The line for validation was long and illustrious in the wake of the Dodgers’ 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the 116th World Series, and all of them — the players, the manager, the brain trust, the franchise and the sport itself — would get their turn.

But first, validation’s opposite number needed to be heard. Because the Dodgers’ clinching win was made possible by nothing so much as the stunning and highly questionable pitching move the Rays made in the bottom of the sixth inning, when they pulled ace Blake Snell from a magnificent performance — a move that backfired immediately when the next two Dodgers hitters, Mookie Betts and Corey Seager, gave Los Angeles the lead.

Maybe the Dodgers would have won anyway if the Rays — who make no apologies for their analytic bent and data-driven decision-making — had left Snell alone. But no one will ever know.

In any case, few who watched this series could walk away with any other conclusion than the better team prevailed in the end — an outcome that itself provided a measure of validation for the legitimacy of the 60-game regular season and 16-team postseason, both of which were dominated by the Dodgers.

They were the best team, on paper, on the crisp February day when pitchers and catchers first reported. They were best team on March 12, when the novel coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the remainder of spring training, and the best team in April, May and June, as a labor battle held the regular season hostage. They were the best team in July, when the season finally started up, and in August and September as it careened toward the postseason.

The Dodgers’ victory Tuesday night gave future Hall of Fame left-hander Clayton Kershaw the title that forever cements his legacy, especially after he won Games 1 and 5 to help make it happen. It gave embattled manager Dave Roberts the championship that escaped him in the 2017 and 2018 World Series. It gave Betts, the Dodgers’ big offseason acquisition, a second title to go with the one he won for Boston — over the Dodgers — two years ago.

And it brought validation, too, for president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who operates with one of baseball’s biggest payrolls but made his career out of passing on every big-ticket player on the market — Bryce Harper and Manny Machado among them — until finally pulling the trigger on Betts in February. He was rewarded when Betts proved to be the missing piece that pushed the Dodgers over the top, with his solo homer in the eighth inning Tuesday night the latest piece of evidence.

The Rays have never won a World Series title in their 22-year history, and the fact they came closer than ever before this week will be of little consolation. Because who knows? If they had not made one of the most curious and second-guessable pitching moves in recent memory, this series might have been heading to a Game 7 on Wednesday night.

With one out in the sixth, Rays Manager Kevin Cash pulled Snell, who was in the middle of what could legitimately be called an October gem — a nine-strikeout two-hitter, during which he had been more or less untouchable by the best hitters in the Dodgers’ lineup, who are also, naturally, some of the best hitters on the planet.

The moment Cash strolled out of his dugout to pull Snell following a leadoff single by Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes in the sixth, the crowd of 11,437, unable to believe what was taking place, hooted and cheered. Snell, despite knowing full well it is simply the way his team operates, looked away in disgust and shook his head. When he handed the ball to Cash, he wouldn’t even look him in the eye.

The Rays were leading by one. The next three batters due up for the Dodgers were Betts, Corey Seager and Justin Turner — the same trio who had gone 0 for 6 with six strikeouts against Snell. Did the Rays really want someone besides Snell to face them?

The downfall was swift and predictable. Right-hander Nick Anderson, arguably the best reliever in baseball during the regular season but someone who appeared to have tired over the course of this series, entered and immediately allowed a double to left by Betts. A wild pitch scored Barnes, and a groundball to first base off the bat of Seager scored Betts — who beat the throw to the plate from Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi.

Within two batters of getting Snell out of the game, the Dodgers had flipped a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead.

But meanwhile, the Dodgers’ pitching staff, collectively, was doing a pretty good Snell impression of its own. While starter Tony Gonsolin lasted just 1 ⅔ innings — giving up Randy Arozarena’s solo homer to right, the 10th of this postseason for the Rays phenom, extending his own MLB record — the Rays failed to put up more runs against him despite ample opportunity.

But with a day off Monday to replenish sagging arms, and with the Rays’ lead stuck on one, Roberts managed his bullpen aggressively, cycling through reliever after reliever. All of them — right-hander Dylan Floro (who recorded one out), lefty Alex Wood (six outs), right-hander Pedro Baez (two), lefty Victor González (four) and right-hander Brusdar Graterol (two) — did the job to carry the game to the late innings.

When the Dodgers clinched the 1988 World Series against the Oakland Athletics, they used just one pitcher, with Orel Hershiser throwing a complete game in Game 5. This time, they used seven. The last of them was rookie lefty Julio Urías, who had thrown 80 pitches in his Game 4 start just three nights earlier but here closed out the Rays with 2 ⅓ dominant innings.

The Dodgers’ win, in its own way, also validated the entire 2020 baseball enterprise, which teetered and tottered on the edge of oblivion several times but stuck it out and was rewarded for its tenacity and adaptability.

A fluky champion might have contributed to the notion this was something less than a legitimate season. But 60-game season or no, the Dodgers were a historically good team, going 43-17 in the regular season — a .717 winning percentage that represents the highest for a World Series champion since Honus Wagner’s 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates, who went 110-42 (.724).

In any other season, the scene Tuesday night — the Dodgers, in their home whites, dogpiling on the infield, would have taken place at Dodger Stadium. But if one scene could aptly put a bow on the bizarre, unprecedented 2020 baseball season, it was this: a team from Southern California dancing across a field in Texas, a socially distanced crowd looking on.

It may have looked and sounded odd and surreal, but the Dodgers would be the first to tell you: It felt no less amazing for its setting or circumstances. The trophy they were handed was no less precious. And the banner they will raise next spring, right next to the one from 1988, will look no less grand atop the bleachers at Dodger Stadium.

October 28, 2020 at 12:05 AM EDT

Fox reports Dodgers’ Justin Turner was pulled from the game after receiving a positive test

By Scott Allen

After the game, Fox reported that it had been informed by Major League Baseball that Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner received a positive test for the coronavirus, which is why he was removed from the game for Kiké Hernández in the eighth inning.

October 27, 2020 at 11:43 PM EDT

Julio Urias shuts down Rays in ninth to clinch Dodgers’ first World Series title in 32 years

By Scott Allen

Julio Urias clinched a 3-1 win and the Dodgers’ first World Series title since 1988 with a drama-free 1-2-3 ninth inning. The 24-year-old lefty, who pitched 2⅓ perfect innings of relief, got Manuel Margot to fly out to right field for the first out before striking out pinch-hitter Mike Brosseau looking on a 3-2 pitch. Willy Adames struck out looking on three pitches to end Tampa Bay’s comeback hopes and set off a wild celebration on the field.

The Rays managed only five hits against seven Dodgers pitchers and scored their only run on rookie Randy Arozarena’s solo homer in the first inning.

October 27, 2020 at 11:29 PM EDT

Mookie Betts extends Dodgers’ lead to 3-1 with eighth-inning home run

By Scott Allen

Mookie Betts gave the Dodgers an insurance run with his second homer of the postseason, a solo shot to lead off the bottom of the eighth against Pete Fairbanks. The Rays’ third reliever of the night walked Corey Seager and struck out Kiké Hernández before he was pulled for Ryan Yarbrough.

October 27, 2020 at 11:19 PM EDT

Rays go quietly in the eighth, still trail Dodgers 2-1

By Scott Allen

It took all of 10 pitches for Julio Urias to retire the Rays in order in the eighth. Cody Bellinger made a running catch on Randy Arozarena’s flyball to right-center field to lead off the inning. Hunter Renfroe then grounded out to third before Brandon Lowe struck out swinging. The Dodgers’ bullpen has allowed two hits over 6⅓ shutout innings while striking out 10 since Tony Gonsolin was pulled in the second inning.

October 27, 2020 at 11:10 PM EDT

Dodgers carry one-run lead into the eighth

By Scott Allen

Will Smith led off the Dodgers’ half of the seventh inning against Pete Fairbanks with a double to left. Fairbanks got Cody Bellinger to pop out and then struck out Chris Taylor before intentionally walking Joc Pederson. Austin Barnes, whose sixth-inning single spelled the end of the night for Blake Snell and sparked the Dodgers’ rally, popped out to end the threat. The Dodgers are six outs away, leading, 2-1.

October 27, 2020 at 10:51 PM EDT

Dodgers lead 2-1 at the seventh-inning stretch

By Scott Allen

Mike Zunino recorded his first hit in 16 World Series at-bats with two outs in the seventh inning off Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol, putting the tying run on. That prompted another pitching change, and Julio Urías struck out pinch-hitter Yandy Díaz looking to end the frame. Tampa Bay is down to its final six outs.

October 27, 2020 at 10:32 PM EDT

Dodgers take 2-1 lead in the sixth inning after Rays pull Blake Snell

By Scott Allen

After Dodgers reliever Victor González struck out the side in the top of the sixth, Blake Snell went back to work for the Rays. A.J. Pollock popped out on Snell’s first pitch before Austin Barnes singled to center. It was only the second hit Snell had allowed on 73 pitches, but Rays Manager Kevin Cash immediately emerged from the dugout and headed for the mound. It would be up to the Tampa Bay bullpen to preserve a 1-0 lead. Cash’s quick hook could prove to be the story of the game.

Reliever Nick Anderson allowed a double to Mookie Betts, putting runners at second and third for Corey Seager. Barnes would score on a wild pitch to tie the game. With the infield pulled in, Betts scored on Seager’s grounder to first, beating Ji-Man Choi’s throw home with a headfirst slide, to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.

October 27, 2020 at 10:05 PM EDT

Behind dominant start from Blake Snell, Rays take 1-0 lead into sixth inning

By Scott Allen

Pedro Báez replaced Alex Wood to start the fifth inning and got two quick outs before allowing a single to — who else? — Randy Arozarena, snapping a streak of nine consecutive Rays batters retired since Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin was pulled with two outs in the second. Manager Dave Roberts summoned Victor González from the bullpen to face Austin Meadows, who grounded out against the shift to end the threat.

Blake Snell, who joined Dodgers legend Sandy Koufax as the only pitchers with nine strikeouts through the first four innings of a World Series game, didn’t add to his strikeout total in the fifth, but retired the side in order. He’s still only allowed one hit and is at 69 pitches.

October 27, 2020 at 9:44 PM EDT

Blake Snell has nine strikeouts through four innings; Rays lead 1-0

By Scott Allen

Offense has been at a premium in Game 6. Dodgers lefty Alex Wood pitched a second consecutive perfect inning of relief while recording his third and fourth strikeouts in the top of the fourth. Rays starter Blake Snell then struck out the side for the second time tonight. Snell has nine strikeouts and is at 55 pitches.

Randy Arozarena’s solo homer in the first inning remains the difference in the game.

October 27, 2020 at 9:26 PM EDT

Dodgers get first hit against Blake Snell, but trail Rays 1-0 after three innings

By Scott Allen

Chris Taylor gave the Dodgers their first hit of the game against Blake Snell with a leadoff single in the bottom of the third inning. A.J. Pollock followed with a line out to third baseman Joey Wendle before Austin Barnes grounded out. With Taylor on second base, Mookie Betts struck out for the second time to end the threat.

Alex Wood relieved Dylan Floro to start the third inning for the Dodgers and retired the Rays in order for the first time tonight on 10 pitches.

October 27, 2020 at 9:05 PM EDT

Blake Snell, Rays take 1-0 lead into the third inning

By Scott Allen

Blake Snell, who took a no-hitter into the fifth inning of Game 2 before running into trouble, is perfect through two innings in Game 6. The Rays’ starter struck out Will Smith and Cody Bellinger in the frame and is up to five strikeouts on only 24 pitches.

October 27, 2020 at 8:57 PM EDT

Dodgers go to their bullpen in the second inning, still trail 1-0

By Scott Allen

The Rays threatened again in the second inning, but failed to extend their 1-0 lead. After Kevin Kiermaier hit a one-out double to right, Tony Gonsolin struck out Mike Zunino before walking Ji-Man Cho to put two runners on for Randy Arozarena. Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts bought on right-hander Dylan Floro to face the rookie, who homered off Gonsolin in the first. This time, Arozarena struck out on three pitches and Tampa Bay left two on base for the second straight inning.

Gonsolin’s final line: 1 ⅔ innings pitched, three hits, one run, two walks and four strikeouts.

October 27, 2020 at 8:36 PM EDT

Rays lead 1-0 after one inning as Blake Snell strikes out the side

By Scott Allen

The Rays put two runners on after Randy Arozarena’s solo home run with one out in the first inning, but Tony Gonsolin stranded them both.

Staked to a 1-0 lead, Tampa Bay starter Blake Snell struck out the side on 12 pitches. The lefty got Mookie Betts looking before Corey Seager and Justin Turner went down swinging. The Rays couldn’t have asked for a better start.

October 27, 2020 at 8:18 PM EDT

Randy Arozarena gives the Rays a 1-0 lead in the first inning with another home run

By Scott Allen

After Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin struck out Ji-Man Choi on three pitches to start the game, rookie Randy Arozarena gave the Rays a 1-0 lead with an opposite field home run on a slider away. Arozarena set the record for home runs in a single postseason with his ninth in Tampa Bay’s Game 4 win. Now he’s got an even 10.


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