The Dodgers celebrate after their 4-2 World Series-clinching Game 6 victory over the Rays.
Rays manager Kevin Cash’s decision to lift a dominating Blake Snell on Tuesday night in Game 6 of the World Series will be talked about forever and add rocket fuel to the debate about the place of analytics in baseball.
And the Dodgers will love hearing every word of the story, since the decision played a big part in them winning their first World Series title since 1988, a pulsating 3-1 victory at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
What made the Dodgers’ title bittersweet was third baseman Justin Turner being removed from the game after the seventh inning because of a positive COVID-19 test.
Snell was cruising through 5 ¹/₃ innings in which he hadn’t given up a run, allowed two singles, didn’t issue a walk and struck out nine. Then Cash, sticking to a plan that was used very successfully throughout the 60-game regular season and the postseason, called for right-hander Nick Anderson.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts looked at Mookie Betts and got a small smile back.
“I was pretty happy because he was dominating us, we weren’t seeing him,’’ Roberts said. “Once Austin [Barnes] got that hit [a one-out single], Mookie looked at me with a little smile and we were all kind of excited that Snell was out of the game.’’
Anderson, a bullpen bear during the regular season who had faltered lately, fell behind Betts, 2-0, and watched him rip a double down the third-base line that sent Barnes to third. Anderson’s wild pitch sent Barnes home to tie the score, 1-1, and Betts scored on MVP Corey Seager’s ground ball to first baseman Ji-Man Choi. Due to a strong read of the ball off the bat, Betts beat Choi’s throw home with a headfirst slide to give the Dodgers the lead.
Two innings later, Betts launched a homer to left-center for a 3-1 cushion.
Lefty Julio Urias entered the game for the Dodgers in the seventh with a runner on first and two outs, replacing lefty Victor Gonzalez, who struck out three in 1 ¹/₃ innings.
Urias struck pinch-hitter Yandy Diaz looking for the final out and then worked a perfect eighth to put the Dodgers three outs away from their first World Series championship in 32 years.
With late-inning relievers Kenley Jansen and Blake Treinen remaining in the bullpen, Urias recorded the final three outs for the victory that ignited a celebration tempered by not having Turner, who was immediately placed in isolation before later returning to the field to join his teammates.
That will be part of the Dodger story, and Cash will wear the decision to remove Snell for a while.
“The only motive was the lineup, the Dodgers is as potent as any team in the league. Personally, I felt Blake did his job and then some,’’ Cash said. “Mookie coming around a third time through. I value that and I totally understand the questions that come with it. Blake gave us every opportunity to win. They are not easy decisions. Once Barnes got on base, I didn’t want Mookie and Seager seeing Blake a third time.’’
Snell simply didn’t want to leave, though the nanosecond Cash popped out of the dugout, the lefty understood he was done.
“Definitely disappointed. I wanted the ball. I did everything I could to state my case to stay out there,’’ Snell said. “It sucks. I wanted to stay out there as long as I can. That was one of the better games I have pitched in a long time. I felt very comfortable out there, the way I scouted them, the way I scouted myself. I knew when I was going to switch it up. I thought I did everything I could to stay in that game.’’