The final stage is set. After two back-and-forth league championship series which tested the depths of both rosters in a pair of game sevens, only two final teams remain. The 2020 World Series will be a classic matchup between the top seeds from both the American League (A.L.) and National League (N.L.). Representing the A.L. are the Tampa Bay Rays who appear in the World Series for just the second time in franchise history and the first time since 2008. The Los Angeles Dodgers will represent the N.L. for the third time in the last four years while they look to finally secure that elusive, highly-coveted ring. Perhaps most importantly, the 2020 World Series will be played at a neutral site (Globe Life Field) in Arlington, Texas where the Dodgers will serve as the home team in games one, two, six and seven (if necessary) due to their superior record.
This Rays versus Dodgers matchup is sure to be a good one. Both rosters are full of stars; some you’ve probably never heard of, while others have been stars for years. Where these two teams differ is in their experience. Clayton Kershaw is the longest-tenured Dodger, having been with the organization for thirteen years after his debut in May 2008. In comparison, The longest-tenured member of the Rays is Kevin Keirmaier, who joined the team in 2013 and is finishing his eighth season with the organization.
While the Dodgers are still young, their recent success gives them the experience edge over the Rays who have had much less recent late-postseason experience and will rely on the older, more experienced players to lead this young team through their tough battle with the Dodgers.
The Rays had anything but a conventional path to the World Series. They finished the regular season 40-20 having won eight of their last 10 games and cruised into the playoffs on a roll. After defeating the Toronto Blue Jays 2-0 in a best-of-three series they were feeling good and looked strong. This, however, is where their bumpy path began. In the league divisional series, they faced off against the once A.L. favorite New York Yankees and squeaked by in the fifth game of the series. Advancing the ALCS meant they had a chance to exact revenge against the Houston Astros who knocked them out of the playoffs in 2019. The Rays took a commanding lead after going up 3-0 in the best-of-seven series. However, the Astros were able to crawl back and tie it at three to force a game seven. In game seven, Charlie Morton of the Rays pitched a gem and is currently the all-time leader in game seven wins.
Behind the Rays’ dominant starting pitching anchored by Morton, Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow and their hard-throwing bullpen highlighted by Nick Anderson, Peter Fairbanks and Diego Castillo the Dodgers batters are in for a challenge. Additionally, the Rays bats have started to heat up. The young emerging star Randy Arozarena has been impossible to stop and the style of play within the organization is an admirable one. They are an analytics-driven organization with a feisty, fun mentality that has proven to work so far.
The Dodgers weren’t really challenged until they reached the NLCS. They finished the shortened and highly unconventional regular season with an MLB best 43-17 record. They quickly took care of business in both the wild card series and the NLDS against the Milwaukee Brewers and the San Diego Padres, respectively. However, in the NLCS they found themselves down 3-1 to the second seed Atlanta Braves which prompted three straight elimination games. Behind reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger (who hit the go-ahead home run in game seven) and newly added superstar Mookie Betts, they are a serious threat to any team. The Dodgers averaged 5.82 runs per game during the regular season and have a superstar lineup up and down which includes an impressive bench and no easy outs anywhere in the lineup.
What will be driving the Dodgers more than anything, more than their star-filled lineup, more than their impressive bullpen and starting pitching, will be their desire to win. They are hungry for the title and to call themselves World Series Champions. They haven’t won the title since 1988 even with all their recent success. If anything is motivating this team, it’s the disappointing ends to the last eight seasons, in each of which they have made it to the playoffs and fallen short every year.
While this is bound to be an amazing way to end a weird season, it also has the means to be extremely close. Managerial decisions will be crucial, especially if both teams have to play another seven-game series. There is no time to wait and fall behind, because both teams can make you pay if they get a lead. I give the edge to Dodgers simply because of their experience, their recent hot-streak, and their motivation to be crowned World Series Champions for the first time in 32 years. That said, don’t be surprised if the Rays put up a strong fight and make it another seven game series.