NLCS and ALCS reach Game 7, Dodgers and Rays advance to the World Series
Down 3–1 in the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, the Los Angeles Dodgers roared back, winning three games in a row to return to the World Series. Although the Dodgers’ postseason narrative of the last few years has shifted — after losing in 2017 to the Houston Astros, in 2018 to the Boston Red Sox and in 2019 to the Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series — the Dodgers find themselves, once again, in a familiar spot, set to return to the World Series this year.
After dominating the pandemic-shortened regular season and finishing with the league’s best record of 43–17, the Dodgers found themselves in an early hole heading into a must-win Game 5. After a dismal offensive performance in Game 4, the Dodgers’ offense came alive late, leading them to a 7–3 victory over the Braves. Heading into another must-win game in Game 6, the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler faced the Braves’ ace, Max Fried, though it was Mookie Betts and the LA bullpen dominating in the late innings to force a Game 7. The Dodgers won 3–1 after a brilliant defensive performance by Betts and the top arms out of the Dodger bullpen. Dave Roberts elected to start Dustin May for Game 7. May served as the team’s opener, opposing Braves rookie Ian Anderson, who had not allowed a run in the postseason. While May struggled early, forcing Roberts to turn to the bullpen early, Betts’ elite defense, coupled with several early game-saving plays in the Dodger infield, kept the Braves’ early rally to a minimum. Managing only three runs on three hits, the Braves’ offense was overmatched by the Dodgers’ bullpen, as reliever Julio Urias shut down the Braves’ offense to seal the win for the Dodgers. The Dodgers managed four runs off of 10 hits, winning the series 4–3. Corey Seager was named the NLCS MVP, while Clayton Kershaw, whose postseason woes continue, was named as the Dodgers’ World Series Game 1 starter.
After blowing a 3–0 series lead, the Tampa Bay Rays saw the Houston Astros — plagued by a cheating scandal, without their ace Justin Verlander and with several key stars underperforming in the regular season — battle back to even the series at 3–3. Despite an apparently resurgent Astros team this postseason, the Astros put up a losing record in the regular season. The Rays, meanwhile, were the best team in the American League, finishing with a record of 40–20.
The first six games were evenly matched, with pitching stifling both teams’ offenses. Both teams relied heavily on convenient home runs, as Houston looked for their stars to break out in the postseason and the Rays leaned on their dominant bullpen. The Rays, led by manager Kevin Cash, masterfully outplayed the Astros in Game 7, behind a much-needed dominating performance by starter Charlie Morton. Morton pitched into the sixth inning, facing his former Astros teammates, putting up zeroes throughout a dominant performance. The Rays’ bullpen, which has been one of baseball’s best, shut down the Astros offense in the remaining innings to clinch the pennant. The Rays’ Randy Arozarena, the breakout star of this postseason, led the Rays to their second AL pennant with a 4–2 victory over the Astros. Arozarena was later named the American League Championship Series MVP.
Despite the lingering cheating scandal in Houston, the series was decided by the Rays outplaying the Astros in key moments. The Rays’ bullpen dominated, and the offense managed just enough runs to scrape past Houston, simply outperforming the Astros through seven games. Cash named Tyler Glasnow as his World Series Game 1 starter.
Heading into the World Series, the Dodgers have the clear advantage — LA has won eight straight NL West division titles and this is their third trip to the World Series in four years. The Dodgers are looking for their first title since 1988, while Tampa Bay has not yet secured a title, making only their second appearance in the World Series. While the Dodgers have a clear edge with their star-studded offense and big-name starters, Cash leads one of baseball’s smartest organizations. Both teams have immense depth, but prior to the World Series, most experts pick the Dodgers to win in a grueling, exciting and surprising series.
The World Series is currently tied 2-2.