It happened: the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series.
Years of postseason heartbreak and overall letdown dissipated on Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas.
Last decade the Dodgers come up short in October in distinctive ways.
In 2013 they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in six games in the National League Championship Series; the ensuing season they lost in four games to the Cardinals in the NL Division Series; in 2015 they lost in five games to a young New York Mets ballclub in the NLDS; the ensuing season they lost in six games to the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS; in 2017 they lost a grueling seven-game World Series to the Houston Astros; the ensuing season they were handled by the Boston Red Sox in five games in the World Series; last season they blew a 2-1 first-round series lead to the Washington Nationals.
The Dodgers made quick work of their first two NL playoff opponents, the Milwaukee Brewers and the rival San Diego Padres, going a combined 5-0. However, the postseason stigma was alive and well for the Dodgers in the NLCS.
Two weeks ago it appeared they found a new way to come up short in the postseason. Instead, they found a way to commence an exorcism.
Down 3-1 to the Atlanta Braves, the Dodgers looked finished. Their pitching staff was getting rocked, and the bats were inconsistent. How did they respond? They won three games in a row, setting the stage for a compelling World Series matchup with the crafty Tampa Bay Rays.
The Dodgers won two of the first three games, appearing to be in control of the series. Then there was a loud hiccup in Game 4. The conclusion of this game likely resulted in Dodgers manager Dave Roberts sleeping with his eyes wide open staring up at the ceiling of his hotel room.
Up one run with two outs in the ninth inning, closer Kenley Jansen was a strike away from giving the Dodgers a 3-1 series lead. Then Jansen gives up a single to right-center field to Brett Phillips, Chris Taylor botches the ball, and catcher Will Smith drops the relay throw from Max Muncy, scoring two runs and tying the series at a game apiece.
How could the Dodgers rebound from this moment? They had the game in the bag and now have to win two of three from a Rays team that has gone toe-to-toe with them from the jump. Well, the Dodgers bounced back in a big way, especially on the hill. Holding the Rays to a combined three runs and coming through with timely, breakaway home runs, the Dodgers eked out back-to-back victories to win the series.
They out pitched a team known for its pitching staff and outscored them 32-22. In a way, they played their opponent’s game, as Roberts used a handful of starters as relievers in Game 6 and across the series, a philosophy adhered to by Rays manager Kevin Cash.
The Dodgers never wavered.
Through thick and thin they stuck together. Ownership didn’t move on from president Andrew Friedman or Dave Roberts. They stuck to their guns and stayed the course. They also made some bold transactions, most notably acquiring 2018 American League Most Valuable Player Award recipient Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox. Furthermore, they gave Betts a $365 million extension before he even took the field for them.
In the wake of left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, who finished second in NL Cy Young Award voting last season, leaving the Dodgers in free agency, they trusted their organizational depth and ability to develop young pitchers.
At some point this season, Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Julio Urias, and Tony Gonsolin were vital aspects of Roberts’ pitching staff. Some of those arms played an enormous role in their World Series run such as Buehler, who surrendered a combined one run across has last two starts, and Urias, who closed out their last two series with two-plus perfect innings of relief.
Clayton Kershaw had a 2.93 postseason ERA, and he pitched well in his two World Series starts; he finally gets his ring and gets the baseball world off his back. A handful of high-octane and gritty position players like Justin Turner, Max Muncy, and Corey Seager get their ring. Roberts gets his ring after being habitually lambasted every October.
It would’ve been easy for the Dodgers to turn over the roster after back-to-back World Series losses. It would’ve been easy for them to fire Roberts after the team’s Game 5 meltdown last season. Objectively speaking, it would’ve been justifiable to do as such. They didn’t give in. They believed in themselves.
The last 18 months have featured teams across the American sports scene either breaking through to win a championship or ending a long drought such as the Toronto Raptors, St. Louis Blues, Washington Nationals, and Kansas City Chiefs. We can add the Dodgers to this list.
The Los Angeles Dodgers broke through: they’re World Series champions.