Behind another strong start from Clayton Kershaw, the Los Angeles Dodgers won Game 5 of the 2020 World Series on Sunday and took a 3-2 series lead.
With an off day Monday, the bullpens will have a chances to rest; they figure to play a significant role in the Game 6 outcome.
Will the Dodgers finally claim their first title since 1988, or will the Rays force a Game 7 in pursuit of the first World Series win in franchise history?
Pitching is going to be key, so let's take a closer look at how things are lining up on the mound for both teams.
Tampa Bay Rays
Left-hander Blake Snell gets the Game 6 start for the Rays after allowing two hits and two earned runs in 4.2 innings in Game 2.
The 2018 AL Cy Young winner had a strong regular season, posting a 3.24 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 63 strikeouts in 50 innings, but he struggled to pitch deep into games.
He pitched into the sixth inning in just four of his 11 starts, failing to finish that frame in each of those instances. That trend has continued in the postseason:
- ALWC Game 1: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 82 pitches
- ALDS Game 1: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 84 pitches
- ALCS Game 1: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 105 pitches
- ALCS Game 6: 4.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 82 pitches
- WS Game 2: 4.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 9 K, 88 pitches
His propensity to pitch for strikeouts rather than pitching to contact drives up his pitch count, and Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash trusts his bullpen enough to have a fairly quick hook.
That hasn't always sit well with Snell, who voiced his frustrations after being pulled from his start in Game 6 of the ALCS.
"I felt really good. I felt locked in. I felt like I had a good game plan against that lineup. It's just frustrating. I wanted to go deep into that ballgame and I was very confident with everything that I had going. Even with the walk and the ground ball, I still felt very, very, very, very confident that I was going to get through that lineup," Snell told reporters.
Whether he likes it or not, it's the game plan that Cash has laid out for this postseason run, and he hasn't wavered from it to this point.
The Rays bullpen has worked a whopping 83 innings in 19 postseason games, tallying three wins and seven saves in eight chances with a 3.58 ERA.
If Snell can toss five strong innings, they'll happily turn things over to some combination of Ryan Thompson, Aaron Loup, Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks and Nick Anderson to close things out as they've done all playoffs.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Rookie Tony Gonsolin will take the ball for the Dodgers, but in what role?
The 26-year-old was used in a traditional starting role for eight starts during the regular season, and he put together a strong campaign, going 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 46 strikeouts in 46.2 innings.
He allowed just one hit as the starter in Game 2 of the World Series—a solo home run from Brandon Lowe—but he was lifted with one out in the second inning for reliever Dylan Floro.
"I want the ball...want to give our team a chance to win every time I go out to pitch," Gonsolin told reporters after Game 2. "It's been a lot of fun, been a learning experience for me to do different things, starting, then throwing in three days. I’m trying to take it as a learning experience and go from there."
As he noted, his last start came on just two days' rest after he pitched two innings of relief in Game 7 of the NLCS, and that could be part of the reason he was limited to an opener role. This time around he'll have five days rest, and that could mean a longer leash and a larger workload.
Otherwise, manager Dave Roberts could turn to Dustin May and Alex Wood to pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen just like he did in Game 2.
If nothing else, the uncertainty of how things will play out on the mound will make it difficult for Cash to fill out his lineup card.
Rays 5, Dodgers 2
If the Rays can get five strong innings from Snell and scratch across a few runs early, their bullpen will be ready to slam the door.
A resilient Rays team won't back down from the challenge of an elimination game, setting up a Game 7 with Walker Buehler and Charlie Morton squaring off for a second time in the series.
Buckle up, baseball fans.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.