Baseball still found a way
This year’s unique baseball season came to a close after an exciting World Series between the league-record-leading Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Los Angeles Dodgers took down the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2 in a series that could have gone either way.
The Rays were the massive underdogs, even though they had the best record in the American League. Their bats fell silent in the playoffs facing a rotation led by future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw and young fireballer Walker Buhler, despite the Rays also having stellar pitching. The Rays path included taking down both their division rival Toronto Blue Jays in the first round, followed by the Houston Astros in a thrilling seven-game series. The Blue Jays fell quietly in the first round, being held to three runs in the two games. The Yankees fought hard but were upset 2-1 in a deciding game five thanks to late heroics by Mike Brosseau. The Rays nearly blew a 3-0 lead against Houston by allowing it to reach game seven, but Charlie Morton pitched nearly six scoreless innings to shut the potential comeback down.
Considering the Dodger’s recent pedigree, which includes eight consecutive division titles, it’s hard to believe the Dodgers hadn’t won a World Series since 1988. However, with the addition of perennial all-star Mookie Betts and David Price (who unfortunately opted out of this season due to COVID) over the offseason, they were clear favorites to win it all since the beginning of the season, and the Dodgers finally delivered. The Brewers scored just two runs over the two wild-card games and got swept. They then moved on to play the San Diego Padres, a much fiercer team and division rival, and scored 23 runs over three games, sweeping them as well. The Atlanta Braves were in the middle of their own scorching start when the Dodgers came to town. The Braves were up 3-1 through the first four games. Despite the odds, the Dodgers came back to win the series, much due to the help of Corey Seager, who hit .310 with five home runs and 11 RBIs taking home the series MVP as well as sending his team to their third World Series in four years.
Both teams faced substantial championship droughts. The Dodgers hadn’t won since 1988, while the Rays had yet to win a title in their franchise history, which dates back to 1998. Sadly, neither team would get to cheer in front of their home audience due to COVID as the series was held in a neutral, fan allowing field in Arlington, Texas.
Game one went as expected when the Dodgers beat the Rays 8-3 behind six innings of one-run work by three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. However, the Rays came back the next day and responded with a 6-4 win of their own led by Cuban-born rookie phenom Randy Arozarena. The Dodgers struck again in game three, winning 6-2 and giving Charlie Morton his first loss of the postseason. Walker Buehler struck out 10 in six innings of work to earn his team their second win. The Rays weren’t done just yet, edging out the Dodgers 8-7 in game four and tying the series at two wins apiece due to a surprising and dramatic walk-off by role player Brett Philips, despite four-hit games by both Corey Seager and Justin Turner. Kershaw picked up his fourth win of the playoffs in game five as the Dodgers won 4-2 and brought themselves closer to their first title in decades.
During game six, the Rays had a 1-0 lead into the sixth inning, when their ace, Blake Snell, was pulled after just 73 pitches despite having struck out nine and allowing only two hits in the first 5.1 innings. In what will be remembered as a colossal managing failure, his replacement Nick Anderson promptly gave up two runs, and Los Angeles would go on to win the game 3-1 and be crowned the 2020 World Series champions.
As much as people might not like rooting for the Dodgers, this title was theirs to lose. Ten pitchers in major league history have won three Cy Young awards; before this series, Clayton Kershaw was the only one that had not won a championship. Indeed, since 1961, ten pitchers had won an MVP award, and again, Kershaw was the only one to have not won a championship. Corey Seager followed up his excellent pennant performance with similar achievement, leading to World Series MVP honors after going 8-20 with two home runs.
With the Dodgers losing very few players over the offseason and having the benefit of a roster consisting of seasoned pros and hotshot youngsters like Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, and Cody Bellinger, will this be the first of many World Series championships in the years to follow? Or will it be the one and only?