How will this year's World Series play out? Using the Dynasty League Baseball online simulation, USA TODAY Sports' Steve Gardner and DLB designer Mike Cieslinski will pre-play each game to provide some insight into the key matchups and strategy fans can expect to see in the Fall Classic. (Last year's Sim Series had the Nationals defeating the Astros in 7 games.)
Game 3: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Evoking memories of the all-time greatest World Series slugfests, Corey Seager's solo home run in the top of the 10th inning lifted the Los Angeles Dodgers to an improbable and incredible 13-12 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 3 of USA TODAY's annual Simulated World Series.
The Dodgers now lead the best-of-seven series two games to one.
(The 25 runs scored equals the second-highest total ever in a World Series game — matching the Dodgers' 13-12 win over the Houston Astros in 2017 and Florida Marlins' 14-11 defeat of the Cleveland Indians in 1997. The World Series record is 29, in the Toronto Blue Jays' 15-14 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in 1993.)
Corey Seager's Dynasty League Baseball player card shows his go-ahead home run in the 10th inning of Game 3 in USA TODAY Sports' annual Simulated World Series. (Photo: Dynasty League Baseball)
What was expected to be a pitcher's duel between the Dodgers' Walker Buehler and the Rays' Charlie Morton never materialized as both starters were gone by the fourth inning after giving up five runs apiece.
The Rays seemed to have things in hand early after erupting for six runs in the fourth off rookie left-hander Victor Gonzalez. Brandon Lowe's three-run homer and Willy Adames' two-run double were the big blows as Tampa Bay took an 11-5 lead.
However, the Dodgers struck right back in the top of the fifth against Rays' lefty Josh Fleming with homers by Max Muncy and Justin Turner.
After the Rays tied the game on Yandy Diaz's RBI single in the seventh, both bullpens finally settled things down, setting the stage for some late-inning heroics.
Pinch-hitter Edwin Rios nearly put the Dodgers ahead in the top of the ninth, but his fly ball to deep center field off Rays closer Nick Anderson died on the warning track. In the bottom of the ninth, Joey Wendle was hit by a pitch but was thrown out trying to steal second base.
Seager finally got to Anderson (0-1) with a 365-foot home run to right field to put the Dodgers on top, but the Rays mounted one last charge against closer Kenley Jansen. Manuel Margot had an infield single with one out in the 10th and stole second base. But Jansen struck out Brandon Lowe and retired Randy Arozarena for the final out on a fly ball once again to the warning track in deep center field to earn the save.
BOX SCORE:Dodgers 13, Rays 12 (10 innings)
FULL PLAY-BY-PLAY:Seager's homer caps wild Dodger comeback
What to watch in (the actual) Game 3
– Star Seager: NLCS MVP Corey Seager continued his red-hot hitting in the postseason with a pair of home runs, four runs scored and four RBI. He gave the Dodgers a working margin in the second inning with his two-run shot off Rays starter Charlie Morton. He also singled in a run as part of the game-changing fifth-inning rally. And then he provided the game-winning blast off almost untouchable Rays reliever Nick Anderson in the 10th. (He also walked in the first and singled in the fourth.) For the series, Seager is hitting an even .500 with a .571 on-base percentage.
– Nick gets nicked: Anderson gave up one earned run in the entire regular season (0.55 ERA) but has been shaky in the playoffs. He nearly allowed a go-ahead homer in the ninth before giving up Seager's solo shot in his second inning of work.
– Big bullpen choices: With Game 3 being the first of three games on consecutive days, the two managers will need to take future availability into consideration when they deploy their relief pitchers. If their starters exit early, we may see some questionable decisions on bullpen usage.
That was certainly the case in Sim Series Game 3. The Dodgers hoped Gonzalez could make it through the fourth, even after Lowe's three-run shot, but he ran into more trouble with two outs and gave up two more runs on Adames' double.
The Rays had the same thing happen with their rookie lefty, as Fleming got two quick outs in the fifth after Muncy's homer, but allowed three consecutive singles in front of Turner's go-ahead blast.
– Platoon disadvantages: Based on regular-season stats, both of these teams have several players with reverse platoon splits – which can result in managerial moves that may seem to be counterintuitive at first glance.
The Dodgers' Chris Taylor and Mookie Betts, for example, both hit .200 against left-handed pitchers in 2020. And Betts had no homers vs. southpaws all season. That's why Fleming (.212/.272/.376 vs. right-handed batters) remained in the game to face those two, plus Turner, in the fifth inning.
The same holds true for the Rays' Lowe, a left-handed hitter who posted a ridiculous .300/.417/.720 slash line against lefties during the regular season. Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler was also slightly better against left-handed hitters this season (.552 OPS vs LH, .658 vs. RH), so look for the Rays to start Yandy Diaz at first base instead of lefty-swinging Ji-Man Choi. Diaz hit .325 with a .419 OBP this season against righties.
– Catching questions: With the 28-man rosters for this year's playoffs, it's hard to understand why neither team is carrying a third catcher. The situation became acute for the Dodgers in Game 3 when starting catcher Austin Barnes was ejected for arguing a call in the bottom of the fourth inning and DH Will Smith had to take over behind the plate.
The Dodgers lost their DH spot and had to send up a pinch-hitter in the fifth, sixth and ninth innings when the pitcher's spot came around. If Barnes is starting (he's better than Smith defensively), there could be many more situations where a pinch-hitter might be a better option in a close game. Not having a third catcher on the roster limits the Dodgers' ability to make that move.
Similarly, the Rays only have two catchers in Mike Zunino and Michael Perez. Zunino is dreadful vs. left-handers (.045/.160/.182 during the regular season). However, Perez has no power and is worse defensively.
Previous 2020 Sim Series results
Game 1:Dodgers 5, Rays 1
Game 2:Rays 4, Dodgers 2
Simulate your own World Series. Get a FREE one-month subscription to Dynasty League Baseball online by going to DynastyLeagueBaseball.com, selecting the monthly option and entering code USA2 at checkout.
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