Mookie Betts, Dodgers Win 1st World Series Since 1988 with Game 6 Win vs. Rays

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorOctober 28, 2020

CORRECTS TO SIXTH INNING, INSTEAD OF FIFTH - Los Angeles Dodgers' Mookie Betts scores past Tampa Bay Rays catcher Mike Zunino during the sixth inning in Game 6 of the baseball World Series Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series for the first time since 1988 after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game 6 of the Fall Classic on Tuesday at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts scored the go-ahead run in the sixth after sliding home safely following a Corey Seager groundout to first.

He then got L.A. an insurance run with an eighth-inning homer:

Tampa Bay got on the board after Randy Arozarena smacked an opposite-field solo shot in the first:

However, the Rays had only two hits after the second inning. The Dodgers bullpen combined for 7.1 scoreless innings and struck out 12.

Los Angeles defeated Tampa Bay 4-2 in the best-of-seven matchup to win its seventh World Series title.

        

Notable Performances

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Rays SP Blake Snell: 5.1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 9 K (No Decision)

Rays LF Randy Arozarena: 2-for-4, R, RBI, HR

Dodgers Bullpen: 7.1 IP, 2 H, 12 K

Dodgers RF Mookie Betts: 2-for-4, 2 R, RBI, 2B, HR

         

Betts, Bullpen Propel Dodgers to World Series Win

The Dodgers were the deserving champions after a 43-17 regular season, postseason sweeps over the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres and hard-fought series wins over the Atlanta Braves and Rays.

L.A.'s success stemmed from its tremendous hitting and pitching depth. New heroes emerged during every postseason win, whether it was Clayton Kershaw striking out 13 against Milwaukee, Will Smith's five-hit game versus San Diego, Cody Bellinger's NLCS-winning homer against Atlanta or Walker Buehler striking out 10 against Tampa. And throughout the entire playoffs, World Series MVP Corey Seager smashed the baseball into orbit.

Betts and the Dodgers' bullpen took their turns in Game 6.

Betts has been tremendous throughout the playoffs, whether it was at the dish, on the basepaths or in the field. Although he had only three home runs throughout the postseason, he hit .429 in the Wild Card Series and .333 in the Divisional Series. He flashed the leather time and again in Atlanta and stole four bases during the World Series.

On Tuesday, Betts delivered the big hits. He smashed a liner past third base for a clutch double to put runners on second and third with one out in the sixth and his team down 1-0.

After a wild pitch scored one run and put Betts at third, the 2018 American League MVP sprinted for home when Seager hit a grounder to first. Betts then beat Ji-Man Choi's throw to catcher Mike Zunino for his team's second run.

Betts added the final blow with his eighth-inning homer, and Julio Urias closed out the Rays in a 1-2-3 ninth.

ESPN Stats & Info noted Betts made some history, as he has now won World Series in both leagues after doing so with the Boston Red Sox in 2018:

Michael J. Duarte of NBC Los Angeles also appropriately described Betts' impact:

Betts took care of business at the plate, and the bullpen took care of the rest.

Tony Gonsolin got the start and allowed a first-inning home run to Randy Arozarena, who did his best Vladimir Guerrero impersonation by hitting a ball out of the strike zone into the outfield seats. However, Gonsolin survived the rest of his 1.2-inning outing before tossing it to the Dodgers' relievers.

L.A. shut the door from there. Six Dodger pitchers combined for 7.1 scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and striking out 12. The Rays went down in order in the third, fourth, sixth, eighth and ninth innings.

Arozarena had a fifth-inning single with two outs, but Austin Meadows grounded out to second to end the threat. Zunino also had a two-out single two innings later, but he proved to be the Rays' final baserunner of the season.

Dylan Floro, Alex Wood, Pedro Baez, Victor Gonzalez, Brusdar Graterol and Urias did the bullpen work for L.A. Urias shut the door on Tampa with 2.1 scoreless and hitless frames with four strikeouts.

The Dodgers' pitching strategy was far different in 2020 than in 1988, when manager Tommy Lasorda rode ace Orel Hershiser as much as he could to a World Series title. Hershiser authored two complete-game wins, including the capper in Game 5 against the Oakland Athletics.

The game is far different 32 years later, but the result is the same: The Dodgers are World Series champions.

             

Kevin Cash's Quick Hook Backfires

Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell faced each batter in the Dodgers' order twice. He threw 5.1 innings, allowing only two baserunners off two singles while striking out nine.

It took Snell only 73 pitches to get through the batting order twice, and he looked like he could potentially pitch through the seventh or eighth inning if needed. But after he allowed a one-out single to Austin Barnes, Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled him for Nick Anderson, who had allowed an earned run in each of his last six postseason appearances.

Snell, meanwhile, had struck out the top third of the Dodgers order all six times.

After the change, Betts immediately hit a double, Anderson threw a wild pitch that scored Barnes and Seager hit a ground ball to first that plated Betts after Choi's throw to the plate did not get there in time.

The Rays eventually wiggled out of the inning without any more damage, but the Dodgers never looked back en route to their World Series victory.

Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Chris Bassitt questioned the rationale behind the decision to pull Snell:

Hitters typically fare best against pitchers they face a third time through the order. In 2016, the Associated Press noted hitters' slash lines rose from .247/.312/.390 the first time they faced a pitcher in a game to .261/.319/.416 the second time and .270/.330/.440 the third time.

Cash, who began managing the Rays in 2015, was a primary subject of that AP story. The Rays have been known for quick hooks for much of the decade, and he provided insight on that front nearly five years ago.

"Last year, we took an approach that was, I won't say criticized, but scrutinized a little bit," Cash said. "It worked out in our favor quite a bit. When it didn't work out, we had to answer some questions."

Cash had to answer some questions in the present day and gave the following reasons:

Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier did not hide his displeasure with the move:

 

And Snell expressed belief in himself to get the job done: 

The third-time numbers don't lie, but the issue is that Snell looked like he would be an exception to the rule based on how he cruised through 5.1 innings.

Fox Sports color commentator John Smoltz (h/t ESPN's Kevin Seifert) questioned the decision in light of a longer and condensed postseason that has tired out bullpens.

The Rays have played 18 games since Oct. 5, and the Rays bullpen (everyone aside from Snell and fellow starters Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow and Ryan Yarbrough) tossed 81 innings during that span. 

Anderson in particularly might have been on his last legs. He was lights-out in the regular season, finishing with a 0.55 ERA and striking out 26 batters in 16.1 innings.

That was not the case in the playoffs, as he allowed eight earned runs in 7.2 innings over his seven final appearances. He also found himself on the wrong side of history:

He pitched more than one full inning on 10 different occasions during the playoffs after doing so only once in the regular season, and that was on July 25.

The Rays made an incredible run to the World Series following a regular season in which they won twice as many games as they lost. They crushed the Toronto Blue Jays and held off the tough New York Yankees and defending AL champion Houston Astros to get to the World Series, and they took L.A. to six games.

Cash and Anderson played key roles in that run, and one game shouldn't erase how well they did for much of the season. Additionally, there's no guarantee that the Rays would have won had Snell stayed in. Perhaps he would have given up runs, or maybe the bullpen would have later. Plus, the Tampa offense never scored afterward, leaving the team's pitching and defense with little wiggle room.

Still, the quick removal of Snell is the predominant storyline of the series-deciding game, leading everyone to play the "What if?" game had the ball stayed in his hands.