For the Dodgers, the long wait is finally over

0
AP Photo / Eric Gay

Finally, these fortunate players achieved the status they craved for years, they triumphed over adversity and they celebrated with the trophy, after erasing years of doubt and pain. 

Can you believe it? Believe it, the Los Angeles Dodgers are 2020 World Series champions. We have waited for this day for so long and it’s finally here. Let this sink in for a moment. It’s been more than 30 years since the last time the Dodgers accomplished a task that was too large and exponentially more difficult.

The Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game 6 of the 116th World Series to claim their franchise’s seventh title and first since 1988, ending the city’s 32-year title drought. This victory lifted the Dodgers out of the earthly muck of postseason letdowns and, at long last, back to baseball glory. With this win, the Dodgers warded off any malevolent spirits that perhaps painted a vivid and haunting image of October.

They have come through, having weathered the storm of the postseason, and now bad memories have slowly faded away. They have discovered a cure for the woes for the past seven years, and healed themselves from the excruciating pain that is suddenly forgotten. But a supremely talented team like the Dodgers were long overdue for a title, considering what this team had done every year to cruise to eight consecutive NL West division titles.

This comes two weeks after the Lakers won their 17th championship, tying them with the Boston Celtics for most in league history. And now it’s the Dodgers turn to now join the Lakers for a celebration of the city’s two championships. In the oddest of years, Los Angeles is truly a city of champions after the two most popular teams produced titles. Filled with star players who have flashy names on the back of their jerseys, the Dodgers and Lakers have brought prestigious hardware back home.

The long wait for winning the whole thing is finally over. There’s no question, however, even with this being a peculiar year, as we are still in the middle of a pandemic, that this was a happy ending to a trying 2020 season. It was a seminal moment that brought the past into present relevance for this franchise that had a habit of falling short every fall, only to make up for their long list of misfortunes.

The short, weird season has come to an end, and though the Dodgers looked historically good in a shortened 60-game season, this was earned not handed to them. This is a unique year of pandemic championships, but the Dodgers’ title shouldn’t be marked with an asterisk.

Many fans likely prepared themselves to be disappointed and wondered if this day might ever come. People in L.A. had grown weary of this team’s postseason collapses and were bored with their dominant runs all summer long. This was a different year, and the Dodgers had planned to take care of some unfinished business. And suddenly, it is a great time to be a Los Angeles sports fan and a Dodgers fan.

Much had been made in public opinion and discussion over whether Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was a good fit. If the Dodgers were ousted by the Rays in a surprising upset, maybe he would have reached the end of his leash as the front office could have decided to part ways with him. If they were dealt another embarrassing defeat, maybe he was prepared to exit the organization as one of the most accomplished managers in franchise history.

His job security was pretty much a given with his proven track record of delivering positive results, particularly during the regular season. It was just that he couldn’t ever guide his team to a championship win that eluded the Dodgers in 2017 and 2018. The Dodgers are a very analytical team, and Roberts made in-game decisions that paralyzed his club in the past. He wouldn’t hesitate to make pitching changes if he felt it would help his team out of uncertain and precarious situations.

Roberts’ handling of the pitching staff went as planned for him, for his relievers, for his team, and did not backfire on him like all the other times before. He made history as well, becoming only the second black and the first Asian manager in baseball history to win the World Series.

The trophy and banner belongs to the Dodgers, and now Clayton Kershaw can say he’s a champion. The only title he had was one of a choke artist because of his long history of producing negative postseason stats. It is popularly assumed that he is a first ballot Hall of Fame talent. And while his accomplishments are undeniable, Kershaw’s lapse into futile uselessness cast a shadow over his greatness in October.

This was a bittersweet victory for him.  And after all these years, he repaired his once complicated legacy after putting together a nice collection of pitching gems to paint a beautiful World Series masterpiece. After Julio Urias recorded the final out, Kershaw lifted both arms in the air and emerged from the right-center field bullpen, celebrating with a swarm of teammates.

This was beyond a standard, excellent playoff run for Corey Seager. His hot postseason saw the Dodgers into the World Series. And deservingly, Seager, that October hero, received special notice when he was named the World Series MVP. With him going 8-for-20 with two home runs and five RBI, hitting . 400/. 556/. 700., he was already a lock for the award.

This series had seven games written all over it. If the night was any indication, all signs of Game 7 pointed in the Rays’ favor as their ace Blake Snell was able to harness his overpowering stuff. His confidence overrode all the nerves he had if any, during which he felt really comfortable and dominated the Dodgers’ bats.

In a curious move, Kevin Cash decided to pull Snell from the game. In a way much more baffling than Cash realized, it was a move that cost Tampa Bay its lead and gave the Dodgers a series-clinching win. They took advantage of Snell’s departure following a blockheaded decision from Cash. They saw an opportunity to pile up just enough runs to close out the series.

The Dodgers quickly took the lead in the bottom of the sixth on a single to center from Austin Barnes, followed by a series-altering double from Mookie Betts and then Mike Zunino allowed a Nick Anderson wild pitch to carom away from him, allowing Barnes to score. A few pitches later, Betts scored the go-ahead run on a Seager fielder’s choice bouncer to first base.

This is the year everything has come together for these Dodgers. Their bullpen was largely ineffective, unreliable and too inconsistent. But just when they were needed the most, their relief corps thrived under the spotlight and certainly stepped up in a big way and shut down the Rays.

This was the season all promise came through for Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin especially, and Roberts trusted the kids enough to hand them the ball. The Dodgers sent Gonsolin to the mound to start the game. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t regain the production he flashed during the abbreviated season, and was pulled after just 1 2/3 innings and a run allowed.

In came Dylan Floro. With two runners on and two outs, the right-hander faced Randy Arozarena and threw three straight changeups. This time, Arozarena struck out swinging. In his first at-bat, the Rays’ outfield star homered, which was his 10th of the postseason—an MLB record.

Pressed into action, Alex Wood contributed out of the bullpen and produced two scoreless innings. He felt good against the heart of the Rays’ batting order and you could tell he was locked in, retiring all six batters he faced on three strikeouts.

As the night grew, Roberts emptied his bullpen. He went to Pedro Baez for two outs and Victor Gonzalez for the final out to complete the fifth inning. Gonzalez’s efficient work was glancing enough to allow him to go back out. He struck out the side in the sixth.

The shutout of the Rays continued when Brusdar Graterol took the mound, facing three batters and getting two outs. He just allowed a single to Zunino. And then seeing Urias take control of the game came as no surprise to Roberts and his teammates. Given how well he had pitched in Game 7 of the NLCS, it was an easy decision to send him out there in the late innings in hopes to preserve the World Series victory.

Obviously, Urias is traditionally a starter but he eschewed the role of a ninth-inning closer. The former child prodigy was summoned to relieve in the eighth inning. He protected the lead by cruising through the Rays’ lineup for a 1-2-3 frame, retiring all seven batters he faced to slam the door in Game 6. Six relievers held the Rays to two singles in 7 1/3 scoreless innings while striking out 12.

The concluding image was fantastic, as Betts clobbered a solo blast off Rays reliever Pete Fairbanks to tack on an insurance run, adding to the Dodgers’ lead. Betts was the reason they were opportunistic, the reason they were more complete, able to do the little things, put numbers up on the board and get runs.

They did it. This team got to the World Series and finally won it. For the city of champions, in Southern California, baseball success has been a long time coming. Twice, in three years, the Dodgers reached the World Series only to miss out on baseball’s most coveted prize.

Los Angeles’ long wait is finally over.

Previous articleBuehler’s masterpiece etched his name in Dodgers history
Next articleTommy Lasorda was Hollywood’s finest

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here