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World Series Daily: Get ready for Clayton Kershaw vs. Tyler Glasnow in Game 1

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After all the oddities of the MLB regular season and postseason, the 2020 World Series pits baseball’s top two teams against each other, which itself is something that doesn’t happen every year. And while we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the Dodgers playing for the world championship, this is the first Fall Classic for the Rays since 2008 and only the second in franchise history.

Here’s what you need to know for the World Series opener Tuesday night, including a look at the Game 1 pitching matchup, predictions, odds and other key numbers, and more.

Key links: Viewers guide | Schedule | Playoff Baseball Classic

What’s on tap

World Series Game 1: Tampa Bay Rays (Tyler Glasnow) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw), 8:09 p.m. ET in Arlington, Texas

For just the fourth time since the wild card was added in 1995, we get a World Series featuring the teams with the best record in each league: The others were Braves over Indians in 1995, Yankees over Braves in 1999 and Red Sox over Cardinals in 2013. For the third time in four years, we also get Clayton Kershaw starting Game 1. In 2017, he allowed one run with 11 strikeouts against the Astros, and in 2018, on a cold night in Boston, he allowed five runs. One thing that’s different this year: Kershaw isn’t the best player on his team; he might not even be the best pitcher. He just has to be a contributor.

“I think every year is different. Obviously postseason you have that experience to draw on so just trying to learn from that as best you can. But at the same time every year is different, every team is different, the Rays are a different team than the Astros and the Red Sox. So I’m going to prepare like I always do and be as ready as I can be and excited about another opportunity to get it done.” Kershaw said Monday.

He doesn’t have to pitch great, but a solid effort of five or six innings would be a huge emotional lift — not just for him, but for the entire team. This isn’t the Kershaw of a few years ago, of course, but he did increase his fastball velocity this season, to 91.6 mph. Still, he continues to throw his fastball less often and his slider and curveball more often. In 2016, he threw his fastball 50% of the time; it was down to 41% this year. It will be interesting to see how manager Dave Roberts deploys his Dodgers bullpen. The pen has a 3.40 ERA in the postseason, but that includes 11 innings with no earned runs from Julio Urias. Take him out and the ERA jumps to 4.23. Blake Treinen pitched in the final three games of the National League Championship Series, so even though he had an off day on Monday, he’s probably the reliever Roberts would like to avoid.

For the Rays, hard-throwing Tyler Glasnow gets the start Tuesday. He’s basically a two-pitch guy with an upper-90s fastball and wipeout curve. Including the postseason, he’s averaged 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings, so he can dominate when he’s locating the heater. He’s had issues with the home run, however, allowing six in 19⅓ innings in the postseason. The Dodgers, of course, are very good at hitting home runs, leading the majors in the regular season and swatting 16 in the NLCS, tying the record for home runs in one series. Glasnow has allowed a much higher slugging percentage to right-handed batters (.497) than lefties (.328). Rays manager Kevin Cash was fairly careful in not overextending his top relievers in the American League Championship Series, but with the traditional two off days back on the schedule, he will probably be short term in his thinking and go pedal to the metal with Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo and Peter Fairbanks.

Ultimately, the Rays will need somebody beside Randy Arozarena and Manuel Margot to step up. Willy Adames (.132 in the postseason) and Brandon Lowe (.115) combined for 22 home runs in the regular season, but have just one in 90 at-bats in the playoffs. They need more from those two, especially if Arozarena doesn’t stay on his incredible hot streak. — David Schoenfield


Running World Series odds

Dodgers 69.8%; Rays 30.2%


Game 1 predictions

David Schoenfield: Kershaw goes six solid innings, taking advantage of the strikeout-prone Rays to rack up 10 K’s. The Dodgers hit a couple of home runs off Glasnow, then tack on a couple more runs against the second tier of the Tampa Bay relievers. Dodgers 5, Rays 1.

Jesse Rogers: Game 1 is where Kershaw (finally?) shines in the postseason. That could be for a shorter-than-desired outing if his back starts acting up, but all signs point to him being healthy. Or at least healthy enough to mow down the Rays. And remember, Tampa Bay was just a .500 team in the regular season against left-handed starters. Kershaw has had a whole postseason of games to watch Arozarena on video, so he won’t let the rookie beat him, and the Rays — at least against lefties — aren’t deep enough. At least on paper. Whatever advantage Tampa Bay had with an extra day off is mitigated by having to fly across two time zones and play in a new ballpark for the first time. Glasnow says it’s not the mound he’ll have to get used to but perhaps the sightline to the catcher or behind him. It probably won’t be a big deal, but the slightest edge can make the difference. L.A. wins a low-scoring game. Dodgers 3, Rays 1.

Alden Gonzalez: The Dodgers are still on a high from their intense Game 7 on Sunday night, their third consecutive win to eliminate the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, and the guess here is that they’ll ride that momentum to a strong offensive showing in Game 1. Kershaw gets a lot of flak for his postseason shortcomings, but for one night, at least, he’ll pitch deep into the game and give a tired bullpen a needed break. Dodgers 7, Rays 2.


Stat of the day

Based on their LCS rosters, the Dodgers come into the World Series with 700 games of playoff experience compared to just 284 for the Rays. According to research by the Elias Sports Bureau, that 416-game difference is the largest disparity between World Series opponents since the Yankees and Marlins had a 418-game gap in 2003. The 2001 Yankees’ 546-game difference against the Diamondbacks is the all-time greatest.


Social media post of the day


Best moment of the MLB playoffs to date

Cody Bellinger managed to one-up … Cody Bellinger. The Dodgers outfielder has held this crown since he robbed Fernando Tatis Jr. of a home run in a thrilling Padres-Dodgers NL Division Series Game 2, but his NLCS-deciding Game 7 home run to put Los Angeles in the 2020 World Series was just enough to take over the top spot.


The running MLB playoffs MVP

Randy Arozarena has gone from an unknown outfielder to this October’s breakout star. Going into the playoffs, you might have been asking, “Who is this guy?” But the Rays’ trade for him has been a huge factor in their postseason run. And while his MLB-high seven long balls have made a big impression, Arozarena also leads all hitters in the postseason with 47 total bases (and is leading in hits and runs). Also, he has been flashing some leather in the outfield and some sweet celebration dance moves on the field.

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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home

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On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

Stream FC Daily on ESPN+
– 2020 MLS Playoffs: Who’s in, schedule and more
– MLS on ESPN+: Stream LIVE games and replays (U.S. only)

Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”

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Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.

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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment

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The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.

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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls

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With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

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