2020 World Series Recap

November 13, 2020

The 2020 MLB season is officially over. Due to the coronavirus and the resulting limitations, this season was unlike any other, and it is safe to say these playoffs were also a roller coaster. However, the World Series consisted of two teams that were very highly ranked throughout the entire season and had often been projected to be in the World Series against each other: the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays. These two teams were sometimes considered to be complete opposites. The Dodgers had nearly four times the amount of money spent on players than the Rays during the 2020 season, according to Spotrac. The Rays primarily built their roster on high-value trades and prospects considering they have a low budget, while the Dodgers spent a large amount of money on big-name free agents and extremely expensive trades. Despite building their roster in different ways, these teams ultimately collided in the 2020 World Series.

The Dodgers were supposed to be there. For the past few seasons the team was always projected to make it to the World Series and win it all. But for the past few years, luck was never in their favor. Last year, the Dodgers fell to the eventual champions—the Washington Nationals—in the National League Division Series after a go-ahead grand slam from Howie Kendrick in extra innings. In 2018, the Dodgers lost to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series in five games. And in 2017, the Dodgers lost to the Houston Astros in seven games in the World Series. Noted in an article from the Bleacher Report, the Astros were found guilty of cheating during the 2017 season, but the MLB did not strip them of their title. Many Dodgers’ fans were hoping that the MLB would give them a form of compensation for being robbed of a World Series; however they were given nothing. According to MLB.com, 2019 was the first year the Rays had made the playoffs since 2013, but they lost to the Astros in a five-game series in the American League Division Series. This year was different, as their strong bullpen and flexibility in their lineup made them strong contenders to go far into the playoffs. Eventually, they made it to the World Series in 2020 for the first time since 2008.

Before going into depth about what occurred in Game One, an important note about Clayton Kershaw. Clayton Kershaw is easily a Hall of Fame pitcher. Baseball Reference states that he has three Cy Young awards (an award given to the best pitcher in each league for a given year), eight All Star appearances and an MVP honor. He is one of the greatest pitchers of the past fifteen years, and possibly one of the greatest pitchers of all time, but he did have a few issues.

Commonly referred to as “playoff Kershaw,” Kershaw was historically not good in the postseason. Before this year, his career earned run average, or ERA (number of runs allowed per nine innings), was 4.85 in the playoffs, compared to his regular season career average of 2.43, according to MLB.com. This means that he lets in nearly 2.5 more runs per nine innings in the playoffs than in the regular season. Basically, he has a history of being really bad in the postseason. Last year, he let in back-to-back home runs against Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon in Game Five of the Division Series after he came into the game as a reliever. This tied the game and eventually led to the end of the Dodgers’ season. However, it appeared as if he was ready to put that behind him, because this year his postseason ERA was 2.93, coming in clutch during the two games that he pitched. Kershaw started Game One of the World Series and he allowed only two hits and one run in six innings. He also struck out eight players. The Dodgers bats were also alive as they scored eight runs with home runs from their two superstars Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger. This led to a convincing 8-3 victory for the Dodgers.

Game Two was all over the place. No pitcher really dominated as Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin got knocked out of the game in just one and a third innings. Ultimately, the Rays won Game Two by a margin of 6-4 due to a spark of an early offense.

In Game Three, the Dodgers’ starting pitcher Walker Buehler completely dominated and held the Rays offense in check as he allowed only one run in six innings. The Rays struggled throughout the entire game to get anything going offensively so they ended up losing 2-6.

Game Four, on the other hand, had quite the crazy ending. Throughout the game, the score was already going back and forth as players on both teams kept hitting home runs. However, the Rays were losing by one run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Then utter chaos ensued. In the bottom of the ninth with two outs and two runners on—one runner on first and one on second—right fielder Brett Phillips came to the plate. He had previously come into the game as a pinch runner and he was now the Rays last shot in Game Four. Phillips has not been incredible during his three-year career as MLB.com records a career batting average of just .202. But none of that mattered. Against closer Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers, he hit a single towards the center fielder. Everyone knew immediately that they were going to tie the game, but what happened after was unexpected. Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor bobbled the ball for a few seconds which gave the runner from first base more time to get to third base. This bobble made the runner Randy Arozarena think that he could also score, so he began his run toward home plate. A solid throw to Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy made it so that Arozarena was definitely out. Muncy threw to the Dodger catcher Will Smith who had plenty of time to catch the ball and tag Arozarena out. But then Smith must have panicked or something similar because he dropped the ball. This allowed Arozarena to score, leading to a win for the Rays with a score of 8-7.

Game Five was a game to be nervous about for the Dodgers. They just blew a lead in the game before and Kershaw was slated to pitch again. Fans had many questions, including: was Game One a fluke meaning we are going to see the return of “playoff Kershaw”? The answer was no. He pitched fairly solidly in the game and got the win as the Dodgers won Game Five 4-2. This was a big moment for Kershaw as he throughout most of his playoff career had struggled in these big moments, but he came up big and got the team two wins in the World Series.

Then came Game Six. The Dodgers were one win away from the thing that has been just out of their reach for so many years, while the Rays were one loss away from losing their best chance at the title for over a decade. The Rays started their ace Blake Snell for their elimination game. The Dodgers once again started Tony Gonsolin with the hope that he would eat a few innings. He did not. Gonsolin let in a home run to Arozarena in the first inning and came out an inning later. Snell on the other hand was completely dominant. Through five innings he was nearly unhittable as he allowed only one hit. Then came the fifth inning which has sparked a ton of debate. Generally speaking, when a hitter faces a pitcher for the third time in a single game, he is more likely to know what to do because he has seen the pitcher two times already in the game. The analytics support that for the most part. The Rays manager Kevin Cash was likely going off of more analytics than this fact, but it was likely part of the reasoning. So, in the sixth inning, Snell started by getting outfielder AJ Pollock to pop out on one pitch. Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes then hit a single. This was only the second hit that Snell had allowed during the entire game so far. Cash then without any question came out of the dugout and pulled out Snell. He put in reliever Nick Anderson who was elite in the regular season but struggled a bit during the postseason. Anderson immediately let in a double to Betts and threw a wild pitch for the game to be tied. Shortstop Corey Seager then reached on a fielder’s choice, and Betts scored, giving the Dodgers the lead. The Dodgers would add another run through a Betts home run in the eighth inning, but the Rays would not score any more as pitcher Julio Urias would close out the game and lead to the Dodgers winning the game at 3-1 and the World Series as well.

So, what was key for the Dodgers in this series? Shortstop Corey Seager was obviously crucial as he won the World Series MVP. Seager was absolutely incredible during the entire postseason and he continued to be incredible during the World Series. Kershaw ignored all the hate he got in the playoffs and pitched like a true ace as he started two games and won both of them. However most important was their trade for Mookie Betts in the offseason. According to MLB.com, he may have had only seven hits in the series and a batting average of .269 but his speed and defense were incredibly valuable. The go-ahead run-on Nick Anderson in Game Six came off of his ridiculous speed. He also played incredible defense throughout the entire series as he was robbing extra base hits from players every game. The trade for Betts may go down as one of the greatest trades of all time.

The Rays had one heck of a run. A team that has one of the lowest payrolls in all of baseball gave the Dodgers six games in the World Series. What exactly went wrong? The team as a whole underperformed offensively. A few players were having down years, most notably outfielder Austin Meadows. He was an All-Star a year before, but this year he was below average. Possibly the biggest upset, however, was infielder Brandon Lowe. In the regular season, MLB.com records Lowe hitting .269 and 14 home runs in just 56 games. However, in the postseason he was batting .118 and had only nine hits the entire postseason. A lot of people, though, may blame Kevin Cash for this loss, most notably his choice to pull out Snell in Game Six. Many people said in that situation you have to trust your ace. He is your go-to guy and when he is on fire you have to trust him even if the statistics say otherwise. This is obviously up for debate, especially considering it easily could have worked out for the Rays. If the Rays won that game, they may be calling Cash a genius right now. Their bullpen was the strongest part of the roster, so it was a good idea to trust it when the game is close, but traditionally if your ace is rolling, you have to leave him in. Who knows what would have happened if Cash left Snell in? Maybe he goes four more innings without another hit, and they win the game, or he lets in five more runs in the inning and the Rays would have lost by even more.

Even though this World Series was very different, it was also still the same, bringing the same sense of chaos that fans know and love. For lovers of baseball, it is satisfying to see the Dodgers win, especially after the debacle with the Astros. Even if you do not like the Dodgers, as a baseball fan you know that the Dodgers deserved to have the title in 2017. The fact that the Rays got to the World Series also was good for baseball because it means that even if your team does not have the highest payroll, it still has a chance to go far. Overall, it was a great World Series and it is now time to see if the Dodgers can pull off what no team has done in ages: a REPEAT.

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