, if nothing else, that he's on the trail to recovery after a lost year in 2020.
The 23-year-old was an early-round fantasy pick coming into 2020 after he burst onto the major league scene the year before, hitting .313/.412/.655 with 27 homers in just 87 games as the American League Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, Alvarez logged just eight at-bats in 2020 while battling knee issues and COVID-19. He underwent season-ending surgery on August 26.
“You know, it's been bothering him for a while,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said at the time. “The diagnosis is different this time than in Spring Training. You're not really sure when it happened or if it just happened with deterioration and time.
"We decided to do something about it now.”
Running on a treadmill does not a healthy baseball player make, but given that baseball is still being played in parts of the country Alvarez has plenty of time to round into baseball form before spring training. Major knee surgery is no joke, but if the slugger enters spring feeling good he could enjoy a big-time bounce-back in 2021.