For the first time since 1988, the Los Angeles Dodgers are World Series champions. The Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the Fall Classic at Globe Life Field on Tuesday night (LA 3, TB 1) to clinch the series. It is the seventh title in franchise history (1955, 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, 1988, 2020).
Chances are Game 6 will be remembered not so much for what the Dodgers did, but what the Rays did. Specifically, manager Kevin Cash pulled his ace, Blake Snell, in the sixth inning even though he was cruising all night. Los Angeles immediately jumped on reliever Nick Anderson and took the lead.
Mookie Betts slugged an insurance solo homer in the eighth -- can you believe the Red Sox traded that guy? -- to put Game 6 to bed. Julio Urias recorded the final seven outs to close out the win and the World Series.
Snell was dominant
Blake Snell was in Cy Young form Tuesday night. The 2018 AL Cy Young winner overwhelmed the Dodgers across 5 1/3 innings, holding them to two hits and no walks while striking out nine. Between Game 2 and Game 6, Snell struck out 18 of the 38 batters he faced in the World Series, or 47.4 percent. Sources confirm that is good.
Check out the nine strikeouts. This is a masterclass:
Elevated fastballs above the zone and snapdragon breaking balls down. The 16 misses came on 34 swings, so Snell posted an insane 47.1 percent swing-and-miss rate. He became the first pitcher to strike out nine batters through the first four innings of a World Series since Sandy Koufax in Game 1 of the 1963 Fall Classic.
Snell did not allow a ball to be hit out of the infield until Will Smith's fly out to begin the fifth inning and the nine balls in play he allowed had an average exit velocity of 78.4 mph. A.J. Pollock lined out to third in the third, otherwise Snell allowed no hard contact at all. He was dominant.
The quick hook backfired
The Rays have shown, time and time again, they will stick to their plan no matter what, and the Game 6 plan called for Snell to go through the lineup two times and no more. Despite his dominance, manager Kevin Cash yanked Snell after No. 9 Austin Barnes singled in the sixth. He threw 73 pitches.
Blake, how do you feel about the quick hook?
Yup. Snell is a Cy Young winner and he's spent his entire life working up to that moment, and he was delivering in spectacular fashion. Then his manager pulled him at 73 pitches because of the third time through the order penalty, which is a real thing. Snell's career splits:
- First time through lineup: .592 OPS
- Second time through lineup: .711 OPS
- Third time through lineup: .742 OPS
I understand the quick hook. I do. But gosh, Snell was throwing the snot out of the ball. Look at it this way: would Mookie Betts, Corey Seager and Justin Turner rather face Blake Snell or Nick Anderson? Those three went 0 for 6 with six strikeouts against Snell in Game 6. I'm guessing they were happy to see Anderson.
Anderson's postseason struggles of course continued in Game 6. Snell came out, Anderson came in, and six pitches later Tampa's 1-0 lead was a 2-1 deficit. Betts doubled, Anderson gifted the Dodgers a run on a wild pitch, then Betts scored on Seager's grounder to first. Six pitches is all it took for the move to backfire.
With that, Anderson became the first pitcher in baseball history to allow a run in seven consecutive postseason appearances. He finished his postseason with nine runs allowed in 14 2/3 innings after allowing seven runs in 37 2/3 regular season innings with the Dodgers the last two years.
Given the outcome, it's easy to bash analytics for the decision to pull Snell, but the Rays (and Dodgers!) relied heavily on analytics to get them to the World Series in the first place. I mean, look:
Pulling Snell was not an analytics mistake. It was a managerial mistake. Cash didn't consider what was happening right in front of him, and that was not only the Dodgers looking helpless against Snell, but Anderson not being himself this October. More faith in the ace was warranted. Pulling Snell was Cash's "leave Zack Britton in the bullpen" moment.
Arozarena struck again
For the fifth straight game, runs were scored in the top of first inning. The Rays did it in Game 2, the Dodgers did it in Games 3-5, and Randy Arozarena did the honors in Game 6. Handsome Randy took Tony Gonsolin out to the opposite field a quick 1-0 lead and his 10th home run of the postseason. To the action footage:
Not a terrible pitch! It wasn't a good pitch, it was a slider that hung up, but it wasn't terrible and it wasn't in the strike zone. According to Inside Edge, Arozarena had five hits on pitches out of the strike zone this postseason. He had just one during the regular season. Also, that was only the third of his 10 postseason homers on a non-fastball.
Arozarena's 10 homers extended his single-postseason record and he joins Charlie Keller (1939 Yankees) as the only rookies to hit three homers in the World Series. There were 21 home runs in this World Series in general. That's tied for the third most all-time:
- Dodgers vs. Astros in 2017: 25 homers (7 games)
- Nationals vs. Astros in 2019: 22 homers (7 games)
- Angels vs. Giants in 2002: 21 homers (7 games)
- Dodgers vs. Rays in 2020: 21 homers (6 games)
The Rays badly needed to avoid falling behind early again in Game 6 and they did that. The first inning also encapsulated their postseason offense to date though: Arozarena did all the work. Tampa put runners on first and second with one out after the homer but failed to tack on.
The Los Angeles bullpen was great
Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin mustered only five outs in Game 6 but the occasionally embattled bullpen picked him up in a huge way. Six relievers held the Rays to two hits in 7 1/3 scoreless innings. They struck out 12. Julio Urias retired the final seven batters to close out the game.
The single biggest out of the game came in the second inning. The Rays had two runners on with two outs for Arozarena, and Dylan Floro came out of the bullpen to strike him out on three pitches. All changeups too. It was a huge out to keep the Rays close. Tampa had two baserunners the rest of the game.
There were a lot of strikeouts
A lot of strikeouts. A LOT. The Rays and Dodgers combined to strike out 27 batters in Game 6, the most ever in a nine-inning World Series Game. The previous record was 25 strikeouts done several times, most recently in Game 3 of the 2000 World Series. The record for strikeouts in a World Series game of any length is 34 in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series. That, of course, was the 18-inning game. More than half the outs in Game 6 were strikeouts. Pretty crazy.
Turner was removed with a positive COVID-19 test
Justin Turner was removed in the eighth inning of Game 6, and considering he is among the Dodgers' best hitters and the game was close, an injury seemed like the logical explanation. He battled hamstring problems much of the season. The reality was much worse: Turner tested positive for COVID-19. He was not allowed to celebrate with his teammates after the game.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said Turner's test results arrived during the game, which is why he was not pulled earlier. MLB had not had a positive test in weeks, but when you run as many tests as the league has, it's only a matter of time until you run into a false positive. Hopefully that's what happened with Turner.
The Dodgers are World Series champs
The drought is over and Clayton Kershaw's legacy is complete, and that is pretty cool.