ARLINGTON, Texas – Walker Buehler was dominant for Los Angeles. Just like Orel Hershiser during the Dodgers’ last title run.
Buehler struck out 10 in six innings in a pulsating performance, and Los Angeles beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-2 Friday night for a 2-1 World Series lead.
Justin Turner homered in the first inning against a surprisingly hittable Charlie Morton, who was chased in the fifth.
Austin Barnes, the Dodgers’ No. 9 hitter and catcher, added a sixth-inning homer against John Curtiss and became just the second player to drive in runs with a homer and a sacrifice bunt in the same Series game.
Los Angeles overwhelmed Tampa Bay in all phases, leaving the Rays’ scuffling offense with a .206 average and 11 runs in the Series.
Julio Urías, a hard-throwing Mexican left-hander in a Dodgers lineage dating to Fernando Valenzuela, starts Game 4 Saturday night for the Dodgers, while the Rays string together several relievers that include Ryan Yarbrough.
Thirty-eight of 59 previous teams that won Game 3 for a 2-1 lead went on to take the title.
The Dodgers have outhomered the Rays 7-4 in the Series and opponents 25-16 in the postseason. Barnes also drove in a run with a squeeze. The second player with RBIs on a bunt and home run in a Series game was Héctor López of the New York Yankees in Game 5 of 1961.
Steely-eyed like Hershiser, who won MVP honors of the 1988 Series, Buehler has supplanted Clayton Kershaw as the Dodgers’ ace.
He allowed three of Tampa Bay’s four hits and walked one.
The 26-year-old right-hander has allowed one run in 13 Series innings that include seven scoreless in Game 3 against Boston two years ago. He improved to 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four postseason starts that include the win over Atlanta in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series last weekend.
“I’ve taken the failures that I’ve had and tried to learn from them a little bit,” Buehler said. “Obviously, our team gave me a cushion early so I could be aggressive.”
He started 15 of 21 batters with strikes and threw strikes on 67 of 93 pitches. Buehler didn’t allow a hit until Manuel Margot’s one-out double in the fifth. Willy Adames drove in Margot with another double.
Tampa Bay’s other hit off him was Austin Meadows’ leadoff single in the sixth.
“You can see the fastball just pop through the zone,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Other than a few breaking balls here or there, it was very much a, ‘There it is, hit it,’ approach.
“You totally understand and appreciate why he’s so talented. He’s got a really special fastball that gets on hitters and commands it well.”
Rays batters were kept off-balance by his mix of 59 four-seam fastballs, 14 knuckle-curves, 12 sliders and eight cut fastballs. He became the first pitcher in Series history with 10 or more strikeouts in six or fewer innings, part of analytic changes in modern baseball that have led to shorter starter outings in an era of vastly increased whiffs.
“That might have been the best I’ve ever seen him,” Barnes said.
Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol followed with a scoreless inning apiece. Kenley Jansen gave up Randy Arozarena’s record-tying eighth homer of the postseason before closing out the four-hitter.
Morton, a right-hander who turns 37 on Nov. 12, had entered unbeaten in seven straight postseason decisions, one shy of Orlando Hernandez’s record, including wins in five consecutive postseason starts. But he took the loss, allowing five runs and seven hits in 4⅓ innings – more than the four runs total he gave up in his previous five postseason starts combined.
No Rays starter has finished the fifth inning in their past five Series starts since Matt Garza in Game 3 against Philadelphia in 2008.
Tampa Bay repeated its pattern of a dozen years ago, losing the opener, winning the next game and dropping the third.
“I wasn’t particularly sharp,” Morton said. “I felt like I was able to get two strikes pretty quickly with a lot of guys and just not able to put them away.”
Turner put the Dodgers ahead on Morton’s 14th pitch, turning on a high 94 mph fastball with a 1-2 count and driving the ball 397 feet over the left-field wall. Turner’s home run was the Dodgers’ team-record 24th this postseason and the 11th of Turner’s postseason career over 69 games, tying the team record set by Duke Snider over 36 games from 1954 to 1959.
Los Angeles extended the lead to 3-0 in the third when Morton hit Corey Seager on a toe with a pitch, Turner doubled and Max Muncy added a two-run single.
After singles by Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson, Barnes drove in a run with the safety squeeze to first baseman Ji-Man Choi, the first RBI bunt in the Series since the Rays’ Jason Barlett in Game 2 in 2008 and the first for the Dodgers since Billy Cox in 1953.
Mookie Betts followed with a two-out RBI single that made it 5-0, and Barnes homered off John Curtiss in the sixth. Five of the Dodgers’ first six runs scored with two outs, raising their total to nine of 18 in the Series and 50 of 87 in the postseason.
“Obviously, there’s two outs, but you can still build an inning not giving away at-bats,” Betts said. “That’s how you win a World Series.”
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