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 on Tuesday night (LA 3, TB 1) to clinch their first title since the series that featured Kirk Gibson's iconic home run. The drought is over and Clayton Kershaw's legacy is complete.
Los Angeles recovered from a gut-wrenching walk-off loss in Game 4 to limit the Rays to three runs total in Games 5 and 6. Kershaw bent but did not break in Game 5 but starter Tony Gonsolin was ineffective in Game 6. He recorded only five outs. In both games, the embattled Dodgers bullpen stepped up in a big way and shut Tampa Bay down.
Check out the bullpen's performance the last two games:
From nearly a run an inning in Games 1-4 to nothing in Games 5 and 6. Blake Treinen stepped in for closer Kenley Jansen to close out Game 5 after Jansen's blown save in Game 4, then Julio Urias retired all seven batters he faced to nail down Game 6. Manager Dave Roberts had to call an audible in the late innings and it worked.
The bullpen was spectacular in Game 6. After Gonsolin's short start six relievers held the Rays to two singles in 7 1/3 scoreless innings while striking out 12. The biggest out came in the second inning, when Dylan Floro fanned the molten hot Randy Arozarena with two on and two outs. He did it on three pitches too, all changeups. Floro didn't allow the game to get away.
The Dodgers received a 2.74 ERA from their bullpen during the regular season, second best in baseball, but there was still a certain uneasiness clouding the group in the postseason. Perhaps that was ghosts of postseason bullpens past, or maybe it was the, you know, 14 runs they allowed in 17 2/3 innings in Game 1-4. Their bullpen always seems to be a question in October.
That was again the case in Games 1-4 but not so much in Games 5-6. Victor Gonzalez was the only reliever to pitch in both games, so it's not like Roberts simply rode a hot hand or two. Eight relievers combined for those 10 2/3 scoreless innings. It was a total team effort and the sort of mid-series turnaround you dream about, but rarely happens.
The Dodgers are the World Series champs because Kershaw and Walker Buehler were nails, because Corey Seager and Justin Turner played like MVPs, because Mookie Betts did everything, and also because the bullpen was dynamite in the final two games. They were two close games that could've easily gone sideways. Instead, the Dodgers are celebrating a title.