Justin Turner set the tone with a first-inning home run and the Los Angeles Dodgers marched to a 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays Friday to take a 2-1 lead in the World Series.
Austin Barnes added a solo homer and a squeeze bunt as the Dodgers provided plenty of support to outstanding pitcher Walker Buehler — who gave up just one run in six innings while striking out 10.
“I feel good out there,” said Buehler. “Our team gave me a cushion and allowed me to be aggressive. You can’t ask more than that.
“I made a couple of bad pitches, when I gave up the run, but other than that I felt good with it. There is a comfort level with both our catchers. Barnes back there, put me in a spot to execute. We are happy.”
Los Angeles, seeking their first title in 32 years after coming up empty in World Series appearances in 2017 and 2018, will try to stretch their lead in Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven championship series in game four on Saturday.
The roof was closed in case of inclement weather at Globe Life Field in Arlington Texas, where the first neutral site World Series in modern major league history caps a pandemic-shortened season.
Statistics in the Texas Rangers’ new park’s first season show fewer runs scored on average in games played with the roof closed, but Turner wasted no time in bucking that trend when he lashed a fastball from Rays star pitcher Charlie Morton over the left field wall to put the Dodgers up 1-0 with two out in the top of the first.
“I got down 1-2 in the count,” Turner said. “I was just trying to battle, work a good at-bat. He threw a fastball and I was able to get some good wood on it.
“We did a really good job against (Morton) tonight,” Turner added. “We were battling, making him work, making him throw some good pitches.”
Max Muncy and Mookie Betts delivered run-scoring singles as the Dodgers pounced on Morton to take a 5-0 lead through four innings.
Morton, who established himself as a post-season star as he gave up just four runs — two earned — in 25 2/3 prior innings in the post-season, surrendered seven hits and five earned runs with six strike outs one walk and one hit batter in 4 1/3 innings.
“I gave up hits on my curveball, I gave up hits on my sinker, I gave up hits on my four-seamer,” Morton said. “I just never got into a groove. I never felt comfortable out there.”
With two outs in the third, Morton hit Corey Seager with a pitch, Turner doubled to left field and Max Muncy’s single scored them both.
The Dodgers added a pair of runs in the fourth when Cody Bellinger led off with a single and reached third on Joc Pederson’s single to right field.
Barnes’s bunt scored Bellinger and Betts cracked a two-out single up the middle to score Pederson.
Five of the Dodgers’ six runs came with two outs in the inning.
“Just the fight,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of what he liked seeing from his lineup. “Just the at-bat quality. Whether two outs, or not two outs, regardless of the score they are just really competing which is good to see.”
Buehler’s no-hit bid was broken up in the fifth inning when Manuel Margot hit a double down the left field line and scored on shortstop Willy Adames’s double.
Barnes restored the Dodgers’ five-run lead with a solo homer off Rays relief pitcher John Curtiss in the sixth.
Buehler returned to pitch a scoreless sixth before handing over to Blake Treinen having allowed one run on three hits.
“He was outstanding,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Buehler. “You can just see the fastball popping through the zone.”
Rays’ rookie sensation Randy Arozarena hit his record-equalling eighth home run of this post-season off Kenley Jansen with two outs in the ninth, but Jansen retired Choi Ji-man to bring the game to a close.
The 25-year-old Cuban tied the record for most home runs in a single post-season, joining Barry Bonds, Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz on eight.
“We’re not having the success we’ve had to date without his production, and we were all happy for him to get the big home run there,” Cash said.
But the Rays manager said his team needs to do more damage early in game four.
“We need to find a way to win, that’s for sure,” Cash said. “Go out there and get some good at-bats early on. We seem to be a much better club when we get early leads.”