The Los Angeles Dodgers had to rally from a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS, and then comeback after being down 2-0 in game seven against the Atlanta Braves, but despite that scramble, baseball’s best team is where it is supposed to be: in the World Series.
Their opponents, the Tampa Rays, are more of a surprise, but also had no shortage of drama on their way to playing for a championship.
Tampa was picked to finish behind the New York Yankees in most preseason predictions, but managed to win the always tough AL East on the strength of great starting pitching and a reliable bullpen.
That formula also pushed them through a tough playoff race. MLB’s compressed, regional schedule caused most playoff teams to be facing opponents they hadn’t even played during the regular season. The Rays had no such luck – their first two opponents were AL East rivals the Toronto Blue Jays followed by the Yankees. They eliminated the Jays with ease, but fell behind the Yankees 2-1 before coming back to win that series in five.
In the ALCS, they faced the Houston Astros, a playoff-tested team hungry for redemption after the sign stealing scandal tarnished their recent success. The Rays took a 3-0 lead in the series, but had to hold on as the Astros won three straight force a game seven, which Tampa won.
The Dodgers, who had the best record in baseball, scored the most runs, and had the highest run differential, breezed through the first two rounds of the playoffs undefeated before the Braves nearly eliminated them.
The Dodgers enter the World Series with a superior offense. They have two former MVPs in Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger, and another player in Corey Seager who had a monster NLCS. Seager hit five home runs against Atlanta and hit over .300 for the series. Tampa’s offense is led by Randy Arozarena, who has hit seven home runs in the playoffs and has a .382 average overall. But Tampa is hitting just .209 as a team, so he’ll need some support against a Dodgers team capable of scoring a lot of runs even against good pitching staffs.
The rotations will be most fun to watch as each team has dominant pitchers. For the Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw will start game one and try to exorcise past World Series and postseason demons. Kershaw has had pedestrian numbers and a sub-.500 record in his postseason career. He’ll face Tyler Glasnow in game one. Glasnow, former Cy Young winner Blake Snell, and Charlie Morton are all elite pitchers, but Snell and Glasnow haven’t been as dominant in the postseason.
The Dodgers had 7-2 preseason odds to make the World Series and the Rays had 20-1 odds.
The Dodgers have found some postseason resilience for a change, and should win their first World Series since 1987 in six games.