Redemption and Vindication: Dodgers Win World Series for First Time in 32 Years

After seven straight seasons of October failures, L.A. has finally won it all.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

After the most unusual of seasons the Los Angeles Dodgers have won the World Series for the first time since 1988, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays, 3–1, in Game 6 Tuesday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. It is the seventh World Series in Dodgers franchise history.

Mookie Betts Dodgers' cover

More than anything else, this World Series was a story of redemption and vindication for the Dodgers. No team won more games (952) or division titles (seven) over the last decade, yet they consistently have come up short. Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher of his generation, had not delivered in the postseason, and for whatever reason, Dave Roberts failed to manage the best team in baseball to a championship.

Celebrate the Dodgers' World Series title With SI's Commemorative Issue

This time was different. Kershaw shoved, going 4–1 with a 2.93 ERA in five starts. Roberts, after some questionable decisions in their chaotic Game 4 loss, made all the right moves in Game 6. He went to the bullpen after starter Tony Gonsolin allowed one run in 1 2/3 innings. Dodgers relievers recorded the next 22 outs and held the Rays scoreless. Julio Urías pitched the final 2 1/3 innings and struck out four, including the last two batters, to pick up the save.

As Roberts stood on stage during the celebration he gave a nod to the former Cy Young and MVP winner.

“I couldn’t be happier for you, Kersh,” Roberts said. “You want to talk about a narrative? How about a being champion? He’s a champion forever.”

Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger, two of the three former MVPs on the Los Angeles roster (Kershaw is the other), played exceptional defense in the outfield, had several key hits and ran the bases perfectly. Betts scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning Tuesday and smacked a solo homer for an insurance run in the eighth.

dodgers-celebrate

Corey Seager, honored as World Series MVP, once again established himself as one of the game’s best players after two years of injuries. He hit eight homers and drove in 20 runs, including the ground out to first that scored Betts to put the Dodgers ahead in Game 6, this postseason.

***

There was nothing more Blake Snell could do.

He baffled Dodgers hitters for five scoreless innings, allowing one hit and no walks while striking out nine. Austin Barnes flipped the second hit off Snell, a single to center, with one out in the sixth. Out came Kevin Cash; in came reliever Nick Anderson.

Betts ripped a double down the left-field line, giving the Dodgers runners on second and third. Anderson then bounced a slider for a wild pitch, scoring Barnes. With the infield in, Seager grounded to first but Betts, like he did in Game 1, beat the throw to the plate, putting the Dodgers ahead, 2–1.

mookie-betts-slide

It didn’t matter that Snell was pitching better than he had all year. It didn’t matter that the slider Barnes hit for a single was only Snell’s 73rd pitch. It didn’t matter that Betts struck out in each of his first two plate appearances and slugged just .218 against lefties this season.

"I get it. It’s the third time through the order, but I think I’m going to make the adjustments I need to make as I see them the third time," Snell said. "I wanted to go that whole game."

Snell hadn’t completed seven innings since April 2, 2019; he hadn’t made it through six since July 21 of last year. Cash was never going to let him go deep in this game. Right or wrong, that just isn’t how the Rays operate.

The quick hook worked for Tampa Bay in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, when Cash yanked Charlie Morton with two outs in the fifth inning after he allowed his second hit.

"It’s no discredit to anybody, but that’s what we do," Cash said that night. "We believe in our process and we’re gonna keep doing it."

He trusted the process again in World Series Game 6. This time, it didn’t work.

"I’m OK with the decision," Cash said after the game. "I think that’s what makes us special. We rely on each other. We value information, and knowing how talented the Dodgers’ lineup is, to avoid any pitcher from seeing them three times through makes a lot of sense."

***

The Rays twice had opportunities in the first two innings to jump ahead and bury the Dodgers early. Instead, they scored just once, on Arozarena’s 10th home run of the postseason, which came with one out and nobody on in the first inning.

Following the homer, Austin Meadows singled and Brandon Lowe walked.

Los Angeles starter Tony Gonsolin wasn’t just on the ropes; he was one jab away from the floor. Then came the same problem the Rays faced throughout the postseason: they couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position—entering Game 6, they were batting .192 in such situations. Manuel Margot flied out and Joey Wendle struck out to end the inning.

Again in the second inning, Gonsolin pitched into trouble. He struck out the first batter, Willy Adames, looking for the first out before Kevin Kiermaier ripped a 111.6 mph double to right. After fanning Mike Zunino, Gonsolin walked Ji-Man Choi to bring up Arozarena, knocking him from the game. Right-hander Dylan Floro dealt Superman Arozarena his kryptonite—three inside changeups—to strike him out and end the threat. Another Tampa Bay runner left stranded in scoring position.

The Rays needed to take advantage of Gonsolin while he was in the game. The right-hander couldn’t locate his splitter consistently, though it was sharp when he did—six whiffs on nine swings, per Statcast. His four-seamer was ineffective—he threw 19 of them, nine were fouled off, two were put in play hard, two were swung at and missed, none were taken for strikes. His slider was perhaps his best pitch Tuesday, but it was also the one Arozarena stroked into the right-field Budweiser promotional giveaway tarp. To be fair to Gonsolin, neither slider he threw to Arozarena were bad pitches, certainly not ones you’d expect to be crushed for a homer. Alas, El Jefe doesn’t care about your expectations.

Instead, the Rays settled for just one run, which was never going to be enough for them, no matter how many strikeouts Snell racked up against the Dodgers. Los Angeles didn't get shut out all season, and that streak will carry into next season as the defending champs.