The World Series has landed as the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays do battle in game one… starting in a few short hours.
Here’s our guide to the teams, players to watch, what the bookies are saying and much more.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Player to watch: Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw’s postseason narrative is enthralling. He is a dominant pitcher with the accolades to corroborate this claim; but on occasion, his performances are a car crash you can’t look away from.
The eight-time All Star and previous National League MVP has a career regular season earned run average (ERA) of 2.43, yet a career postseason ERA of 4.31.
CBS Sports’ Matt Snyder labelled him as “the best pitcher of this generation” but the 32-year-old still doesn’t have a coveted World Series ring.
He’s also on a team that have conquered their way to the Fall Classic for three of the last four years, only to lose at the final hurdle every time.
His most recent start in the National League Championship Series (NLCS) against the Atlanta Braves was postponed through back spasms.
When he eventually took the mound, the left-hander allowed just one run in five innings.
A questionable managerial decision by Dave Roberts to then leave him in for the sixth inning proved fatal.
The Braves jumped on Kershaw as he gave up hits to superstars Ronald Acuña Jr and Freddie Freeman.
The decisive blow of an 107.5mph RBI double off the bat of Marcell Ozuna opened the bullpen doors, and Kershaw walked to the dugout.
Granted, the blame was to be shared throughout the Dodgers that game as the Braves won 10-2 and placed the Dodgers just one loss from elimination, but it didn’t exactly help the Kershaw narrative.
He’ll be pitching in Game 1 of the World Series, and it’ll be interesting to see which Clayton Kershaw turns up.
The one who recently mowed down the Brewers lineup with 13 strikeouts in eight scoreless innings, and can help guide the Dodgers to their first World Series win since 1988, or the one that is so often left vacantly staring at the floor of the dugout, wondering where it all went wrong.
Player to follow on social media: Enrique Hernández
If you want humour, Enrique Hernández is your man.
The charismatic second baseman is frequently seen sharing his life on social media.
From posting funny faces to videos of him lying on the baseball diamond waiting for the playoffs, Kiké always has something to say.
He acknowledges his uniqueness, even wearing a slightly-disturbing face mask of his own moustache with the caption “Yes; I’m weird! No; I don’t care!”
But a highlight moment arises from the pregnancy announcement he shared with his wife on Twitter. The couple posed for some photos… except it was Hernández with the fake baby bump. He let the world know “it works!” as his wife kissed his fake belly.
You can follow him on both Instagram and Twitter with the handle @kikehndez
A brief history
The LA Dodgers have not always been based in Los Angeles. In fact, the team was founded in Brooklyn, New York in 1883. Despite its popularity and success in the post-war period, the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958 to take advantage of the league’s West Coast expansion.
They have not always been called the Dodgers, either. The team was known as the Atlantics, the Grays, the Grooms, the Bridegrooms, the Superbas, the Robins and even the Trolley Dodgers before settling on the Dodgers — a name thought to come from the skill of Brooklyn residents at dodging trams in the streets of New York.
The Dodgers were the first team to break the league’s colour barrier when, on April 15, 1947, African American Jackie Robinson started at first base. Robinson went on to become a six-time All-Star and the first African American elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Other notable Dodgers players include all-time great catcher Roy Campanella, prolific home run hitter Duke Snider and pitching sensation Sandy Koufax, nicknamed the ‘Left Arm of God’.
The team has won six World Series (1955, 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, 1988), but it is perhaps more well known for the 14 it has lost. The words ‘wait ‘til next year’ have become an unofficial slogan for long-suffering Dodgers supporters.
Why the Dodgers will win
LA’s World Series appearance this year is the culmination of a five-year project.
While the Dodgers have made the MLB post-season every year since 2013, it was under manager Dave Roberts’ guidance that they were able to reach the World Series in 2017 and 2018.
Unfortunately, in both of those match-ups, the Dodgers lost. But the 2020 LA Dodgers are not the same as their 2017 or 2018 sides.
As one of the MLB’s heavy favourites heading into the season, the Dodgers had the best record in all of baseball this year.
While Tampa Bay have had two extra days off to rest their rotation, the Dodgers have one of, if not the deepest rosters in all the MLB.
Bolstered by a host of all-stars names, LA will be keen to avenge their last two World Series defeats.
What the bookies say
It’s been 32 years since Dodgers fans last tasted a World Series win.
And if the bookmakers are to believed, now is the perfect time for Los Angeles to break their World Series title drought.
Prior to the start of this year’s shortened MLB season, LA were considered amongst the favourites to clinch the World Series.
And after their emphatic come-from-behind NLCS Championship Series win over the Atlanta Braves, bookies make manager Dave Roberts’ side the favourites to win it all when they face off against Tampa Bay.
Per Oddschecker, every major bookmaker makes LA the favourite over Tampa to bring the World Series title back to the City of Angels.
The bookies also make Mookie Betts the favourite to win the World Series MVP, with William Hill making the Dodgers right fielder the 8/1 favourite.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Star player: Charlie Morton
While Tampa Bay Rays have been praised for the rotation of their pitchers during games, Charlie Morton has been necessary to getting the Rays off to the best starts.
Since joining Tampa in 2019, the starting pitcher has struck out 282 batters with just 67 walks in 232.2 innings.
Morton is undefeated in the five playoff games he has started this postseason.
He is the first major leaguer to emerge victorious in four winner-take-all games, including in the 2017 World Series while playing for the Houston Astros.
His pitching was a crucial factor in the decider against his old team that allowed the Rays to advance to the World Series for only the second time.
Player to follow on social media: Randy Arozarena
The rookie from Cuba has set the league alight this year and was announced as the Most Valuable Player in the previous series against the Houston Astros.
Arozarena’s story is one of inspiration, travelling from Cuba to Mexico on a small boat five years ago, managing to get a spot in the developmental academy of a Mexican team where his talent was spotted by the St. Louis Cardinals.
On social media, he can be seen brandishing his black Cowboy boots, which he claims give him his special powers.
The Rays will be relying on Arozarena and his special boots in this series.
A brief history
The Rays played their first season in the MLB in 1998 and were known as the Devil Rays until the end of the 2007 season.
They had losing records in each of their first 10 seasons and finished last in all but one, when they finished second to last.
2008 was the turning point for Tampa Bay, when they posted a 95-67 record – which was a 29-game improvement on the previous year. They qualified for the first playoff appearance in the teams’ history as AL East Division champions. They eventually lost the World Series in five games to the Philadelphia Phillies.
They have been in and out of the playoffs since 2008, and a mass exodus in 2014 saw the Rays endure a four-year streak of losing seasons that turned in 2018, when a rebuilt Rays team won 90 games but still finished outside of the postseason qualification places.
Tampa further improved in 2019, winning 92 games and the Wild Card Game to advance to the Division Series, which the Rays lost in five games.
Why the Rays will win
Although the Rays are definitely the underdog, it’s a title they relish as they have developed a knack for upsetting the favourites. They play in a Division with two of baseball’s heavyweights in the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox and defeated last year’s runners up and one of the favourites in the Houston Astros in the previous series.
The Rays have one of the smallest payrolls in the competition but have already beaten teams with considerably bigger wage bills than theirs (Yankees and Astros). So facing the Dodgers, whose payroll is four times the size of the Rays, will not scare them.
The Rays led the league in games decided by two or fewer runs during the regular season, so if it’s a tight game late on, your money better be on the Rays.
Tampa has established itself as one of the strongest defensive teams in the league, in no small part due to star outfielders such as Kevin Kiermaier and Manuel Margot, who provided this stunning play against the Astros.
Arozarena might be the most in form player in all of baseball. He has seven home runs in these playoffs, setting the record for the most by a rookie in history. His stunning form has even prompted his teammate Tyler Glasnow to proclaim him as the best player in the world right now.
What the bookies are saying (US and UK)
Winners (in the UK): LA Dodgers: 1/2 (fav), Tampa Bay Rays: 7/4
In the US: LA Dodgers: 1/2, Tampa Bay Rays: 17/10
Tyler Glasnow (TBR): 8/1, Mookie Betts (LAD): 9/1, Randy Arozarena (TBR): 10/1, Clayton Kershaw (LAD): 10/1