The Los Angeles Dodgers brought a curtain down on the shortest and strangest season of Major League Baseball — and in the process on Tuesday night, ended a three-decade-long franchise curse.
Los Angeles rallied to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-1, in Arlington, Texas, to end the World Series in six games and hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy for the first time since 1988.
Tampa Bay led, 1-0, going into the bottom of the sixth behind dominant starting pitcher Blake Snell. After Snell surrendered a one-out single, Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled Snell in hopes that his stable of hard-throwing relief pitchers would protect the lead.
Instead, Dodgers star Mookie Betts greeted reliever Nick Anderson with a momentum-shifting double that sparked a two-run rally that put Los Angeles on top for good. Betts homered in the eighth inning to add a key insurance run.
The Dodgers celebrated their title, not in St. Petersburg or Los Angeles, but in the Dallas suburbs and on the diamond of Globe Life Field, brand new home of the Texas Rangers who have yet to play a game there.
This was the first World Series completely contested on a neutral field as MLB took a page out of the NHL and NBA playbooks, and formed loose bubbles to limit travel and possible exposure to the coronavirus that’s raging across America.
The pandemic, which has killed more than 227,000 Americans, forced MLB to shut down spring training in March, and no games were played until July 23.
After months of acrimonious labor negotiations, MLB returned with a miniature 60-game regular season, far short of the 162 games usually played, with no fans and under odd rules.
With Tuesday night’s win, the Brooklyn-born Dodgers have seven World Series titles, the sixth most in baseball. They trail only the New York/San Francisco Giants with eight, the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia/Oakland A’s who both have nine, the St. Louis Cardinals with 11 and the New York Yankees with their 27 world titles.
And in a historical quirk, Los Angeles now owns World Series titles from MLB’s two shortest seasons.
The Dodgers won the 1981 world championship, following a regular season that lost about a third of all games to a players’ strike. MLB divided the 1981 campaign into two halves, assigning playoff spots to half-season division winners.
That unconventional format led to the Cincinnati Reds, with baseball’s best 61.1-percent victory rate, being left out of the playoffs. The St. Louis Cardinals, who won 57.8 percent of their games and were the second best team in the N.L., also fell through the playoff cracks.