Dodgers in 6

Clayton Kershaw

The Dodgers won the World Series.

They needed three trips to the Fall Classic in four years, but they finally did it.

Last night’s Game 6 was a good, tight game. It wasn’t crazy like last Saturday’s Game 4 (I don’t think I could have handled another of those), but there was plenty of excitement as Tampa Bay got off to a quick lead and the Dodgers didn’t catch up until the 6th inning. We then scored two runs thanks to a hit from Austin Barnes, a double from Mookie Betts, a wild pitch and a fielder’s choice RBI from Corey Seager. That left us to nurse a one-run lead until Betts went long in the 8th inning for some badly needed run insurance.

Like all low-scoring games in baseball, this one was more about pitching than offense. When Tony Gonsolin let Randy Arozarena hit that homer in the first inning, I think every fan in LA thought something with a deletable expletive. Still, Gonsolin pulled himself together and got as far as the first two outs of the 2nd inning, at which point the game was turned over to the bullpen. Dylan Floro, Alex Wood (who was so efficient I barely noticed him up there: 6 batters, 20 pitches, 3 strikeouts), Pedro Báez, Victor González and Brusdar Graterol were all great, and then Julio Urías – on only two days’ rest – was basically perfect for the last seven outs. I must confess that part of me was terrified that Kenley Jansen was going to come out for the final inning. One never knows what bad idea Dave Roberts is going to have next, but, for this game at least, he made all the right decisions. Not that his decisions weren’t backed up by some fantastic pitching.

Look at it this way: the bullpen pitched 7 1/3 innings, gave up zero runs and zero walks and struck out twelve. If that were one pitcher, the outing would be considered phenomenal.

That said for the strength of the Dodgers’ bullpen, there will always be a big question mark attached to the game: why did Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash pull Blake Snell after only 5 1/3 innings? Snell, whom the Dodgers had been unable to solve in Game 2, was the proverbial lights out yesterday evening. He allowed two measly hits, with not a single walk and nine strikeouts. There was nothing the Dodgers could do to get on base, let alone score.

One out into the 6th inning, he had been through the Dodger order twice and things couldn’t have been going better for him. True, he gave up a hit to Austin Barnes, but that was only the second hit of the night. And Cash pulled him? The look on Snell’s face (and the words he visibly mouthed on television) said it all. In his painful press conference following the game, Snell kept saying how it sucked (his word) and how he had wanted to stay in the game. Cash, however, was apparently locked into the idea that Snell shouldn’t go a full six innings or see the LA batters a third time. That’s despite the fact that he was pitching one of the best games of his life. I suppose Cash had a lot of faith in his bullpen, which was supposed to be one of Tampa Bay’s greatest strengths, but the bullpen had been fairing far less well against the Dodgers as the series unfolded than Snell had in Game 2. Sure enough, Nick Anderson came into the game, and, before anyone knew what had happened, the Dodgers scored twice.

I don’t know what Cash was thinking. I’m sure he regrets the decision, and I feel bad for him, since he’s going to have to live with thoughts of what might have been for the rest of his baseball life. The same is true of Snell, and I feel even worse for him. Of course, we’ll never know how he would have been against the order a third time through, and he doesn’t have any kind of a track record for going 6 innings, but, if it had been my ballgame, I’d have stuck with Snell.

So much for feeling bad for people. There’s a whole Dodgers team (and an organization behind it) for which we can feel good. Maybe the person most of us were most glad for was Clayton Kershaw. He’s been through more postseason frustration than anyone on the team, and knowing he was bound for Cooperstown without a World Series ring is something that’s clearly been gnawing away at him. He’d achieved all a pitcher can achieve except for one thing…and now he’s achieved that too.

Speaking of feeling good for people, what about Corey Seager? World Series MVP on top of NLCS MVP? He couldn’t have deserved it more: his numbers (batting .400 with an OPS of 1.256 in the postseason) are insane. He didn’t do it single-handed – baseball’s a team sport – but they certainly couldn’t have done it without him. Seager may not be the kind of emotional showman who gets his face on cereal boxes, but one would be hard-pressed to find a better baseball player at this moment in time.

Something does need to be said to the buzz-killers who are claiming that this championship deserves an asterisk in the record books because it came after a 60-game season instead of a 162-game one. While that’s certainly a difference, and I must admit that I was asking exactly that question at the beginning of the season, this turned out to be a real season ending in a real championship. In point of fact, the championship was harder to win than in previous years, given the extended postseason. There was an additional playoff round (I’m still not sure why, but it was there), and the division and pennant series were both played without rest days. On top of that, the entire postseason had to be played without benefit of home field advantage and the encouragement that comes from cheering fans. The regular season may not have been as long a grind as usual, but the postseason was considerably more demanding than in a normal year. That doesn’t make for an asterisk next to the stat line.

As my earlier posts about baseball testify, I’m still relatively new to the sport and to following the Dodgers. I therefore can’t lay claim to the 32 years of frustration through which many of my fellow Angelinos have suffered. I nevertheless had to watch my team lose the World Series twice (and go through last season’s humiliating conclusion) before I got the satisfaction of seeing them win.

It’s a great feeling.

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