Clayton Kershaw got the best of nearly ever hitter on his first time through the lineup in Game 1, but by his second go-around, Alex Bregman was prepared. In the fourth inning, Bregman found a high fastball on a 1-1 count and crushed it over the left field fence, tying the game with the Astros’ first run of the night.
The 399-blast was Bregman’s third of the postseason following two knocks against Chris Sale in the ALDS. He’s just the fourth Astros player to collect a homer in the World Series, joining Jason Lane, Mike Lamb and Morgan Ensberg of the club’s 2005 World Series loss.
He also added to an unsavory postseason stat for Kershaw, who has now given up eight runs on seven dingers this month. That hardly tells the whole story, however: Kershaw has dealt 62 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, fanning 10 of 18 batters and handing out just one base hit in addition to the homer. The Astros are currently tied 1-1 with the Dodgers in the top of the sixth.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.