Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays meet in World Series like no other

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Appearing in their third World Series in four years, the Dodgers have not won a title since 1988, a barren run of 32 years. The Rays meanwhile are starring in just their second World Series, hoping to claim their maiden title.
With the coronavirus pandemic playing havoc with the Major League Baseball season, it will be a Fall Classic the likes of which we have never seen.

It will be the first World Series to be held on a neutral site — at the newly-opened Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas — with just a small fraction of fans allowed in.

And after each team reached the World Series in dramatic fashion, with a whole host of star players and storylines aplenty, spectators will have plenty to watch out for when the two teams with the best records in each league — the Dodgers from the National League and the Rays from the American League — and meet in the seven-game season finale.

The Tampa Bay Rays celebrate beating the Houston Astros.

Getting over the hump

After acquiring the four-time All-Star Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox in February and with eight-time All-Star Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers were one of the favorites to win the World Series.

And despite having to combat a season full of postponements, cancellations and disruptions due to Covid-19, the LA team lived up to the billing, finishing with a league-best 43-17 record.

Their dynamic offense posted a plus-136 run differential, by far the best in baseball, helping them romp to National League Championship Series (NLCS) title.

However, their season looked like it was almost over just a few days ago as they had to rally from 3-1 down to beat the Atlanta Braves 4-3 to reach the season finale.

Cody Bellinger of the LA Dodgers celebrates with his teammates after hitting a home run in the seventh inning during Game 7 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves.

And making up for past mistakes is what is on the line for the Dodgers, in an “extremely special” World Series.

“2017 happened, 2018 happened, we fell short. Now we are back,” Dodgers infielder Enrique Hernandez said.

“The past is in the past. This one feels super special because it is in front of us and it is happening. I am not going to take anything away from the other two, but this one is extremely special; we were able to stay COVID-free throughout the whole season.

“We took care of business in the regular season, we took care of business against the Brewers, we took care of business against the Padres, we took care of business against the Braves. It was a little harder than we thought it was going to be, but I am glad we pulled it off. Being down 3-1 then coming back and winning in seven games, it’s something that I will never forget. It is special for sure.”

The Dodgers celebrate after beating the Braves.

Reaching the promised land

While the Dodgers are all about their offense, the Rays are all about their group of pitchers.

Comprised of Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow, the Rays’ rotation of pitchers have caused opposing sides no end of worries and were a key part in their 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series (ALCS).

Not many would’ve predicted the Florida team to reach the World Series at the beginning of the MLB season. But the ability to overcome the perceived bigger names has contributed to their special run.

And with a tiny budget in comparison to the Dodgers — the Rays’ 2020 salary was $28.3 million while the Dodgers’ was $107.9 million — the Rays will be once again up against it.
“It’s a pretty special feeling,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said after the victory. “I don’t know if I’ve had many better, other than getting married and having three kids.

“This is right there below that. It can’t get much better than that. This is a special group to be a part of. It’s fun to see them win games and just to be a part of it.”

Arozarena (left) celebrates after the Rays defeated the Houston Astros.

Coming of age

In a team that is not crammed full of All-Stars, the opportunity for players to step up and make a name for themselves has been a key theme of the Rays’ season.

Notably the form of Randy Arozarena, who is “the best player on earth,” according to teammate Glasnow.

The Cuban outfielder is having a breakout postseason in his first year with the Rays having been traded from the St. Louis Cardinals.

“I don’t have any words that can describe what he’s done, what he’s meant to us this postseason,” Cash said. “For him to have a bat in his hands with an opportunity for a big home run, I think it settled a lot of people in the dugout. It certainly did me.”
Arozarena hits a two run home run against the Houston Astros.

He became just the fourth player with at least seven home runs in the postseason before the World Series and set a new MLB record for the most home runs by a rookie in the playoffs.

His vivacious personality has endeared him even further. He’s competed in dance-offs, designed a celebration on Cristiano Ronaldo’s and has worn cowboy boots, which he’s called las Botas de Poder (the Powerful Boots).
“Ever since I got traded over, it’s felt like a family,” Arozarena said after the Rays’ Game 7 victory over the Astros.

“They welcomed me with open arms. They let me be myself. They let me have the freedom to be out there and be the player I want to be.”

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