ARLINGTON, Texas — Walker Buehler pitched in the World Series like the Los Angeles Dodgers’ aces of old.
Think Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser, all leaders of title runs.
Now Buehler has the Dodgers two wins from the championship that has eluded them since 1988.
Buehler struck out 10 over six innings in a pulsating performance, and Los Angeles beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-2 on Friday night for a 2-1 World Series lead.
“Being a big-game pitcher and really succeeding on this stage, there’s only a few guys currently and throughout history,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s in some really elite company.”
Justin Turner homered in the first inning against a surprisingly hittable Charlie Morton, who was chased in the fifth.
Austin Barnes, the Dodgers’ No. 9 hitter and catcher, added a sixth-inning homer against John Curtiss. He became just the second player to drive in runs with both a homer and a sacrifice bunt in the same Series game.
He’ll probably remember the home run most.
‘It’s a cool little stat, but it’s not easy to barrel the ball up against all these really good pitchers,” Barnes said.
Los Angeles overwhelmed Tampa Bay in all phases, leaving the Rays’ scuffling offense with a .206 batting average and 11 runs in the Series. The Rays’ .133 average (6 for 45) against Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin and Buehler is the lowest through three Series games against a team’s starters since the Boston Red Sox held the Philadelphia Phillies to .129 in 1915, according to STATS.
Julio Urías, a hard-throwing Mexican left-hander in a Dodgers lineage dating to Valenzuela, starts Game 4 on Saturday night, while the Rays start Ryan Yarbrough, who relieved in the first game.
Thirty-eight of 59 previous teams that won Game 3 for a 2-1 lead went on to take the title.
Download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak
Justin Turner and Austin Barnes homered for the Dodgers, who have outhomered the Rays 7-4 in the Series and opponents 25-16 in the postseason. Barnes also drove in a run with a squeeze, the second player with RBIs on a bunt and home run in a Series game behind Héctor López of New York Yankees in Game 5 of 1961.
Steely-eyed like Hershiser, who won MVP honors of the 1988 Series, Buehler has supplanted Kershaw as the Dodgers’ ace. He showed no indisposition from the blister on his right index finger that has bothered him.
He has allowed one run in 13 Series innings that include seven scoreless in Game 3 against Boston two years ago. He improved to 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four postseason starts that include the win over Atlanta in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series last weekend.