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Dodgers defeat the Tampa Bay Rays to win first World Series title since 1988

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The Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game 6 of the World Series to win their first championship since 1988.

All year long, from February when they reported for spring training and the coronavirus outbreak was a concept beyond imagination until Tuesday night, the Dodgers believed this was the year. It became an unprecedented year with unparalleled circumstances, but this was the year those hovering ghosts — produced by annual anguish the last seven years — would vanish. This was the year they would add another round of World Series highlights to the reels that grow grainier each passing autumn. This was the year and this was the team to finally end a championship drought going on 32 years.

It happened Tuesday night inside Globe Life Field, a cavernous, new building 1,400 miles away from their home, in front of 11,437 people after a 60-game regular season and expanded postseason that delivered a year unlike any other. It happened when Julio Urías struck out Willy Adames looking to end Game 6 of the World Series and spark a celebration millions of children, teenagers and adult Dodgers fans — now mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles — had never experienced.

It finally happened. The Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-1, to win the series, four games to two, and claim their first World Series championship since 1988, the franchise’s seventh title and sixth since moving to Los Angeles.

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner received word that he’d tested positive for the coronavirus during Game 6 of the World Series and was removed.

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“I’ve been saying ‘World Series champs’ in my head over and over again,” said Clayton Kershaw, the central figure in the Dodgers’ heartbreak since they won their first of eight straight division titles in 2013. “I can’t put it into words yet. I’m just so, so thankful to be a part of this group of guys, and so very thankful that we get to be on the team that is bringing back a World Series to Dodger fans after 32 years. They’ve waited for a long time.”

It didn’t happen according to the script. Tony Gonsolin, the rookie right-hander tasked to start the biggest game of his life, allowed one run in just 1-2/3 innings. But six relievers logged 7-1/3 scoreless innings to reach the end while the offense produced just enough after Rays manager Kevin Cash chose to pull ace pitcher Blake Snell in the sixth inning despite his dominance.

The decision backfired. The Dodgers immediately scored two runs to take the lead and added a third on Mookie Betts’ home run in the eighth inning. It was the only offense they needed to hoist the piece of metal they’ve coveted in the decades since Kirk Gibson hobbled around the bases.

Shortstop Corey Seager, the National League Championship Series most valuable player, was named World Series MVP after going eight for 20 with two home runs and five runs batted in. Seager finished the postseason with eight home runs, tied for second most in a single postseason.

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By ending the season Tuesday, the Dodgers might have saved Major League Baseball’s bubble, created to avoid allowing the coronavirus to infect teams, from bursting before naming a champion.

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, one of the club’s mainstays, was removed from the game before the start of the eighth inning, with his team six outs from the championship. A reason wasn’t given but it was later revealed that MLB demanded Turner be removed after it learned he tested positive for COVID-19.

Photos from the Dodgers’ World Series championship win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, on Oct. 27, 2020.

Turner wasn’t on the field when Commissioner Rob Manfred, months removed from hearing the Dodgers emphatically condemn his handling of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, presented the trophy to the team that the Astros defeated for their 2017 championship. But Turner later emerged for the celebration on the field. He held the trophy. He gave hugs and went around shaking hands. He sat in the front row, without a mask, for the team photo.

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Boos rained on Manfred when he was announced. They grew so loud he paused before continuing his presentation. The Dodgers’ principal owner, Mark Walter, spoke first, reading a speech. Then president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman stepped to the microphone.

“We’re bringing the trophy home,” Friedman said. “It’s been too long.”

Manager Dave Roberts was next. He thanked the players on the field, the veterans one by one, and others who weren’t there to experience the thrill. “This is our year,” he said to roars.

The hike to the summit began in February when Betts and David Price, acquired from the Boston Red Sox in a trade, were presented in a press conference at Dodger Stadium. The next day pitchers and catchers reported for spring training where the initial conversation centered on the Astros’ cheating scandal.

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Highlights from the Dodgers World Series title victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6.

A week later, after the subject died down, Betts addressed his new team with a five-minute clubhouse speech the morning of its second day of full-squad workouts. He stressed sweating the details. His message resonated and accountability became a theme.

“It set the tone,” Roberts said.

Then, on March 12, MLB shut down operations. For nearly four months, the Dodgers worried that the best roster they’d assembled in recent memory wouldn’t have the chance to win a championship. They got their chance and reconvened in July. Price, penned as the team’s No. 3 starter, opted out before summer camp, but the Dodgers stampeded through the clubs west of the Mississippi on their schedule anyway.

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They finished with the highest win percentage by any team since 1954 to win their eighth consecutive division title. Several Dodgers said this was the best team they had played on. They finally were ready to conquer October.

The Dodgers have faced legitimacy questions since the season was delayed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A World Series title didn’t come easy, they say.

The stage was set for them, after sweeping two rounds and going to seven games in the NLCS, to make their mark against the best team in the American League.

Gonsolin threw Tuesday night’s first pitch at 7:09 local time after Vin Scully informed the masses it was “time for Dodger baseball” on the big screen. The right-hander’s night ended early.

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Randy Arozarena, the scalding hot slugger fueling the Rays’ offense, flicked a slider off the plate outside the other way for a solo home run in the first inning. It was Arozarena’s 10th home run of the playoffs — two more than any other player hit in a single postseason.

Gonsolin was pulled with two out and two on in the second inning and Arozarena on deck. Dylan Floro entered with a specific plan in mind: Arozarena’s weakness is the changeup and Floro throws a good one. The right-hander stuck to the blueprint. He struck out Arozarena with three changeups and escaped.

Snell wasn’t dealing with any kind of trouble. The left-hander allowed one baserunner through five innings. He compiled nine strikeouts without a walk on 69 pitches. He was utterly dominant. Then he gave up a single to Austin Barnes, the Dodgers’ No. 9 hitter, and Cash emerged from the third-base dugout.

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Snell knew what was coming. The Rays reached the World Series by firmly sticking to the numbers to maximize matchups and optimize run prevention. And the numbers say getting through a lineup a third time is difficult for a pitcher. So Cash emerged to pull Snell despite the fact that he was overpowering a loaded lineup.

Cash made his decision with the top of the Dodgers’ lineup due up. Betts, Seager, and Turner are a dangerous trio, but they were 0 for 6 with six strikeouts against Snell. Danger didn’t appear imminent. Cash didn’t care and Snell was angry. He shouted expletives when he saw his manager walking his way. He gave Cash the ball and left the field heated. The Dodgers were handed a gift.

“It was kind of a sigh relief,” Betts said. “He was rolling.”

Right-hander Nick Anderson replaced Snell even though Betts batted just .200 against left-handers during the regular season and had the unusual struggles continue through the playoffs. Betts cracked a 95-mph fastball down the left-field line for a double.

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Barnes then scored on a wild pitch. Betts followed him when Seager hit a groundball to first. The Rays’ infield was drawn in, but Betts, as he did in Game 1, dashed home on contact and beat the throw with a headfirst slide.

The Dodgers, dormant minutes earlier, were alive and well, energized by Cash’s decision to pull his best pitcher. Betts gave them a little more breathing room when he blasted a leadoff home run off Pete Fairbanks in the eighth inning. Betts screamed toward the roof as he rounded first base and teammates spilled out of the dugout. The Dodgers felt it coming.

Urías, once a teenage phenom, took it from there. He jogged to the mound in the ninth inning to resounding cheers to finish the job.

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“We won a World Series!” Kershaw said. “I can’t believe it. It just feels good to say. I’m gonna keep saying it a few more times.”


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