The expected pitching duel never came to fruition. Walker Buehler more than held up his end of the bargain, but the Dodgers offense was relentless against Charlie Morton, fueling a 6-2 win over the Rays in Game 3 of the World Series on Friday night.
The Dodgers lead the best-of-7 series, two games to one.
On a night the Dodgers set a franchise record with 25 home runs in a single postseason, they also scored in just about every other way possible against the normally unflappable Morton.
Morton allowed two runs in his first three starts this October, and allowed only four total runs in his five postseason starts with the Rays entering Friday. The Dodgers scored five off Morton, who was chased in the fifth on Friday. But it was how they did it that was noteworthy.
A third inning rally started with Corey Seager getting hit by a pitch, followed by a Justin Turner double and a Max Muncy single to plate two runs.
In the fourth inning, two singles but runners on the corners, then Austin Barnes delivered a perfect squeeze bunt for a run, the first Dodger with an RBI sacrifice bunt in the World Series since Billy Cox squeezed home Jackie Robinson in Game 3 in 1953. Mookie Betts followed with a two-out RBI single of his own, then stole a base, the first to do so against Morton in 18 starts.
“They ask me to do something, I’ve got to do it. You’ve got to scratch those runs across,” Barnes said. “Runs are at a premium in the postseason.”
Betts also stole a base in the sixth inning, giving him an MLB-high six this postseason without getting caught. That’s tied with Steve Sax (1988) for the second-most by a Dodger in one postseason, four behind Davey Lopes’ run in 1981.
The Dodgers scored five runs in Game 3 with two outs, a situation in which they’ve thrived all postseason. Through 15 games the Dodgers are hitting .306/.432/.556 with two outs, and have scored 50 of their 86 runs this postseason (58.1 percent) with two outs.
Those 50 runs are an MLB record for a single postseason, surpassing the 46 two-out runs by the 2018 Red Sox. Betts scored four of those two-out runs for Boston two years ago. He’s scored five runs with two outs this postseason with Los Angeles.
“There’s two outs, but you can still build an inning by not giving away at-bats,” Betts said. “I think that’s the recipe for that, and that’s how you win a World Series. So we have to continue to do that for two more games.”
Barnes got in the long ball action in the sixth, taking John Curtiss deep. Barnes is just the second player ever to both homer and drive in a run on a sacrifice bunt, along with Yankees left fielder Hector Lopez in Game 5 in 1961.
Running a 10-K
All that offense was more than enough for Buehler, who continued his magnificent postseason run. Buehler faced the minimum in the first four innings, allowing only a walk to Kevin Kiermaier, who was then erased on a fantastic double play started by Turner at third base.
Buehler allowed a double in the fifth to Manuel Margot to break up the no-hitter, then another to Willy Adames to give Tampa Bay their only run against Buehler in his six innings.
On the night, Buehler allowed only three hits and a walk, and struck out 10, a new personal postseason high. He’s the seventh Dodgers pitcher to strike out double digits in a World Series game, and the first since Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 in 2017.
“He was unbelievable. He made it really easy on me,” Barnes said of Buehler. “That might have been the best I’ve ever seen his stuff.”
Buehler this postseason has allowed five runs in five starts, with 39 strikeouts and 11 walks to go with his 1.80 ERA in 25 innings. Those 39 strikeouts are a Dodgers record for a single postseason.
“The more you do these things, the calmer you get,” Buehler said.
It was Turner who got the offense started with a home run in the first inning, turning around a 94.8-mph fastball from Morton, after Dustin Nosler at Dodgers Digest analyzed Turner’s perceived troubles with fastballs earlier in the day.
That was Turner’s 11th postseason home run, matching Duke Snider for the most in Dodgers history. Turner also matched another Hall of Famer in George Brett with his sixth go-ahead postseason home run, the most-ever by a third baseman, per Baseball-Reference.
Turner’s double in the third was the 18th of his career. Not only is that also a franchise record, but also tied Chipper Jones for most by a third baseman in postseason history.
Turner is heating up at an opportune time. Through Game 3 of the NLCS, Turner was 5-for-30 (.167) with no extra-base hits this postseason. Since then, he’s 8-for-26 (.308) with five doubles and two home runs.
Game 3 particulars
Home runs: Justin Turner (2), Austin Barnes (1); Randy Arozarena (8)
WP — Walker Buehler (2-0): 6 IP, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts
LP — Charlie Morton (3-1): 4⅓ IP, 7 hits, 5 runs, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts
In the pivotal Game 4 on Saturday (5:08 p.m. PT, Fox), the Dodgers to start will go with Julio Urías, who this postseason has a five-inning start and a five-inning bulk outing plus two excellent other relief outings. The Rays will turn to Ryan Yarbrough, who this October has a five-inning start, a five-inning bulk outing, and two outs of relief in Game 1 on Tuesday.