The Los Angeles Dodgers brought a curtain down on the shortest and strangest season of Major League Baseball — and in the process on Tuesday night, ended a three-decade-long franchise curse.
Los Angeles rallied to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-1, in Arlington, Texas, to end the World Series in six games and hoist the Commissioner's Trophy for the first time since 1988.
"We worked so hard man," said overjoyed Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes. "We got our hearts broken so many times. This group worked so hard."
Tampa Bay led, 1-0, going into the bottom of the sixth behind dominant starting pitcher Blake Snell. After Snell surrendered a one-out single to Barnes, Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled Snell in hopes that his stable of hard-throwing relief pitchers would protect the lead.
Instead, Dodgers star Mookie Betts greeted reliever Nick Anderson with a momentum-shifting double that sparked a two-run rally that put Los Angeles on top for good. Betts homered in the eighth inning to add a key insurance run.
Betts had struck out twice against Snell and he welcomed the change.
"I'm not exactly sure why" Snell was removed, Betts said. "I'm not going to ask any questions but he was pitching a great game."
The frugal spending Rays are known for their reliance on modern analytics, and Cash said the modern book of baseball called for a quick hook.
"Looking back on it you really wish that Nick would have been able to get through it or we would have been able to get through it," Cash said.
"But I'm OK with the decision. I think that's what makes us special is that we rely on each other. We value information."
This was the first World Series completely contested on a neutral field as MLB took a page out of the NHL and NBA playbooks, and formed loose bubbles to limit travel and possible exposure to the coronavirus that's raging across America.
MLB's bubble turned out not to be full-proof. Star Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner was taken out in the middle of Game 6 after it was learned he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
With Tuesday night's win, the Brooklyn-born Dodgers have seven World Series titles, the sixth most in baseball. They trail only the New York/San Francisco Giants with eight, the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia/Oakland A’s who both have nine, the St. Louis Cardinals with 11 and the New York Yankees with their 27 world titles.
And in a historical quirk, Los Angeles now owns World Series titles from MLB's two shortest seasons.
The Dodgers won the 1981 world championship, following a regular season that lost about a third of all games to a players' strike. MLB divided the 1981 campaign into two halves, assigning playoff spots to half-season division winners.
That unconventional format led to the Cincinnati Reds, with baseball's best 61.1-percent victory rate, being left out of the playoffs. The St. Louis Cardinals, who won 57.8 percent of their games and were the second best team in the N.L., also fell through the playoff cracks.
Moments before handing the championship trophy to the Dodgers, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred insisted this 2020 title was legitimate despite only a fraction of a normal season being played.
This season "is going to be remembered as a baseball season like no other," Manfred said. "Our clubs and especially our players were presented with an array of unique challenges. The Los Angeles Dodgers met every one of those challenges bravely. This is truly a team of champions."