Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said on Thursday he was considering the move for this game, with Will Smith starting instead at designated hitter, praising Barnes’ pitch framing.
“I think he’s one of the top two or three in all of baseball, and that’s something that it certainly has to be weighed in because there’s a certainty of impacting potentially 125-150 pitches in a ballgame,” Roberts said Friday. “Will is very good as well. You can say that Will’s a better hitter and thrower than Austin, but Austin’s skillset to catch the baseball is elite.”
World Series Game 3 lineups
|SS||Seager (L)||2B||Lowe (L)|
|1B||Muncy (L)||1B||Choi (L)|
|CF||Bellinger (L)||3B||Wendle (L)|
|LF||Pederson (L)||CF||Kiermaier (L)|
Barnes is credited with between two and just over three runs above average just through his framing of pitches, ranked sixth among major league catchers by Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs, and seventh by Baseball Savant.
Also to be considered is Buehler specifically crediting Barnes for guiding him through last Saturday’s scoreless start against the Braves in Game 6 of the NLCS, including escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam with no runs scored.
“It sounds very odd, but I’ve never felt that calm in a baseball game, maybe in my career, especially in a spot like that,” Buehler said last Saturday. “But Austin steered me through it.
“Barnes has the best view of the baseball and what it’s doing coming out of my hand of anyone on the field, him and Will. I’m going to trust what they see more than my guess.”
As usual, the one Dodger with the most experience facing the Rays starter is Mookie Betts, who is 7-for-23 with two doubles and three walks against Charlie Morton, hitting .304/.407/.391. Justin Turner is 2-for-9 with two hit by pitches (naturally).
The only other active Dodger with more than one hit against Morton is reliever Joe Kelly, who was 2-for-3 against the right-hander on August 1, 2013, when Kelly was a starting pitcher for St. Louis and Morton was with Pittsburgh.
Joc Pederson, 1-for-6 with a walk against Morton, starts in left field in Game 3. Pederson is 9-for-27 with a home run this postseason, hitting .333/.357/.444.
The Rays are using the same lineup as they did in Game 2, with five left-handed batters starting against right-hander Walker Buehler.
The only three active Rays to ever face Buehler all bat right-handed. Manuel Margot, 1-for-4 with a 2019 home run against Buehler, bats fifth on Friday and starts in right field, while catcher Mike Zunino is 0-for-2 with a pair of strikeouts against him. Hunter Renfroe, who is 1-for-5 with a walk against Buehler, isn’t starting in Game 3.
The Rays are the home team for the next three games of the World Series.