2020 World Series champions: Los Angeles Dodgers’ journey to the championship


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Dodgers fans celebrate the World Series win in East Los Angeles on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

Blake Williams, Contributor

The count was 0-2 to Ray’s shortstop Willy Adames with two outs in the ninth inning. Julio Urias came set and threw a 97 mph fastball that Adames watched go by him. At that moment, Joe Buck finally said what Dodger fans have been waiting 32 years to hear again:

That’s strike three! Dodgers have won it all in 2020!

To finish an unprecedented season, the Los Angeles Dodgers won their seventh World Series Championship in franchise history — and first since 1988 — defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in six games on Tuesday night.

The championship is more than just something to celebrate for the Dodgers and their fans.

It is a feeling of relief after eight straight years of winning the National League West Division title, but seeing their previous seven seasons end in failure.

It marks a promise successfully kept by the Guggenheim Baseball Management group after purchasing and saving the team from Frank McCourt in 2012 — officially signaling the end to that nightmare.

It is vindication for the legacy of legendary pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who has done everything he could except for winning a championship up until this point.

It is also a memory to cherish for the younger generation of Dodger fans who have never witnessed a championship and were tired of seeing constant highlights from the 1980s.

This was the third time in the last four seasons the Dodgers reached the Fall Classic. In 2017, they faced the Houston Astros and lost in seven games. In 2019, news broke that the Astros players, coaching staff and the front office worked to conduct an illegal sign stealing operation throughout 2017 and into 2018, which resulted in the largest penalties in baseball history and had people calling for their title to be stripped.

In 2018, they faced the Boston Red Sox, who overpowered the Dodgers to win in five games. However, the Red Sox were also punished for cheating during the season, although to a much lesser extent than the Astros were.

After another disappointing end to the season in 2019, Dodgers’ President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman decided to make a blockbuster move in an attempt to finally push the Dodgers over the hump.

On Feb. 11, the Dodgers completed a trade which brought former American League MVP and likely future Hall of Fame outfielder Mookie Betts and starting pitcher David Price to Los Angeles for fan-favorite outfielder Alex Verdugo and two prospects: Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.

The trade sparked massive amounts of excitement and brought renewed hope that this could finally be the year. However, just two weeks before they were set to begin on March 26, the season was suspended due to the growing COVID-19 outbreak.

There were questions on if the season would even be played. The team owners and MLB Players Association struggled to agree on the terms for restarting the season due to safety and financial concerns.

One major thought loomed over Dodger fans: If there was no season, would they even get to see Betts, who was scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season, play a single game for the Dodgers?

After constant arguing, the MLBPA and owners finally agreed to a start date of July 23 with multiple changes. The length of the season was shortened from 162 to 60 games, the playoffs were expanded to 16 teams instead of the normal 10, roster sizes were increased from 26 to 28, the designated hitter spot was added to the National League, many COVID-19 safety protocols were added and perhaps the strangest of all, fans were prohibited from attending games.

The season was back on and fans rejoiced. However, excitement might have peaked on July 22, the day before Opening Day, when the Dodgers and Betts agreed on a contract extension worth $365 million that would keep him in Los Angeles for the next 12 seasons. Betts said the Dodgers made him feel like he was at home and he had one goal in mind.

“I’m here to win some rings and bring championships back to L.A.,” Betts said during a press conference. “That’s all I’m focused on.”

Despite the challenges of dealing with the major changes and a shortened Spring Training — rebranded as Summer Camp — the Dodgers dominated their way to the playoffs, capturing the sixth best win percentage in MLB history at 71.7% and only losing one series all season, which came against the Colorado Rockies.

When the playoffs started, the Dodgers had to face the Milwaukee Brewers in the new Wild Card round, which was a best-of-three series due to the expanded postseason. Despite concerns about the randomness involved in a short series and how it could affect great teams, the Dodgers made quick work of the Brewers, sweeping them to advance to the Division Series.

From that point on, MLB used a bubble for the playoffs as a COVID-19 prevention method. The Dodgers would play the rest of their playoffs at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, the home of the Texas Rangers.

In the best-of-five Division Series, the Dodgers faced their up-and-coming division rival San Diego Padres, who were dealing with injuries to their top two starting pitchers. Like the Brewers, the Padres didn’t pose much of a threat to the Dodgers as they were swept in three games.

In the National League Championship Series, the Dodgers faced the Atlanta Braves in a best-of-seven series. The Braves took games one and two before the Dodgers responded with a historic performance in game three, scoring 11 runs in the first inning, which set the record for the most runs scored in a single inning of a playoff game.

The Braves came back in game four to take a 3-1 series lead. It felt like the Dodgers season was going to come to another heartbreaking end. But as Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully has pointed out, nothing in the history of the Dodgers ever comes easy.

All the statistics were not in favor of the Dodgers. Historically, teams were 28-3 when taking a 2-0 series lead in the NLCS and only 14 out of 89 teams have come back from a 3-1 series deficit.

But this Dodgers team wasn’t going to see their season end in another heartbreaking series loss. Led by Betts and shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers won three straight games, becoming the fourth team in MLB history to overcome a 2-0 and 3-1 series deficit.

Seager was named the NLCS MVP after hitting five home runs and driving in 11 runs during the series, both of which set NLCS records. After the game, manager Dave Roberts, with teary eyes, proclaimed, “This year is our year! This is our year!”

The World Series began on Oct. 20. With Clayton Kershaw starting, who became the second pitcher in history with 200 postseason strikeouts, the Dodgers took game one. The Rays responded in game two with their ace Blake Snell on the mound to tie the series at 1-1.

In a crucial game three, the Dodgers went with the second of their two aces, Walker Buehler. As usual, Buehler was excellent, becoming the first pitcher in World Series history to record double-digit strikeouts in no more than six innings pitched. The Dodgers were now up 2-1 in the series.

Game four provided the drama the series was lacking up until that point. The Dodgers were one strike away from taking a commanding 3-1 series lead before Brett Phillips, widely regarded as one of the worst hitters on the Rays, singled to drive in the tying run. The play was capped off by a throwing mistake from Max Muncy and a missed catch from Will Smith to allow Randy Arozarena to score the winning run after tripping between third and home.

The loss was heartbreaking for fans. The Dodgers’ game four collapse was something that has been seen far too often and once again, felt like the beginning of their annual playoff failure. It also saw a recurring theme of questionable decisions made by Roberts, who was considered to be getting past his poor decision making up until that point, which left fans puzzled and angry.

In what felt like a must-win game five after the devastating ending to game four, the Dodgers sent Kershaw to the mound. He was looking to continue to silence the narrative surrounding his playoff struggles and cement his legacy as the best of all-time.

Kershaw delivered as he pitched 5.2 innings, allowing two runs allowed and six strikeouts, en route to a 4-2 win that put the Dodgers one win away from history.

The Dodgers turned to rookie pitcher Tony Gonsolin in game six with Buehler waiting for a potential game seven. Gonsolin allowed one run in 1.2 innings before being relieved. The bullpen was phenomenal for the entire game, shutting the door on any hopes the Rays offense had.

The Dodgers’ offense was silenced by Rays’ starter Blake Snell, who pitched 5.1 innings, allowing two hits and striking out nine. However, after allowing a single to Dodgers’ catcher Austin Barnes, Rays’ manager Kevin Cash made the controversial decision to take Snell out of the game in the sixth inning.

That was all the Dodgers needed as Betts promptly doubled off reliever Nick Anderson to put two runners in scoring position. They then tied the game on a wild pitch before Seager drove in Betts on an RBI fielder’s choice to give them a 2-1 lead.

With two outs in the seventh, Roberts called on pitcher Julio Urias for the final seven outs. Mookie Betts homered to give the Dodgers an insurance run in the top of the ninth and Urias closed the door in the bottom of the inning.

With that final out, every bad memory was erased and every fear was chased away. The wait is finally over. The Dodgers are the World Series Champions once again.

Through all the challenges that possibly made this the most difficult World Series to win in history, the Dodgers prevailed.

Corey Seager was named the World Series MVP by a unanimous vote.

This series also saw Justin Turner firmly grasp his place in the Dodgers’ history books. He now holds the franchise record for most games, hits, home runs, runs batted in and total bases in the postseason.

Turner has become the heart and soul of the team, originally signing with them on a minor league deal in 2014 after growing up a Dodger fan. However, in a shocking and heartbreaking announcement, MLB said Turner tested positive for COVID-19. He had to be removed from the game in the late innings and did not get to celebrate with the team.

The Dodgers finished the playoffs with 13 wins, which was two more than the usual 11 — or 12 for a Wild Card team — required to win the World Series due to the expanded playoffs, making it the most playoff wins all-time by a team in a single postseason.

For a franchise that has struggled to break free from the shadow of their 1988 championship, it’s almost as if it was scripted for them to finally win again this year. They watched as the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA Championship, which also happened in 1988, and there is a hint of irony that Scully’s most famous call from the 1988 World Series fits so perfectly to describe this season:

In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!