Four more wins. That's it. That's all it takes for the Los Angeles Dodgers to finally put all these years of coming up short behind them and win a World Series for the first time since 1988. Of course, those four victories will be anything but a breeze with the Tampa Bay Rays itching for that same championship taste.
Los Angeles was tabbed as the favorites heading into this postseason. While the Brewers and Padres put up little fight, the Braves could practically see the finish line before the Dodgers came back from a 3-1 deficit to take their third NL Pennant in four years.
As the final hours wind down before this annual Fall Classic begins, we take a peep at how the sluggers from Chavez Ravine match up with the AL champion Rays. It's no secret: it's championship or bust for the Dodgers. The pressure for this group to finally take the throne is at an all-time high.
Here are five reasons why the Dodgers can, at last, hoist the Commissioner's Trophy for the City of Angels.
- They haven't lost three straight all season
Remarkably, the Dodgers have not lost three consecutive games since August of 2019. Sure, the 2020 regular season was modified to 60 games and their opponents wound up posing little threat. Nonetheless, no victory is easy when it comes to the big leagues — especially in the playoffs.
The fact that they haven't endured a losing streak is significant considering they will be playing in a best-of-seven series. While the Rays have a bullpen full of flamethrowers, the Dodgers have a mix of explosive starters they can use: Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin, Julio Urias, and Dustin May.
If they never lose three straight games, the odds of this series being a sweep is low. A lengthier series favors a team like the Dodgers that have numerous arms capable of pitching deep into ballgames.
2. Best offense in the league
Los Angeles possesses some of the most depth in the league — their platoon/reserve players would likely start on a handful of other clubs. They led MLB in total runs scored for yet another season. Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger, two players who failed to get anything going during the regular season, seemed to find their way at the dish against Atlanta's pitching in the NLCS. And Corey Seager might be the hottest hitter in the league right now alongside Randy Arozarena.
Tampa Bay, on the other hand, has really been a one-man wrecking crew with Arozarena along with some clutch hitting from an array of different hitters. Brandon Lowe is struggling. Austin Meadows has looked better of late but has yet to regain his 2019 All-Star form.
The Dodgers' offense is a sure thing, the Rays … not so much.
3. They may not need Kershaw or Kenley
Would having their two franchise pitchers reminiscing their younger selves massively improve their chances? Of course, it would. But, the Atlanta Braves came in with the second-most runs scored in baseball. The Dodgers got the best of them despite Kershaw throwing just five innings and giving up four earned runs. They also opted to stick with Julio Urias to close out Game 7 despite having Jansen warming up in the bullpen. Heck, I suggested putting the closer label on Urias a year ago for the 2019 playoffs.
With Kershaw announced as the Game 1 starter, he will have his chance to change the narrative of his infamous postseason resume. However, even if the playoff Kershaw curse reigns again, L.A. has a variety of alternative options.
4. An abundance of World Series experience
17 different Dodger players have played in a World Series game. As for the Rays, Charlie Morton is their only player who has ever stepped foot on this stage.
Pressure has mounted on the Dodgers after years of falling short of the Promise Land. They've played in Game 7's. They've played in elimination games. They've come back from large deficits. They've seen and experienced it all — all except actually hoisting that World Series trophy.
5. Home-field advantage … in Texas?
Since Opening Day, the luxury of having a home crowd advantage has vacated each and every club. The MLB playoff bubble format has relegated teams to playing at a neutral site — one without fans with the exception of the NLCS.
The state of Texas has announced it will allow up to 50 percent capacity for sporting events, including ones at Globe Life Field. Major League Baseball made roughly 11,500 tickets available for purchase or about 28 percent capacity. To be frank, the Rays simply don't have the fan firepower to match the Dodgers fan volume. The Dodgers franchise is a national brand with a long, rich history. Whereas, the Rays were an expansion team who play in a small market, at least by MLB standards.
I happened to be at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport this last week and saw a flurry of Dodger blue with a sparse amount of Braves red and blue. Dodger fans are everywhere and travel well. Despite the games being played more than 1,500 miles away, expect a sea of Dodger blue providing a home crowd advantage throughout the series.