Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The Los Angeles Dodgers had a remarkable 2020 baseball season culminating in their first World Series championship since 1988. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and a shortened season, the Dodgers were able to navigate their way to the top of the baseball world with a combination of talent, determination, and teamwork.
The Dodgers entered the 2020 season with high expectations, as they had won the National League West division title in each of the previous seven seasons and advanced to the World Series in 2017 and 2018. The top sportsbooks in Canada and the USA had them heavy favorites to win the National League Pennant and the World Series.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the start of the regular season was initially delayed by two weeks and then suspended indefinitely. On June 23, commissioner Rob Manfred implemented a 60-game season, with players reporting to training camps on July 1. Regular season games would be played in empty stadiums, and players and staff would be tested regularly.
Despite the circumstances, the Dodgers had an impressive start to their season, matching the best 40-game start in franchise history with a record of 30-10. They led the league in runs scored, home runs, and slugging percentage, finishing the shortened regular season with a 43-17 record, winning their eighth straight division title.
The team’s regular season winning percentage of .717 is the highest of the post-1960 expansion era, and had they played an entire 162-game season at the same pace, they would have tied the 1906 Chicago Cubs and 2001 Seattle Mariners with a record 116 wins.
Playoff Background and Format
With the shortened season, MLB expanded the postseason to comprise eight teams from each league, namely, the top two teams from each division and the two teams with the best records from each league.
Unlike the previous Wild Card Game play-in format, the Wild Card Series adopted a best-of-three series format. Division Series, League Championship, and World Series maintained their past format. The Wild Card Series games will also be held at the higher-seeded team’s home field.
National League Wild Card
The best of three National League Wild Card series featured the top-seeded Dodgers facing the Milwaukee Brewers, who finished the regular season 29-31 and clinched the eighth seed in the postseason, becoming the first National League team to clinch the playoffs with a losing record. All three games were scheduled to be played at Dodger Stadium. However, the Dodgers won the first two games of the series 4-2 and 3-0, eliminating Milwaukee and advancing to the National League Division Series (NLDS).
Cody Bellinger, who hit a home run in both games, and Clayton Kershaw, who threw eight innings of one-run ball in Game 2, were the standout performers.
National League Division Series
The playoffs took another turn in the League Division Series. All games for each of the National League series were held at two neutral sites at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, and at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. The games were televised nationally by FS1 and MLB Network.
The Dodgers faced the San Diego Padres, a division rival who had given them trouble during the regular season. The Dodgers were too much for the Padres to handle in the five-game series. The Dodgers won the first two games of the series by a combined score of 12-3, then closed out the series with a 12-3 victory in Game 3, sweeping San Diego in three straight games.
Once again, Bellinger and Kershaw were among the team’s top performers, with Bellinger hitting a clutch home run in Game 2 and Kershaw pitching six innings of one-run ball in Game 3.
National League Championship Series
In the National League Championship Series, the Dodgers faced the Atlanta Braves, who had been the surprise team of the playoffs up to that point. Like the Dodgers, the Braves had won their first five playoff games. Atlanta fielded a potent lineup led by outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. and first baseman Freddie Freeman. All games were to be played at Globe Life Field in Texas.
After losing the series’ first two games, 5-1 and 8-7, the Dodgers won Game 3 by the score of 15-3 in what would be the biggest blowout in the 2020 playoffs. Atlanta would bounce back to win Game 4, beating the Dodgers 10-2 and putting them one loss away from elimination. In Game 5, the Dodgers fell behind 2-0 early but scored seven unanswered runs, cruised to a 7-3 victory, and forced a Game 6.
In Game 6, the Dodgers scored three times in the first inning and then watched Kershaw deliver a dominant performance, striking out six batters and allowing just one run over six innings. The Dodgers won 3-1 to force a deciding Game 7.
Game 7 saw the Braves again jump to an early lead, scoring runs in both the first and second innings. The Dodgers tied the game in the third inning but surrendered the lead again in the top of the fourth. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Kiké Hernández homered off to tie it back up, and in the following inning, Cody Bellinger gave the Dodgers their first lead of the game on a solo homer off Chris Martin. Starter Julio Urías pitched the last three innings to pick up the win as the Dodgers held on for the 4–3 victory.
With the win over the Braves, the Dodgers had secured their spot in the World Series, where they would face off against the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays were a scrappy, underdog team with a strong pitching staff and a knack for winning close games.
2020 World Series
The World Series got off to a rocky start for the Dodgers, as they dropped the first game to the Rays by a score of 8-3. However, they quickly bounced back in Game 2, thanks to a dominant performance from starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin. Gonsolin struck out five batters and allowed just one run over five innings, leading the Dodgers to a 6-2 victory.
Game 3 was a back-and-forth affair, with both teams trading blows and the lead changing hands multiple times. In the end, the Dodgers emerged victorious, thanks to a clutch home run by catcher Austin Barnes in the sixth inning. The final score was 6-2, giving the Dodgers a 2-1 series lead.
Game 4 was one of the most exciting games in recent World Series history. The Rays jumped out to an early lead, but the Dodgers battled back to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. In the bottom of the ninth, with the score tied 6-6, Dodgers outfielder Brett Phillips hit a single to center field that was misplayed by Tampa Bay center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, allowing two runs to score and giving the Rays an 8-7 walk-off victory. The loss was a devastating blow for the Dodgers, who had been just one strike away from winning the game.
Despite the heartbreaking defeat in Game 4, the Dodgers came out strong in Game 5. They took an early lead thanks to a home run by Max Muncy and then added to their lead with a two-run shot by Joc Pederson in the bottom of the second inning. The Rays battled back, but the Dodgers held on to win the game 4-2, giving them a 3-2 series lead.
In Game 6, the Dodgers turned to their ace, Clayton Kershaw, who had struggled in previous postseason appearances. However, Kershaw was dominant in this game, striking out six batters and allowing just two runs over six innings. The Dodgers’ offense was firing on all cylinders, with home runs by Corey Seager, Mookie Betts, and Joc Pederson leading the way. The final score was 3-1, giving the Dodgers their first World Series championship since 1988.
The victory was a testament to the Dodgers’ talent, perseverance, and teamwork. They had overcome the challenges of a shortened season and the COVID-19 pandemic to reach the pinnacle of the sport. Manager Dave Roberts, who had come under scrutiny for some of his decisions in previous playoff series, was widely praised for his leadership throughout the World Series.
For Dodgers fans, the victory was a long-awaited and well-deserved celebration. The team had been one of the best in baseball for several years but could not win the big one. With their 2020 World Series championship, they had finally achieved their ultimate goal and cemented their place in baseball history.