The Dodgers’ 32-year odyssey is over.
Mookie Betts doubled and homered, and Julio Urias recorded a seven-out save, rallying Los Angeles to a 3-1 victory over the Rays in Game 6 on Tuesday to claim their first World Series championship since 1988.
Tampa Bay trusted the unconventional bullpen-oriented process that carried them to the Fall Classic and it resulted in their elimination. Burgeoning superstar Randy Arozarena clobbered a solo homer, and electrifying left-hander Blake Snell delivered one of the most dominant postseason performances in recent memory, racking up nine strikeouts on 16 swinging strikes, carrying a one-hit shutout into the sixth inning to put the Rays in position to force a decisive Game 7; before manager Kevin Cash made the fateful decision to turn to his bullpen, igniting the Dodgers’ late-inning comeback.
With the Rays clinging to a one-run lead, Cash lifted Snell from the contest after the 27-year-old southpaw surrendered a harmless one-out single to Austin Barnes in the sixth inning. The controversial move immediately backfired as right-hander Nick Anderson served up a momentum-shifting double down the left-field line to Betts and also uncorked a wild pitch, which allowed Barnes to scamper home from third base with the tying run. The Dodgers took their first lead of the contest thanks to heads-up baserunning by Betts later in the frame. The 28-year-old all-around superstar showcased his base-running prowess, reacting immediately on Corey Seager’s slow chopper up the first-base line, sliding safely into home plate underneath catcher Mike Zunino’s tag attempt.
It's possible to criticize Cash's decision to lift Snell from the contest after only 73 pitches without entirely dismissing the value of analytics as an input in the managerial decision-making process. An aversion to letting the left-hander face the Dodgers’ loaded lineup for a third time sparked the move to the bullpen. However, factoring in the quality of Snell’s raw stuff, juxtaposed by how overmatched the Dodgers looked offensively throughout the low-scoring affair, it’s difficult to justify such a quick hook. Clearly, he still had something left in the tank. It’s impossible to determine whether Snell would’ve been able to stifle the Dodgers and force a winner-take-all series finale, but the fact that he didn’t get that opportunity may haunt the Rays for years to come.
With hard-throwing righty Walker Buehler on tap for a potential Game 7 showdown, the Dodgers turned to Tony Gonsolin to soak up some innings at the outset of the contest. The 26-year-old right-hander struck out newly-minted Rays’ leadoff hitter Ji-Man Choi on three pitches to open the contest, before serving up a solo homer to Arozarena, who continued his meteoric rise by walloping his 10th round-tripper of the postseason in the opening frame. The 25-year-old rookie outfielder reached out to connect on an 89 mph slider darting low and away outside of the strike zone, launching a line-drive 378-foot blast into the right-field seats.
The Rays had Gonsolin on the ropes in the early stages of the contest, but failed to deliver a knockout blow, stranding four runners on-base in the process. Austin Meadows singled and Brandon Lowe drew a walk following Arozarena’s long ball, but Gonsolin managed to coax a fly ball to right field from Margot and fanned Joey Wendle to wriggle out of the jam without any further damage. The Rays continued to threaten in the ensuing frame as Kevin Kiermaier continued his stellar postseason, smacking a 111.6 mph line-drive double to right field, before Choi drew a two-out walk, which chased Gonsolin from the contest. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts summoned righty Dylan Floro, who struck out Arozarena on three pitches to end the second inning. The Rays’ failure to take advantage of their early opportunities ended up looming large in the late innings of the low-scoring affair.
Staked to an early one-run advantage, Snell was virtually unhittable. He retired six consecutive batters -- five via strikeout -- to open the contest, He was in complete control early on, requiring only 12 pitches to blow away Betts, Seager and Justin Turner in a dominant opening stanza, and didn’t allow a baserunner until Chris Taylor dunked a lead-off single into left field in the third inning. Yet, the Dodgers couldn’t push across the equalizer. Third baseman Joey Wendle made a pair of fantastic plays at the hot corner, taking potential hits away from AJ Pollock and Barnes, before Snell whiffed Betts for the second time in the contest to end the third inning.
With the Dodgers trailing by a run, their trademarked mix-and-match strategy kicked into high gear. Lefty Alex Wood took over on the mound in the third inning and tossed a pair of perfect frames, followed by righty Pedro Baez and southpaw Victor Gonzalez, who combined for two scoreless innings to keep Los Angeles within striking distance. Meanwhile, Snell continued to deal, keeping the Dodgers’ formidable lineup off-balance with his overpowering four-pitch mix. He struck out the side in the fourth inning, becoming the first pitcher to record nine strikeouts through four innings in a World Series contest since Dodgers’ legend Sandy Koufax accomplished the feat in an iconic 15-strikeout complete-game victory against the Yankees back in 1963. Snell set down 10 in a row following Taylor’s third-inning single, and didn’t allow a baserunner until Barnes lined a one-out single to center field in the sixth inning.
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After mounting a late rally, the Dodgers found themselves just nine outs away from a title. Manager Dave Roberts turned to hard-throwing right Brusdar Graterol, who collected two outs before giving up a two-out single to Zunino, which brought Urias into the contest. The 24-year-old southpaw was utterly phenomenal, recording the final seven outs of the contest. He froze pinch-hitter Yandy Diaz with a fastball on the outside corner to strand the tying run on-base and leave Arozarena in the on-deck circle and proceeded to toss a scoreless eighth inning before Betts plated a key insurance run with a solo shot to left field off Pete Fairbanks in the bottom of the frame. Urias came back out to protect a two-run lead in the final frame, getting Manuel Margot to fly out to right field before striking out Mike Brosseau and Willy Adames to clinch the championship.
Shortstop Corey Seager, who went 0-for-3 with a walk and an RBI fielder’s choice grounder in the series finale, was named World Series MVP. He finished the Fall Classic hitting .400 (8-for-20) with two home runs, five RBI, six walks and seven runs scored. He also took home 2020 NLCS MVP honors, becoming the eighth player in major-league history to win a League Championship Series MVP and World Series MVP in the same postseason, joining Madison Bumgarner (2014), David Freese (2011), Cole Hamels (2008), Livan Hernandez (1997), Orel Hershiser (1988), Darrell Porter (1982) and Willie Stargell (1979) as the only other players to accomplish the feat.