Dodgers can win elusive World Series title if Roberts pulls right strings

Arash Madani previews Game 6 of the World Series, where the Los Angeles Dodgers have a chance to capture their first title since 1988, and the Tampa Bay Rays try to force Game 7.

After suffering a heartbreaking defeat in the most bizarre fashion imaginable in Game 4, the Los Angeles Dodgers rebounded in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series.

Now the Dodgers are just one victory away from slaying their past playoff demons and finally capturing that elusive title.

But the Rays aren't just going to roll over and hand them the crown. Tampa Bay has its ace on the mound in Blake Snell and manager Kevin Cash hinted at some lineup changes to help spark the offence.

Will the Dodgers close it out or will the Rays force a Game 7? Tune in to Sportsnet or SN Now at 8 p.m. ET to find out. In the meantime, here's what to watch for prior to first pitch.

Roberts gets another chance to pull the right strings

The last time Tony Gonsolin started in this series, he lasted just 1.1 innings in what ended up as a bullpen day for the Dodgers in Game 2.

Manager Dave Roberts claims things will be different in Game 6, declaring Gonsolin a "starter" as opposed to an "opener." Roberts did couch it a little, though.

"I’m going to watch him pitch and then we’ll see what we do after that," Roberts told reporters Monday. "… I want to go as long as he possibly can, that’d be great."

Considering Roberts pulled Clayton Kershaw after 85 pitches in Game 5 when he appeared to be cruising, it's hard to imagine the 25-year-old Gonsolin having a long leash. The bullpen is fully rested after Monday's off day, giving Roberts his full complement of weapons.

Game 2 didn't go so well for Roberts as he watched a number of decisions backfire en route to a 6-4 Rays victory. Now the ever-unconventional manager has another chance to flex his strategic muscles and deliver the franchise's first title since 1988.

Snell must be sharp from the jump

Los Angeles was aggressive from the opening pitch over the weekend, striking for at least one first-inning run in each of the past three games. It will be crucial for Snell to come out of the gate and put a zero on the board to prevent his opponents from building any quick momentum.

Snell was able to limit the Dodgers to two runs over 4.2 innings in Game 2 while striking out nine, but those numbers don't tell the full story. The left-hander walked four batters and gave up plenty of hard contact. Five of the seven balls put in play against him came off Dodger bats at 95 m.p.h. or harder.

The 2018 Cy Young winner will need to be extra careful this time around, as it'll be the Dodgers' second look at him in six days.

MVP Watch

If the Dodgers do indeed take care of business in Game 6, three players stand out for World Series MVP honours, each with a different storyline attached.

The rejuvenated young star: Corey Seager

It wasn't too long ago that Seager was considered one of the game's rising superstars. His 2018 season was limited to just 26 games due to Tommy John surgery but his 2020 campaign has put him back in the mix with baseball's elite.

His regular season was phenomenal — he posted a .943 OPS — and he's been even better in the playoffs. After winning NLCS MVP, he's still raking in the World Series with a .471/.609/.842 slash line. If not for the bizarre Rays win in Game 4, Seager would likely have already earned his second MVP trophy of the post-season. The race is Seager's to lose at this point.

The franchise icon: Justin Turner

Turner has set a number of franchise records during this playoff run and stands as the Dodgers' post-season leader in games played, hits, walks, RBIs and home runs. He's been a hit machine during this World Series, as evidenced by his .364/.391/.818 batting line.

An 0-for-4 Game 6 from Seager and another big performance from Turner could easily tip the scales in the third baseman's favour. He's a free agent at the end of the year and winning World Series MVP in what could be his final game in a Dodger uniform would be extremely poetic.

The late-bloomer who became a hero: Max Muncy

Muncy was released by the Oakland Athletics at the end of spring training in 2017, prompting the Dodgers to sign him as a minor-league free agent. He's become a star at the MLB level since his promotion in 2018 and finds himself entrenched in the heart of one of baseball's best lineups.

Like Seager and Turner, Muncy has been on fire during the World Series, slashing .389/.522/.611. If he provides a clutch hit or two in Game 6 to clinch the title, it would be easy to make the case he deserves MVP.

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