The MLB season is almost at an end, with this year being very different from years past. Not only were there no fans in the stands of the team’s stadiums cheering them on, but the season was drastically shortened from 162 games to 60 games. However, that did not mean that this season was a boring one; in fact, it was filled with exciting match-ups and drama within the divisions. Now it is time for the World Series, and, for the fourth time since the Wild Card was introduced in the MLB, the two best record teams from each league are facing off. Representing the American League (AL) is Tampa Bay Rays, who had a record of 40 – 20, and representing the National League is the L.A. Dodgers, who held the best record this season at 43 – 17.
The Rays surprised a lot of people this year, winning their division and beating the highly-favored New York Yankees for the AL East title. The Rays’ journey to the World Series this postseason began with them facing off against the Toronto Blue Jays, sweeping them 2 – 0 in the AL Wild Card Series. They then faced off against their division rivals, the New York Yankees, in a tight AL Divisional Series, just barely beating them in five games, taking the series 3 – 2. Game five was a close pitching battle; the Rays barely won that game, 2 – 1.
The next series was an extremely tough battle between two strong teams. The Rays faced the Houston Astros, who were probably the most hated team in baseball due to some ugly history during the 2017 World Series. The Rays took the first three games of the series, as they were able to win behind some great pitching, only limiting the Astros to two or fewer runs in each game. The Astros did not want to go away quietly, though; they clawed their way back into the series, winning the next three games, tying up the series, and forcing a game seven. It seemed as if the Astros might win this series — they had the momentum, and they were ahead of the Rays, but the Rays prevailed at the end, taking an early lead in the first inning scoring two, and then scoring another in the second. They would then make it four, as they scored one in the sixth, taking a 4 – 0 lead into the eighth until the Astros put two on the board, cutting the lead in half. Still, it was too little, too late, as the Rays were able to shut them down in the ninth and win in a very eventful series. The Rays moved on to the World Series, their second in franchise history.
The Rays, throughout the regular season, were a strong pitching team, boasting a 3.56 team ERA and an AL high of 23 saves throughout the season. Their bats were quite impressive as well, as they were able to have a team average of 0.238 and a total of 80 home runs, but did have a league-high of 608 strikeouts in the season.
The Dodgers this season were the best team in baseball, as they held a regular-season record of 43 – 17; they won the NL West Division for an eighth straight year. The Dodgers’ journey in the postseason started with a sweep against the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card Series. They soon also swept their divisional rivals, the San Diego Padres, in the NL Divisional Series, scoring five or more runs each game. They won game three 12 – 3, showing off their offense, which has been one of the best of this season.
In the NL Championship Series, the Dodgers faced off against the Atlanta Braves, who were one of the hottest teams this season. The Braves took a 2 – 0 lead in the series before the Dodgers took game three in a blowout, 15 – 3, their offense once again showing what they are capable of. Game four was the exact opposite of game three, as the Braves proved their offensive power and won 10 – 2, taking the series 3 – 1. It was going to take a miracle and some grit for the Dodgers to come back and win the series, so game five was do or die for them. The Dodgers fell behind early but quickly took the lead in the sixth, scoring three, winning the game 7 – 3, and forcing a sixth game. In game six, the Dodgers took the lead early in the first, scoring three, and would hold the lead all game, only letting the Braves score one as Walker Buehler put on a dominant performance. Again, the Dodgers forced another game.
When entering game seven, the tension was in the air — would the Braves blow a 3 – 1 lead, or would the Dodgers make a miraculous comeback? The game started off great for the Braves, as they were able to score one run in the first and second inning. The Dodgers scored two in the third to tie it up—but only for a moment, as the Braves were able to score another run and retake the lead. It seemed as if the Braves might have won the series. Both teams struggled to score, but the Braves were able to take advantage of runners in scoring position, something the Dodgers were really struggling with. It was not until the sixth inning that all of this changed, as Enrique Hernandez came up to pinch-hit for the Dodgers, and in an 8-pitch at-bat homered to left-center field to help tie up the game and give the Dodgers some hope. In the seventh inning, things turned around as the reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger came up to bat and homered to right field, helping the Dodgers take the first lead of the game. It was then up to pitcher Julio Urias to shut down the Braves’ offense, which is exactly what he did, allowing no hits and helping the Dodgers win both the game and the series 4 – 3. The Dodgers headed to their third World Series appearance in the last four years.
The Dodgers not only held the best record in the league but also hit the most home runs with 118, the most RBI with 327, the most runs scored with 349, and the best ERA at 3.02. They were able to find a balance between their batting and their pitching that helped them get this far.
This year, the Dodgers are favorites to win the World Series, but nothing is ever guaranteed in baseball, and the Rays would like to prove that, as they are looking for their first-ever World Series win. The first game of the World Series is on Tuesday, Oct. 20; the first pitch is to be thrown at 5:09 p.m. Pacific Time. Clayton Kershaw is to take the mound for the Dodgers, while Tyler Glasnow is on the mound for the Rays. The whole series will be played in Arlington Texas, at Globe Life Park.
Featured Image: Courtesy of AP Photo / Mark J. Terrill