The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday night in Game 5 of the 2020 World Series. With the victory, the Dodgers now possess a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, meaning they'll have the opportunity to secure their first championship since 1988 on Tuesday. Before the Dodgers can wrap up the title, it's worth noting how they wrapped up Sunday's win -- and to be clear it wasn't just on the strength of Clayton Kershaw and the lineup.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts lifted Kershaw after he faced 21 batters, which meant taking him out with two outs in the fifth inning. From there, Roberts was able to tiptoe through the rest of the night, mixing and matching his bullpen to get the final 10 outs without using either closer Kenley Jansen or setup men Pedro Baez or Brusdar Graterol. That's notable in part because Roberts played coy about Jansen's availability pregame, and in part because Jansen and Baez had each struggled in their Game 4 assignments, while Graterol had worked consecutive games.
Rather, Roberts pressed his luck by leaning on rookie pitchers Dustin May and Victor Gonzalez before turning the ninth inning over to Blake Treinen. Roberts' gamble paid off, though it wasn't always evident that it would.
May retired five of the six batters he faced, striking out a pair and allowing just a single to Kevin Kiermaier. Gonzalez checked in and walked Mike Brosseau, putting a pair of runners on in a two-run game with Randy Arozarena coming to the plate. While that was an unadvisable result, Gonzalez was able to retire Arozarena and then sit down Brandon Lowe without further incident. Treinen, for his part, worked around a leadoff single to Manuel Margot in the ninth by striking out a pair and inducing a harmless fly out.
The oddest aspect of the Dodgers' bullpen -- and the concern around it -- is that they have 15 pitchers on their roster, and only one of them (lefty long reliever Alex Wood) had an ERA above 4.00. This is, then, a statistically good and deep relief corps; they just haven't necessarily felt that way. Blame it on their performance in Game 4, or on the past failures of Baez and Jansen. Whatever the exact cause, this is an instance of the narrative and the anxiety not aligning with the results.
Perhaps that's the best way to explain the efforts of the Dodgers' bullpen in Game 5, too. It didn't feel easy, but at the end of the night May, Gonzalez, and Treinen had combined to record 10 outs while permitting no runs, one walk, and two hits while notching four strikeouts.