ARLINGTON, Texas — Brandon Lowe busted out early and Tampa Bay’s bullpen hung on late.
Rays and Dodgers, tied after two in Texas.
Lowe shook loose from his extended post-season slump with two opposite-field homers, and Tampa Bay held off Los Angeles 6-4 on Wednesday night to square the World Series at one game apiece.
Blake Snell struck out nine in 4 2/3 innings for the Rays and didn’t allow a hit until Chris Taylor’s two-run homer trimmed it to 5-2 in the fifth. Los Angeles threatened to complete a big comeback in the eighth, but Tampa Bay’s relievers held firm.
Lowe and Joey Wendle each drove in three runs for the Rays.
Nick Anderson got four outs for the win. Diego Castillo earned the save when he struck out Taylor, the only batter he faced.
Lowe hit an opposite-field solo homer to left-centre in the first off Tony Gonsolin, putting the American League champion Rays ahead for the first time at this neutral-site World Series with their 27th home run of the post-season, matching a major league record. The second baseman was hitting .107 this post-season, and in an even worse 4-for-48 slide (.083) the past 13 games since the start of the AL Division Series.
By the time he went deep again in the fifth, his second opposite-field shot of the game and the entire season — with a runner on against Dustin May, already the fourth Dodgers pitcher — it was 5-0.
Will Smith and NLCS MVP Corey Seager also homered for the Dodgers. Seager’s solo shot in the eighth was his seventh homer and 16th RBI, extended the franchise records he had already set this post-season. Those are also the most homers by a shortstop in any MLB post-season.
After an off day, Game 3 is Friday night when there will be a pair of big-game starters on extra rest after both pitched last Saturday.
Right-hander Walker Buehler threw six scoreless innings for the Dodgers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. Charlie Morton, who has won all three of his starts this post-season and was the Game 7 winner for Houston at Dodger Stadium in the World Series three years ago, went 5 2/3 scoreless innings in the Rays’ Game 7 ALCS-clinching win over the Astros.
Snell already had all his strikeouts when he walked Kiké Hernández with two outs in the fifth before Taylor, the No. 9 batter, homered on his 80th pitch. The Rays ace was out of the game two batters later, after Mookie Betts walked and Seager singled. Anderson got out of the jam with a strikeout of Justin Turner.
The Dodgers knew it would be primarily a bullpen game using various arms, instead of bringing back Buehler on short rest after ace lefty Clayton Kershaw threw six strong innings in their 8-3 win Tuesday night in Game 1.
Four of the first five LA pitchers allowed runs, with Dylan Floro keeping a clean slate after benefiting from a nice defensive play and a replay review that ended the second. The Dodgers were the first team to use four pitchers within the first four innings of a World Series game since the Oakland Athletics against Cincinnati in Game 3 of the 1990 World Series.
Gonsolin, the rookie right-hander who started, allowed Lowe’s first homer and was done after 1 1/3 innings. That was the shortest start in a World Series game since San Francisco’s Jake Peavy was done after giving up five runs in 1 1-/ innings in a 10-0 loss at Kansas City in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series.
Snell threw only 10 pitches in a 1-2-3 first that included strikeouts of Betts and Turner. After 11 of his first 15 pitches in the second inning were balls, among two walks and a strikeout, the 2018 Al Cy Young Award winner retired the next 10 batters until the walk to Hernández in the fifth.
The left-hander was attacking with breaking pitches in the strike zone, not his usual pattern, since the Dodgers don’t often chase. But Los Angeles didn’t get many bats on the ball against him. But less than a week after an aggressive hook by manager Kevin Cash to take Snell out of Game 6 of the ALCS after four innings, he still hasn’t completed six innings in a game since July 2019.
Smith homered for Los Angeles in the sixth off Anderson.
A bobble by Hernández at second base proved costly, taking away a potential inning-ending double play in the fourth before the Dodgers changed pitchers again and gave up two runs.
With one out and Randy Arozarena at first, Ji-Man Choi hit a grounder to Hernández, and by time the second baseman gathered the ball to get the force, Seager’s relay throw was late. Manuel Margot then greeted May, the third reliever, with a single before Wendle’s two-run double into the right-centre gap for a 3-0 lead.
Wendle added a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
Rays: Morton faces the first time since the 2017 World Series, when he pitched the final four innings for the Astros in Game 7. Morton also pitched in Game 4 that Series, when he limited LA to one run and three hits while striking out seven over 6 1/3 innings — a game the Dodgers won 6-2 after a five-run ninth.
Dodgers: Buehler’s only previous World Series start was Game 3 against Boston in 2018, when he threw seven scoreless innings in the only game the Dodgers won against Betts and the Red Sox in that Series.
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Stephen Hawkins, The Associated Press