ARLINGTON, Texas — Really, you thought the Tampa Bay Rays were going to go quietly into the night?
You thought this World Series was going to be a mismatch?
Well, you sure don’t know this Rays’ team, who showed the Los Angeles Dodgers they plan to hang around for awhile, delivering a powerful message Wednesday with their 6-4 victory, evening the World Series at 1-game apiece.
The Rays’ offense finally awoke with their greatest offensive output in a week. Brandon Lowe started hitting like Randy Arozarena. Blake Snell pitched like a Cy Young winner for the first four innings, and the Rays’ bullpen held onto the lead.
The Rays, who entered the game hitting .190 since the start of the ALCS, failing to score more than four runs in five consecutive games, finally broke out with a 10-hit attack, their biggest in 11 games. It ended a postseason record of hitting .230 or lower in 10 consecutive games.
Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe celebrates his two-run home run with shortstop Willy Adames in the 5th inning. (Photo: Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports)
Just like that, the Rays won their first World Series game in 4,381 days, dating back to Oct. 23, 2008, and still are alive for their first World Series championship in franchise history.
Most encouraging, the Rays enter Thursday’s off-day buoyed with confidence, believing that the MVP of their team in the regular season finally is back.
Lowe had been nothing short of brutal this postseason. He entered the game hitting .133 this postseason, and in a 4-for-52 slump (.077). He had been so bad that Rays manager Kevin Cash spent the bulk of his pre-game zoom call defending why he and Austin Meadows (.117) were still in the starting lineup, let alone hitting in the top of the order.
“I know they’re struggling, we recognize they’re struggling,’’ Cash said. “But better or for worse, we’re going to stick with the guys we believe in.
“For Brandon in particularly, we’re not in it if it weren’t for him. It’s getting amplified because it’s Brandon Lowe and what he did throughout the season.
“We have a number of guys that we need to get hot, and are confident they will.’’
Spoken like a true prophet, Cash sat back and watched Lowe hit two home runs, Meadows collect two hits, and an offense that emerged from their deep sleep.
Lowe became only the second player in history to enter a World Series game hitting below .200 and hitting two home runs, joining Hall of Famer Eddie Murray of the Baltimore Orioles in the 1983 World Series. It was the seventh multi-homer game by a second baseman, last accomplished by Chase Utley for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 World Series.
The Rays, the team that invented the opener, actually beat the Dodgers at their own game, tormenting pitcher after pitcher in the Dodgers’ carousel
It began when Tony Gonsolin pitched just 1 ⅓ innings, departing with a 1-0 deficit. It was the shortest outing by a World Series starter without an injury since Harry Taylor of the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1947 World Series.
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The opener wasn’t invented until 70 years later, but this was just Page 1 of the Dodgers’ playbook. They employed seven pitchers, just two shy of the World Series record last done by the Dodgers and Boston Red Sox in their 18-inning, Game 3 of the 2018 World Series. The Dodgers used four pitchers just to get the first 12 outs, five pitchers to face the first 22 Rays’ hitters, and by the time the game was over, the Rays had scored runs off four different pitchers.
Blake Snell carved up the Dodgers lineup for the first 4 ⅔ innings. He was the first pitcher since Sandy Koufax in 1963 to have eight strikeouts without permitting a hit in the first four innings, but with two outs and no one on in the fifth inning, fell apart.
He walked Kike' Hernandez, which looked innocent enough, and then No. 9 hitter Chris Taylor greeted him with a homer to right field.
Snell faced two more batters, couldn’t retire neither. Rays closer Nick Anderson entered, inheriting a mess with dangerous Justin Turner at the plate. Anderson struck him out. Threat over.
Yet, the Dodgers refused to go away quietly. Will Smith hit a homer in the sixth, Corey Seager hit another in the eighth, and the Rays held on for dear life.
It was a victory the Rays had to have, knowing that no World Series team has recovered from an 0-2 deficit to win the championship since the 1996 New York Yankees.
“This still feels like a World Series,’’ Rays third baseman Joey Wendle said. “Someone is still going to hoist the trophy saying you’re the best in the world, so having someone in the seats or not, doesn’t change that.’’
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