After one of the more exciting weekends in baseball history, we finally have our World Series matchup. The Tampa Bay Rays will face off against the Los Angeles Dodgers to see who will be the champion of this strange and shortened MLB season.
The Rays went up 3-0 in the ALCS vs the Astros, then proceeded to drop the next 3 games, and kept the Astros’ hopes alive for a Game 7. The Rays managed to avoid a reverse sweep and held on to win 4-2. The Rays will play in the World Series for the first time since 2008, and will look to win the franchise’s first championship in their history. After the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in late September, it seems like it could be in the tides for this year’s Rays team.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers will return to the World Series for the third time in 4 years. After cruising through the regular season and finishing with a record of 43-17, the team faced it’s first real adversity of the season when they quickly found themselves down 3-1 to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS. With the help of great pitching and defense, and timely hitting, the Dodgers managed to fight back and force a Game 7 in the series. Cody Bellinger was the hero for the Dodgers on Sunday night, after he hit the go ahead solo homerun in the 7th inning of Game 7, and that proved to be the difference. The Dodgers became only the 14th team in MLB history to win after trailing 3-1 in a 7 game series.
With all of the unpredictability and inconsistency that this season provided, the World Series matchup is a pretty standard one. The Dodgers had the best record in the MLB at 43-17, while the Rays finished only 3 games behind that mark. It’s clear that we are left with the two best teams in the MLB, so even with a shortened 60 game season, it seems like we will still get the series everyone wanted. Nevertheless, the final records of the team might be similar but they couldn’t be more different in terms of spending, and roster creation. The Dodgers have a payroll of 77.8 million ,while the Rays have been near the bottom of the league in payroll for the last 5+ years.
The Rays have relied on their big 3 of starting pitching with Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton, and Blake Snell. The team has tended to take out their starters fairly early in games, and rely on their arsenal of bullpen arms to win them games. After 66 pitches over 5 ⅔ innings, Rays manager Kevin Cash decided to take out Charlie Morton from Game 7. Tampa Bay has been extremely reliant on their bullpen throughout the regular season and the playoffs. Twelve different pitchers converted at least one save during the regular season which tied the record for a 162 game season. They finished the season with a 3.37 era, despite the highest paid player in the bullpen being Aaron Loup making 1.65 million this year. The Rays have continued to find talent for cheap after drafting rookie Randy Arozorena who hit .321 and hit 4 home runs in the ALCS.
The Dodgers have relied on the offense of stars like Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager who both hit huge home runs in elimination games. Corey Seager actually hit two clutch home runs in Game 5 to keep the Dodgers alive. Seager went on to win the NLCS MVP for his heroics throughout the series. The defense of superstar Mookie Betts has also been a huge factor for the team throughout the playoffs. The Dodgers have had good teams in the past, but with the offseason signing of Mookie Betts, the Dodgers have somehow improved their team again from the last 3 years. With the emergence of Walker Buehler as a clear #2 starter for this team, this looks like the Dodgers’ best chance to win their first championship since 1988.
It’s clear the two teams are very different in style, so it will be interesting to see which team prevails. Will it be the star studded Los Angeles Dodgers? Or will it be the obscure and unrecognized Tampa Bay Rays? We’ll know a little bit more about how these teams matchup after Game 1 on Tuesday, but if the World Series is anything like the two championship series, we should be in for a classic.