The short, sweet, unpredictable and unprecedented 2020 MLB season is over. The Los Angeles Dodgers, unequivocally baseball’s best bunch this year, are champions.
In the cold months ahead, there will be plenty of time to bemoan the absence of baseball. Let’s not do that just yet.
Instead, let’s look at the most memorable moments from a riveting World Series between the Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays. Here are five that stand out:
When Rays manager Kevin Cash emerged from his dugout in the sixth inning on Tuesday, Blake Snell dropped an F-bomb. In a game Snell was leading (and largely controlling), Cash had come to remove his ace — a move that was immediately questioned around the baseball world and surely will be for some time.
Game 6, and ultimately the series, turned in the moments that followed.
Nick Anderson entered in relief, promptly allowing a double to Mookie Betts to put the go-ahead run in scoring position. In the next at-bat, Anderson spiked a curveball that allowed Austin Barnes to score and Betts to advance to third. One pitch later, Corey Seager brought Betts home on a fielder’s choice to secure the lead.
Cash’s call to yank Snell was largely based on the fact that the top of the order (Betts, Seager and Justin Turner) was coming up for a third time. The third trip through an order typically spells bad news for pitchers, but in its first two go-rounds, the Dodgers’ top trio was 0-for-6 with six strikeouts.
Further complicating matters is the fact that Cash removed Snell (a lefty) for Nick Anderson (a righty) to face Betts, who slugged .218 versus lefties this year (fifth-lowest among qualified hitters) and .677 versus righties (second-highest). Anderson had also allowed at least one earned run in each of his six previous outings.
Cash called it a “gut-wrenching decision” after the game, and that almost seems like an understatement.
Seager’s MVP moment
Admittedly, Corey Seager’s World Series MVP resume was built over the entire series. But let’s not overlook the fact he brought in the championship-clinching run, too.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 28, 2020
In the aforementioned meltdown of a sixth inning for the Rays, Seager managed to pull a curveball on the outer-third of the plate to first base, which allowed the speedy Betts to run on contact and score the eventual winning run.
Seager has had flashier swings this series, no doubt, but sometimes a good ol’ fashioned ball in play is enough to get the job done.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 28, 2020
As a whole, Seager was truly the MVP of the Dodgers’ post-season run. Not only did he earn NLCS MVP honours, but the 26-year-old shortstop led the team throughout with a blistering 1.171 OPS in 18 games, bashing eight home runs and notching 20 RBIs along the way.
Not to get ahead of ourselves, but Seager is on track to be part of a loaded free-agent class next winter. What he accomplished this October is sure to pay dividends.
Kershaw stops steal attempt
Clayton Kershaw was in a groove and taking his time when something chaotic happened. But he didn’t panic.
In the fourth inning of Game 5, holding a 3-2 lead with two outs and runners on the corners, Kershaw started his motion from the stretch by slowly raising his arms skyward. Behind him, Manuel Margot took off down the third-base line on a rare attempt to steal home.
Kershaw took his left foot off the rubber and fired home in time to nab Margot, ending the threat and the inning. It was also the last whiff of drama for Kershaw, who retired the final five batters of his start.
As the victor of Game 5, Kershaw pushed his 2020 playoff stats to a 4-1 record, 2.93 ERA and .211 opponent batting average. Not bad for a guy whose post-season woes have been well-documented through the years.
Game 4’s insane ending
Words can’t really do this one justice, so let’s just make sure everyone’s memory is jogged on this first:
Trailing 7-6 with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth in Game 4, the Rays sent Brett Phillips to the plate for just his third at-bat of the post-season. He singled and the Rays won, but it’s a bit more complex than that.
Phillips’ single to centre was booted by Chris Taylor, which enticed Randy Arozarena to try to score from first base. Taylor’s throw home was cut off by Max Muncy — which catcher Will Smith did not anticipate — and Muncy’s relay throw got by Smith as he tried to catch the ball and perform a swipe tag in one smooth motion.
Arozarena, meanwhile, had come barreling around third so hard he somersaulted on the base path. He was momentarily frozen on the chalk, before scoring easily as the ball rolled to the backstop.
The image of an awestruck Arozarena smiling and smacking home plate is pure art.
Randy rewrites the record books
Goofy Game 4 ending aside, let us not forget about what Randy Arozarena did this month.
On Tuesday, the 25-year-old rookie smacked his 10th home run of the post-season, building upon a single-season record he already owned. He also set a record for most hits in a post-season (29), as part of his 1.273 OPS compiled over 20 games.
Arozarena’s thunderous arrival into baseball stardom is understandably overshadowed, given that the Rays came up short. But his playoff performance was one that transcends 2020, title or not.
And it’s fun to think about what he and others can do to make next year’s post-season even more memorable.