It’s unfair to ask more of Randy Arozarena, but here we are.
The 25-year-old rookie, whose first at-bat of the season came on Aug. 30, has done everything the Tampa Bay Rays could possibly expect of him this October. And way, way more.
After running away with the ALCS MVP award, Arozarena cooled off in the early stages of the World Series. He had just one single to show for his first nine at-bats, with three strikeouts. Then he reminded us what he’s capable of.
His ninth-inning home run, while meaningless in the moment during Friday's 6-2 loss, marked Arozarena’s eighth of the playoffs — tying an MLB post-season record. So, again, it’s unfair to ask for more.
But the Rays need more to try to keep up with the supercharged offence of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who lead the World Series, 2-1, entering Saturday’s Game 4 (first pitch at 8:08 p.m. ET on Sportsnet and SN Now).
The Dodgers are outscoring the Rays in this series, 18-11, and have 10 extra-base hits to the Rays’ six. These teams aren’t separated by much — and for the Rays, that gap could be closed by Arozarena.
Here’s what else you need to know ahead of Game 4:
Urias, the unsung hero
Pitcher wins are an overrated stat, but don’t tell that to Julio Urias.
In four post-season appearances, Urias is 4-0 with a 0.56 ERA and an opponent slash line of .125/.169/.196 in 16 innings. That’s downright nasty.
Urias uses a four-pitch mix, but his fastball carries most of the load (57.6 per cent usage in 2020), complemented by his curveball. Both pitches’ spin rate percentiles are in the high-80s and have produced a combined batting average of .185 this season, according to Baseball Savant.
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His lone start in these playoffs lasted five innings, which is probably the ceiling for what the Dodgers will ask of him in Game 4. L.A.’s bullpen enjoyed a rest day on Thursday and required just one stress-free inning each from Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol and Kenley Jansen on Friday.
With the possible exception of Graterol, the Dodgers’ bullpen will be a full go for Saturday. The Rays used four relievers during Game 3, but only John Curtiss is likely to be unavailable on the no-rest turnaround.
Rags to ring-chasing for Yarbrough
Back in 2013, Ryan Yarbrough was drafted in the fourth round, which usually carries a hefty payday. But since he was a college senior at the time — with no leverage — Yarbrough signed for just $40,000.
Five years later, when he made his MLB debut, Yarbrough gave a nod to his humble beginnings by reportedly commuting to the ballpark in a 2001 Buick Century with blue tape on the windows.
Now he’s making a start in the World Series. Fancy that.
Yarbrough is no longer a plucky underdog, though. In fact, he’s a bulldog on the bump. For a third consecutive year, he’s in the top five per cent of pitchers for exit velocity and hard-hit percentage allowed.
Ryan Yarbrough, Nasty 80mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/nD1dno2ZW3
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 14, 2020
The lanky lefty has already pitched in this series, throwing a scoreless 2/3 of an inning in relief in Game 1. He has a 2.63 ERA in 13 2/3 innings in his young post-season career.
In a series littered with flamethrowers, Yarbrough works at (literally) a different speed. Nothing he throws will top 90 m.p.h., But he mixes his pitches well to keep opponents guessing, which has helped him coax hitters to chase on 37.5 per cent of pitches out of the zone (MLB average is 28.2) and generate weak contact on 11.1 per cent of balls in play (MLB average is 3.2).
L.A. has an .816 OPS as a team this post-season, tops in the NL. They don’t do a lot of guessing. Perhaps Yarbrough can change that.
Turner’s timing is impeccable
No matter what happens, this could be Justin Turner’s final week as a Dodger. But he’s certainly doing what he can to squeeze another contract out of his long-time employer.
Turner, who’ll hit free agency this winter, has four extra-base hits (three doubles and a home run) already in the World Series. It’s a much-needed surge of offence for the 35-year-old, who posted a .209/.327/.326 slash line in the 12 previous games this post-season.
His situation is not unlike that of Howie Kendrick from a year ago. Kendrick, then 36, earned NLCS MVP honours while playing on the last legs of his contract with the Washington Nationals. His efforts were rewarded with a one-year, $6.25 million deal this season.
Turner is already a playoff legend for a legendary franchise, and now he has a feasible shot at adding a World Series MVP award to his mantle. You can’t kick a guy like that to the curb, can you?
If Turner has his way, we’ll at least get to find out.