Mookie Betts came to the Dodgers to make a World Series difference. With a mad dash to home plate, he put Los Angeles over the top.
“I just came to be a part of it. I’m just happy I could contribute,” Betts said
Betts bolted from third for the go-ahead run on Corey Seager's infield grounder in the sixth and led off the eighth with a punctuating homer, and the Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game 6 to claim their first championship since 1988.
The end of a frustrating championship drought for LA — and perhaps just the start for Betts and the Dodgers.
“It was absolutely phenomenal. This team was incredible,” said Seager, also the NLCS MVP who had franchise records with his eight homers and 20 RBIs this postseason. “We never stopped. We were ready to go as soon as the bell was called. Once it did, we kept rolling. You can’t say enough about what we did this season.”
They did it without Justin Turner, their red-headed star who received a positive test for COVID-19 in the middle of their clinching victory.
Turner was removed from the game after registering Major League Baseball's first positive test in 59 days and wasn't on the field as the Dodgers enjoyed the spoils of a title earned during a most unusual season.
“Thanks to everyone reaching out!,” Turner said on Twitter. “I feel great, no symptoms at all. Just experienced every emotion you can possibly imagine. Can’t believe I couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys! So proud of this team & unbelievably happy for the City of LA.”
2020 World Series Coverage
Commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed Turner's positive test moments after presenting the World Series trophy to Los Angeles — a jarring reminder of all that's been different in this season where the perennially favored Dodgers finally broke through.
The Dodgers' latest title became their seventh ever, and their sixth since leaving Brooklyn for the West Coast in 1958.
“I had a crazy feeling that came to fruition,” manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s just a special group of players, organization, all that we’ve kind of overcome.”
Clayton Kershaw was warming in the bullpen when Julio Urías struck out Willy Adames to end it and ran alongside teammates to celebrate in the infield, later joined by family who had been in the bubble with them in North Texas.
Players were handed face masks as they gathered, although many of their embraces came mask-free even after Turner's positive test.
The Dodgers had played 5,014 regular season games and were in their 114th postseason game since Orel Hershiser struck out Oakland’s Tony Phillips for the final out of the World Series in 1988, the same year Kershaw — the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner who won Games 1 and 5 of this Series — was born in nearby Dallas.
Los Angeles had come up short in the World Series twice in the previous three years. Betts was on the other side two years ago and homered in the clinching Game 5 for the Boston Red Sox, who before this season traded the 2018 AL MVP to the Dodgers. They later gave him a $365 million, 12-year deal that goes until he turns 40 in 2032.
Betts’ 3.2-second sprint was just enough to beat the throw by first baseman Ji-Man Choi, pushing Los Angeles ahead 2-1 moments after Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled ace left-hander Blake Snell despite a dominant performance over 5 1/3 innings.
“It was kind of like a sigh of relief,” Betts said. “It was the Cy Young Snell that pitched tonight.”
Snell struck out nine — including the first time all season that Betts, Seager and Turner each struck out in their first two at-bats. But the 2018 AL Cy Young winner didn’t see the top three batters for the Dodgers again.
“The only motive was the lineup the Dodgers feature is as potent as any team in the league,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Mookie coming around for the third time through, I value that. I totally respect and understand the questions that come with it. They’re not easy decisions.”
Randy Arozarena, the powerful Tampa Bay rookie, extended his postseason record with his 10th homer in the first off rookie right-hander Tony Gonsolin, the first of seven Dodgers pitchers. The Rays never got another runner past second base as LA's bullpen gave reliever-reliant Tampa Bay a taste of its own medicine while allowing only two hits and no walks over 7 1/3 innings.
About 2 1/2 weeks after the Lakers won the NBA title while finishing their season in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, the Dodgers gave Los Angeles another championship.
The MLB season didn’t start until late July and was abbreviated for the shortest regular season since 1878. The expanded postseason, with 16 teams making it instead of 10, ended when Urías got the last two outs on called third strikes, with catcher Austin Barnes stuffing the last pitch in his back pocket. The Rays had 16 Ks and the Dodgers 11, the most combined strikeouts in a nine-inning World Series game.
Chants of “M-V-P!, M-V-P!” broke out when Betts hit his double in the sixth off reliever Nick Anderson, who allowed runs in seven consecutive relief appearances, the longest streak in MLB postseason history.
Those chants got even louder — even with the a limited crowd of 11,437 — when Betts went deep on an 0-2 pitch by hard-throwing right-hander Pete Fairbanks.
There were plenty of fans in Dodgers blue at the new $1.2 billion home of the Texas Rangers, the stadium with the retractable roof where they played 16 games over three weeks. And the roof was closed for the final one, with misty conditions and a game-time temperature of 39 degrees outside.
Los Angeles was home team for the final game of the season, like in the 2017 World Series when the Houston Astros won Game 7 at Dodger Stadium, and two years ago against the Red Sox.
“This year has been crazy, but no matter what, we’ll look back on this and we’re World Series champs. To get to say that and get to be part of that, it’s so special no matter what,” Kershaw said. “The only thing that may have made it better would be to be at Dodger Stadium.”