ARLINGTON, TEXAS - After winning the Division Series and AL Championship Series in San Diego, the Tampa Bay Rays played before fans in the World Series opener for the first time since spring training.
"Playing a playoff game with zero fans in it has got to be one of the weirdest, most bizarre things I've ever experienced in baseball," Rays pitcher Charlie Morton, scheduled to start Game 3, said Wednesday. "But at the same time, one of the most memorable things I've ever experienced in baseball. I'll appreciate everyone that made this possible for as long as I live."
He appreciated the atmosphere at Globe Life Field, where the opener Tuesday drew a crowd of 11,388 — spread in groups of up to four, mostly in alternate rows and none directly behind each other among the forest-green seats.
That was the smallest Series crowd since 10,535 attended Game 6 in 1909 between the Tigers and Pittsburgh at Detroit's Bennett Park, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The attendance also was about 28% of the 40,518 capacity at the new $1.2 billion retractable-roof stadium of the Texas Rangers.
"This stadium, even though it's not filled to capacity, there's something about this place," Morton said. "It's very robust. It's big — it feels big. They have the big screen right above the field. It's feels like it's like hanging on top of you and it's got all the World Series logos. Everything's in gold. All the banners you'd expect to see.
"But underneath in the service tunnel and in the clubhouse, it is weird to not see — it's weird to not be in the press room. … It's sad. But it's still very exciting."
Morton is 3-0 with a 0.57 ERA in the postseason, and the Rays are 5-0 in his starts.
"I think it's the approach, the demeanor that he takes," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "You don't see any difference. You don't see any anxiety. It's very much a been-there, done-that approach. And if you see anything, it's that he has a knack for finding that extra gear."
Home away from L.A.
The Dodgers played their 15th game at Globe Life Field, already half as many games as the Texas Rangers have played in their new ballpark that opened this season.
Los Angeles played a three-game series there during the regular season in late August, then swept San Diego in the NL Division Series there before their comeback from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Atlanta Braves in a seven-game NL Championship Series last week.
• Walker Buehler, who won Game 6 of the NLCS as the Dodgers won three consecutive elimination games to beat Atlanta, is the probable starter for Game 3 on Friday. It will be after the first scheduled day off in the middle of a postseason series in this pandemic-altered season.
•The Dodgers' 8-3 victory over the Rays in Game 1 drew a record-low audience of television viewers for a World Series game. The game received a 5.1 rating and 11 share, and was seen by an average of 9,195,000 viewers on Fox. The previous low had been set the only other time the Rays were in the World Series, when their 5-4 loss to Philadelphia in Game 3 in 2008 was viewed by an average of 9,836,000.