2020 World Series: Rays vs. Dodgers Preview, Odds and Game-by-Game Predictions

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterOctober 20, 2020

2020 World Series: Rays vs. Dodgers Preview, Odds and Game-by-Game Predictions

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    Will the Dodgers finally snap their championship drought?
    Will the Dodgers finally snap their championship drought?Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Major League Baseball didn't take its usual route to this point because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the 2020 World Series is finally here.

    Before the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers get things started at Globe Life Field on Tuesday night, it's time for us to size them up and predict how their Fall Classic will play out.

    The Rays are in the World Series after holding off a 3-0 comeback attempt by the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series. The Dodgers are in because they overcame Atlanta's 3-1 lead in the National League Championship Series.

    Let's start by looking at the odds for the series and then dive deep into how the Rays and Dodgers match up. After that, we'll predict exactly how the champions will be crowned.

Schedule and Odds

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Each game of the World Series will start just after 8 p.m. ET on Fox. The schedule:

    • Tuesday, Oct. 20: Game 1
    • Wednesday, Oct. 21: Game 2
    • Friday, Oct. 23: Game 3
    • Saturday, Oct. 24: Game 4
    • Sunday, Oct. 25: Game 5*
    • Tuesday, Oct. 27: Game 6*
    • Wednesday, Oct. 28: Game 7*

    According to DraftKings, the Dodgers will begin the Fall Classic as favorites:

    • Dodgers: Minus-200
    • Rays: Plus-160

    This fits with the David vs. Goliath feel of the matchup, which mostly has to do with the Dodgers' and Rays' payrolls. The former ranks second in that department, while the latter ranks 28th.

    Yet even despite that massive disparity, there really isn't an underdog in this series.

    After winning 106 games in 2019, the Dodgers might have won 116 games in 2020 if they'd gotten the chance to expand their 43-17 performance in 60 games to a full 162-game season. The Rays won 40 games in their own right, building on a 96-win campaign in 2019.

    Both teams are also out to snap longstanding championship droughts. The Rays have yet to win it all since their inception in 1998. The Dodgers, meanwhile, haven't won the World Series since Kirk Gibson and Co. upset the Oakland Athletics in 1988.

    *If necessary

Weighing the Offenses

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Tampa Bay's Go-To Lineup:

    1. RF Manuel Margot (R)
    2. 2B Brandon Lowe (L)
    3. LF Randy Arozarena (R)
    4. DH Austin Meadows (L)
    5. 1B Ji-Man Choi (L)
    6. SS Willy Adames (R)
    7. 3B Joey Wendle (L)
    8. C Mike Zunino (R)
    9. CF Kevin Kiermaier (R)

    On the Bench: INF/DH Yandy Diaz (R), INF Mike Brosseau (R), OF Hunter Renfroe (R), DH Yoshi Tsutsugo (L), C Michael Perez (L)


    Los Angeles' Go-To Lineup:

    1. RF Mookie Betts (R)
    2. SS Corey Seager (L)
    3. 3B Justin Turner (R)
    4. 1B Max Muncy (L)
    5. C Will Smith (R)
    6. CF Cody Bellinger (L)
    7. LF AJ Pollock (R)
    8. DH Joc Pederson (L)
    9. 2B Chris Taylor (R)

    On the Bench: INF/OF Enrique Hernandez (R), C Austin Barnes (R), INF Edwin Rios (L)


    Disclaimer: Neither of these clubs has a "set" lineup. But no matter how Kevin Cash's Rays line up opposite Dave Roberts' Dodgers, the latter is going to have a clear offensive edge.

    The Dodgers led the majors in scoring and home runs in the regular season. And while they didn't walk as often as the Rays, there was a far greater gap in the two clubs' strikeout rates. The Rays ranked second with a 26.9 strikeout percentage, while the Dodgers were 28th at just 20.3 percent.

    So it has gone for the Rays in the playoffs, wherein they've whiffed in 29.9 percent of their plate appearances. The Dodgers are at 22.7 percent. And though Tampa Bay has out-homered Los Angeles 25-18 on the whole, the Dodgers made up for that advantage in the LCS round. They homered 16 times, compared to 11 for the Rays.

    It would sure help the Rays if Randy Arozarena (1.288 OPS, 7 HR) continues his postseason hot streak. But even then, the Dodgers would still have the offensive edge.

Weighing the Defenses

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    As for whether Tampa Bay or Los Angeles is the better defensive team, it's arguably a push.

    The Rays and Dodgers ranked second and fifth in defensive runs saved during the regular season. Both clubs have also made a huge impression with the leather in the playoffs.

    As Mike Petriello of MLB.com covered, defense was arguably the reason the Rays beat the Astros in the ALCS. Their infielders always seemed to be in the right positions, and they got excellent catches from Kevin Kiermaier (here) and Manuel Margot (here) in the outfield.

    Yet the catch of the postseason surely belongs to Cody Bellinger, who robbed San Diego Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. of a go-ahead home run in Game 2 of the division series. Mookie Betts subsequently took over in the LCS, making three game-changing catches.

    Given Globe Life Field's sizable dimensions, the Rays and the Dodgers will need more of the same from their outfielders in the World Series. If there's an advantage on either side, it belongs to the Dodgers on account of their 10 games at the Texas Rangers' new digs.

Weighing the Pitching Staffs

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Tampa Bay's Key Starters: Tyler Glasnow (R), Blake Snell (L), Charlie Morton (R)

    Tampa Bay's Key Swingmen: John Curtiss (R), Ryan Thompson (R), Ryan Yarbrough (L)

    Tampa Bay's Key Relievers: Nick Anderson (R), Diego Castillo (R), Pete Fairbanks (R), Jose Alvarado (L), Aaron Loup (L), Aaron Slegers (R)


    Los Angeles' Key Starters: Clayton Kershaw (L), Walker Buehler (R)

    Los Angeles' Key Swingmen: Dustin May (R), Julio Urias (L), Tony Gonsolin (R)

    Los Angeles' Key Relievers: Kenley Jansen (R), Blake Treinen (R), Brusdar Graterol (R), Pedro Baez (R), Victor Gonzalez (L), Dylan Floro (R), Joe Kelly (R), Adam Kolarek (L), Jake McGee (L)


    Despite the Dodgers' MLB-best 3.02 ERA in the regular season, pitching is still another area wherein they and the Rays are seemingly on even ground. Both clubs have posted a 3.36 ERA in the postseason.

    One advantage with the Tampa Bay staff is that Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell and Charlie Morton make for a viable trio of starters, as their 2.96 ERA through 54.2 innings this postseason can attest. Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler have pitched to a 2.61 ERA, but the Dodgers don't have a No. 3 after them.

    Dustin May, Julio Urias and Tony Gonsolin, however, make for an excellent threesome of swingmen. That's especially true of the first two, as May and Urias are following a 2.92 ERA in the regular season with a 1.14 ERA through 23.2 playoff innings.

    Though the Rays and Dodgers each have plentiful late-inning relievers to choose from, they need their closers to turn a corner in the World Series. Dodgers fireman Kenley Jansen has had issues with his velocity, while Nick Anderson has allowed five runs in seven innings over his last four outings.

    Whatever the case, expect plenty of gas in the World Series. Both the Rays and Dodgers are coming into the Fall Classic averaging 94.7 mph on their fastballs in October.

Game 1 Prediction

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Projected Matchup: Glasnow vs. Kershaw

    Assuming Kershaw indeed starts for the Dodgers in Game 1, it will mark the veteran ace's latest chance to correct a postseason track record that can be charitably described as "hit-or-miss."

    Yet this version of Kershaw may find the Rays to be a tough matchup.

    The lefty isn't as much of a strikeout artist as he used to be, and he figures to be up against a lineup stacked with right-handed hitters. What's more, these Rays were the best at hitting breaking balls in the regular season. That's bad news for Kershaw, who typically throws more than 50 percent sliders and curveballs.

    Glasnow leans heavily on a fastball that sits at 97.0 mph. That could only increase Tampa Bay's advantage, as Dodgers hitters were merely good and not great against 95-plus heat in the regular season.

    Rays 5, Dodgers 3

Game 2 Prediction

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Projected Matchup: Snell vs. Urias

    In Game 2, the Rays will start their own Cy Young Award-winning southpaw in Snell, who likewise boasts a fastball that tops 95 mph on average.

    The trouble with Snell, though, is that his control tends to abandon him. That's been the case in the playoffs, wherein he's walked 10 batters in 19.2 innings. More of that would be a problem against the Dodgers, who had the lowest out-of-zone swing rate in the majors this season.

    After throwing only 39 pitches in three perfect innings to close Game 7 of the NLCS on Sunday, Urias should be good to start Game 2 on Wednesday. He obviously isn't as accomplished as Kershaw, but his mid-90s heater and more diverse pitch mix could give the Rays more trouble.

    Look for the Dodgers to flip the script and get one back.

    Dodgers 6, Rays 2 (Series tied 1-1)

Game 3 Prediction

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Projected Matchup: Buehler vs. Morton

    After an off day, Buehler and Morton would be good to go on regular rest for Game 3 on Friday.

    Both pitchers have been overpowering in the postseason, with Buehler allowing four earned runs in 19 innings and Morton permitting only one in 15.2 frames. Between these numbers and the sizzling stuff in each pitcher's repertoire, neither offense would be in for a fun time.

    The catch with Buehler and Morton, however, is that they're both roughly five-inning pitchers. So even if they pitch well, Game 3 will likely hinge on which bullpen performs better.

    If so, it might be relevant that the Dodgers crushed relief pitchers (i.e., an .811 OPS) in the regular season. Betts helped that effort with eight long balls against relievers, and he's surely due for one after hitting zero through the first three rounds. Let's put him down for a game-winner in Game 3.

    Dodgers 4, Rays 3 (Dodgers lead series 2-1)

Game 4 Prediction

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Projected Matchup: May vs. Yarbrough

    By Game 4, the Rays and Dodgers will have burned their three best starters. That would pave the way for a "Johnny Wholestaff" day.

    Ryan Yarbrough would make sense as an opener for the Rays because the Dodgers are slightly weaker against left-handed pitchers. On the other side, nearly a week will have passed since May started Game 7 of the NLCS on one day of rest.

    May is distinguished by a fastball that sits at 98.1 mph. His typical weakness is missing bats but perhaps not against an offense that tied for the highest swing-and-miss rate against 95-plus heat this season.

    Yarbrough, meanwhile, throws in the high 80s and generally relies on inducing soft contact. The Dodgers don't really do soft contact, as they led the majors in hard-hit rate this season. Given his stellar 55.4 hard-hit percentage, Corey Seager is a likely candidate to lead an early hit parade that results in a blowout win.

    Dodgers 10, Rays 1 (Dodgers lead series 3-1)

Game 5 Prediction

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Projected Matchup: Kershaw vs. Glasnow

    In the event that the Rays get to Kershaw in Game 1, would he be able to adjust for Game 5?

    Because his only real recourse would be to mix in more fastballs, we're not so sure. Again, relying on the heater isn't Kershaw's thing anymore. And even if he were to do so, said fastball was averaging only a non-intimidating 91.1 mph in his last start.

    With Glasnow, pretty much the only question is whether he could keep throwing his fastball for strikes. If he can in Game 5, Dodgers hitters will remain squarely at a disadvantage.

    As for who might be the hitting star for the Rays in Game 5, our eyes are on Brandon Lowe. Though he's only 6-for-52 in the postseason, he was Tampa Bay's best player in the regular season. Because that partially involved a 1.137 OPS against lefties, he might be the guy to chase Kershaw and lead the Rays to a season-saving win.

    Rays 4, Dodgers 3 (Dodgers lead series 3-2)

Game 6 Prediction

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Projected Matchup: Morton vs. Buehler

    If it comes to it, the Rays would surely feel confident in Morton's ability to help extend their season in Game 6. After all, he most recently came through with 5.2 scoreless innings in Game 7 of the ALCS.

    Morton did, however, lose a full mph off his fastball between his assignments in Games 2 and 7. The 36-year-old might not be able to prevent that from happening again in Game 6.

    A similar concern would hypothetically apply to Buehler—but not really. He actually gained velocity between Games 1 and 6 of the NLCS, which points to a fundamental difference between him and Morton: Buehler is nearly 11 years younger.

    So if Morton flops and leaves the Rays in an early hole at the outset, that may well be all she wrote for the World Series. After coming close in 2017 and 2018, the Dodgers will finally end their 32-year championship drought.

    Dodgers 7, Rays 2 (Dodgers win series 4-2)


    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, Baseball Savant and MLB.com.