The Los Angeles Dodgers ended their 32-year wait for a World Series title on Tuesday, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to finally claim the Major League Baseball crown after a string of agonising near-misses.Corey Seager, who was named World Series MVP, drove in the go-ahead run, Mookie Betts homered late and a stream of Los Angeles pitchers stood firm as the Dodgers won the seventh World Series in club history but their first since 1988.
Back in Major League Baseball’s championship showcase for the third time in four years, the Dodgers eased the disappointment of losing in the 2017 and 2018 series.
They beat the Rays four-games-to-two at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, where the first neutral site World Series in modern baseball history capped a pandemic-shortened campaign.
“This is surreal,” said catcher Austin Barnes. “We worked so hard. We had our hearts broken so many times. This group worked so hard.”
As the Dodgers celebrated on the field, one key contributor was missing, as third baseman Justin Turner was pulled midgame after testing positive for coronavirus — a final sombre reminder of the shadow cast on the season by the pandemic.
The Rays, needing a victory to force a decisive game seven, couldn’t take advantage of a dominant performance from starting pitcher Blake Snell, who gave up just two hits and no runs with nine strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.
He became the first pitcher with nine strikeouts through four innings in a World Series game since Dodgers legend Sandy Koufax had a total of 15 in a complete game win in game one against the New York Yankees in 1963.
But Rays manager Kevin Cash opted to pull Snell with one out and one on in the bottom of the sixth with the Rays leading by just one run thanks to Randy Arozarena’s first-inning homer.
And that’s when the momentum shifted.
Dodgers rightfielder Mookie Betts promptly smacked a double up the left field line off Rays relief pitcher Nick Anderson.
Barnes, who had singled off Snell, advanced to third and scored on a wild pitch.
Seager — who earned World Series Most Valuable Player honors — then made it to first on a fielder’s choice, with Betts beating the throw to home to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.
“Snell was pitching a great game,” Betts said. “That’s all we needed.”
A parade of Dodgers pitchers — it would total seven in all — kept it close after rookie sensation Arozarena clubbed his record-extending 10th home run of the post-season off an 88 mph slider from Gonsolin, the rookie righthander whose impressive regular season numbers haven’t translated in the playoffs.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had said he was hoping for five or six innings from the rookie Gonsolin, whose impressive regular-season numbers haven’t translated to the playoffs.
But he lasted just 1 2/3 innings before giving way to Dylan Floro.
Snell, meanwhile, retired the first six batters he faced before giving off a leadoff single to Chris Taylor in the third, then retired nine more as the Rays preserved their one-run lead through five innings.
After Arozarena cracked a single to left field with two outs in the top of the fifth off the Dodgers’ fourth pitcher of the night — Pedro Baez — Victor Gonzalez took over on the mound and recorded the last out of the inning.
Gonzalez retired three straight in the top of the sixth, and after the Dodgers seized the lead in the bottom of the frame Brusdar Graterol took over on the mound for Los Angeles in the seventh.
With two outs in the inning Graterol gave up a line drive single to Mike Zunino and was replaced by game-four starter Julio Urias of Mexico — who didn’t allow a baserunner in closing out the victory.
“Man this was just awesome,” said Seager, who is among the core of players who lived through the Dodgers’ recent World Series defeats, a group that also includes star pitcher Clayton Kershaw — who finally added a World Series title to his Hall of Fame resume.
“The resilience, the energy, everything that this team’s done this year, it’s been fun to be a part of,” Seager said.
Betts was a newcomer this year, traded prior to the season from the Boston Red Sox team that broke Dodgers hearts in 2018.
“I knew we could win from day one,” Betts said. “These guys been in the post season so many times I just came to be a part of it.” (AFP)