By Arnie Leshin
Sixty five years after they won their initial World Series while in Brooklyn, the Dodgers on Tuesday night added their sixth Fall Classic in Los Angeles in this shortened season of the coronavirus pandemic.
The team with the best record during the regular season, the National League champions did so by turning back the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-1, the American League champion with the second-best mark in six games played for the first time at a neutral ballpark to decide the National Pastime winner, that being the Texas Rangers’ brand-new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Tex.
Except for Los Angeles’ starting third baseman Justin Turner being pulled from the game when it was determined he had tested positive for COPID-19. The 35-year-old shaggy red-headed spark did join the team after the final out, but did not participate in the dogpile on the mound, although he did hoist the championship trophy in what was his ninth season there, and also sat up front for the team photo.
Dodger blue arrived on the West Coast in 1958 after ages in Brooklyn playing in the storied Ebbets Field. There, it won the World Series in 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, 1988, and finished second in 2017 and 2018. Thus, it was 32 seasons since Orel Hershiser starred on the hill and popular, former Dodger relief pitcher Tommy LaSorda was the manager.
So after the long wait, future Hall of Fame southpaw pitcher Clayton Kershaw now has his first World Series title to add to his trio of Cy Young Awards. He raced out of the bullpen after reliever Julio Urias struck out Willy Adames for the final out, and joined the pile-on.
Kershaw, who won games one and five here, was born in nearby Dallas when Hershiser struck out Oakland Athletics’ Tony Phillips for the last out of the ’88 Series. The franchise had played 5,014 regular-season games and was in its 114th postseason since than.
It was a well-balanced LA lineup that contributed to this championship with manager Dave Roberts, but shortstop Corey Seager was named the Most Valuable Player. He not only played a sparkling shortstop, but in 20 at-bats, came away with eight hits and scored seven runs. He doubled twice, homered twice, drove home five runs, walked six times, and batted .400.
Then there was Turner with eight hits, five runs, two doubles, two home runs, eight ribbies and a .320 batting average. Can’t leave out right fielder Mookie Betts, who came over from the Boston Red Sox, and in the 2018 World Series came up with some key hits in defeating Los Angeles, But this was another time, another celebration for the flashy Betts who signed a 12-year extension with the Dodgers.
And in game six, after showing his defensive skills, drove in a run to force a 1-1 tie, then followed with a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth to bring a 3-1 lead after Seager broke the deadlock in the sixth when his sharp grounder to short sent Betts sprinting across the plate for a 2-1 lead, this after Betts had singled up the middle and raced to second on a passed ball.
The lone Tampa Bay run of the night came quickly when red-hot rookie Randy Arozarena drove a Tony Gonsolin fastball into the seats in right field, his 10th in the post-season. Gonsolin, a righthanded rookie, was the first of seven Dodger hurlers.
From there, the Rays never got a runner past second base as the LA bullpen took charge. Each team had five hits each. But some of the post-game discussion turned to Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash, the catcher on the 1998 Rays’ team that lost its only other Series to the Philadelphia Phillies, pulled his starter, lefthander Blake Snell, from the game despite a dominating performance over 5 and 2-3 innings.
It was obvious that Snell, the team’s most reliable starter, didn’t want to leave and he showed it with some bleep, bleep words directed at Cash, who had a habit of refusing to let his pitchers face the opposition lineup for a third time. But it cost him. Ahead 1-0, he called on Nick Anderson and Los Angeles quickly responded when Seager doubled in a run to knot the score at 1-all, and up came Betts to also double and bring in Seager.
In all, the Dodgers outscored the Rays, 32-21.
LA players were handed face masks as they charged out of the dugout and from the bullpen, but most of the masks just hit the ground while the players just wanted to celebrate. There were cheers from his teammates for Turner when he came on the field with his wife.
And of course this brought Los Angeles a second world championship as it followed the recent National Basketball Association title won by the Lakers. It also spoiled a bid by Tampa Bay to add the National Hockey League 2020 championship won by the Lightning.
This also makes for sixth different MLB champions since the Kansas City Royals won in 2015. Then it was the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Red Sox, and Washington Nationals.
This one could be classified as an imperfectly perfect World Series that provided a showcase of wildly entertaining baseball and outstanding drama. It was Dodger luxury matching up with the cost-conscious Rays model.