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Peter Abraham | On Baseball

Dodgers doing everything right as they close in on first title since 1988

Austin Barnes played long ball - here hitting a homer in the sixth - and small ball - driving in a run with a safety squeeze - in the Dodgers' win.
Austin Barnes played long ball - here hitting a homer in the sixth - and small ball - driving in a run with a safety squeeze - in the Dodgers' win.Tom Pennington/Getty

ARLINGTON, Texas — With the designated hitter in use for National League games this season, the Los Angeles Dodgers had little need for sacrifice bunts.

They put only three down during the season and none through their first 14 postseason games.

But with his team already leading Game 3 of the World Series against Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts called for a safety squeeze, a rarity in the game these days.

“I felt if we could get something down we had a good chance of scoring,” he said.

Austin Barnes caught the ball with his bat, nudging it to the right side of the mound. By the time the Rays reacted, Cody Bellinger was crossing the plate.

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When Barnes came up again in the sixth inning, he homered. That’s how these versatile Dodgers roll. The end result was a 6-2 victory against the Rays.

The Dodgers have a 2-1 lead in the World Series for the first time since 1988. Not coincidentally, that was their last championship.

Barnes, a catcher who hits ninth, had a feeling Roberts would call for a bunt. It was 3-0 and the Dodgers had runners on first and third.

“You kind of read the situation,” he said. “That’s something we’ve done before. I had a feeling it was coming and just has to execute. When you sell it, it’s a real hard play to defend.”

Barnes also caught a dominant six innings from righthander Walker Buehler. He allowed one run on three hits and stuck out 10 with one walk.

Buehler carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before Manuel Margot doubled. If the series gets that far, he’d be on regular rest for Game 6.

“He was unbelievable, he really was,” Barnes said. “He made it really easy on me. That might have been the best I’ve seen his stuff.”

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The 26-year-old Buehler has started two World Series games in his career and given up one run over 13 innings while striking out 17.

“At this point I’ve been through this thing a couple of times and now it’s all about winning,” he said. “The more you do these things the calmer you get.”

The way the Dodgers are playing, Buehler may be done until next season. They’re 11-4 in the postseason and have won five of their last six games.

Buehler and three relievers combined to retire the final 11 of the final 12 Rays. The exception was a home run by Randy Arozarena off Kenley Jansen with two outs in the ninth.

Arozarena has 23 hits in the postseason, a rookie record. His eight home runs in the postseason tied a record held by three other players. The Rays will need a lot more of that.

Tampa Bay had postseason ace Charlie Morton on the mound. He was 7-2 with a 2.84 earned run average in 12 postseason games. The Rays had won the three previous games Morton started in this postseason with the righthander giving up one earned run over 15⅔ innings.

But Morton couldn’t stop the Dodgers.

Justin Turner homered in the first inning. Morton then made the mistake of hitting Corey Seager with a splitter with two outs in the third inning. Turner followed with a double to left field and Max Muncy with a two-run single.

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Turner has 11 postseason home runs, matching Duke Snider for the franchise record. Snider did it in 36 games and Turner 69, but it’s still a sign of Turner’s importance.

“He’s been huge for us,” said Mookie Betts, who was 2 for 5 and stole two bases.

Three singles and that bunt by Barnes made it 5-0 in the fourth inning. Barnes then homered in the sixth inning facing John Curtiss. He became the 11th Dodger to homer in the postseason.

The Dodgers scored five of their runs with two outs. They have scored 48 times with two outs in the playoffs.

“It’s a credit to these guys every single at-bat just fighting,” Roberts said. “Just the fight, just the at-bat quality, whether it’s two outs or not they’re competing with every at-bat.”

The Dodger have hit 29 home runs in 16 games at Globe Life Field this season, two more than the Texas Rangers did in their 30 games.


Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.