Some people thought we would never make it this far, but here we are, in October, playing the World Series! The 2020 Major League Baseball season will forever be remembered as one that featured a lot of adversity and challenges.

But after a 60-game regular season, an expanded 16-team playoff, and one of the most exciting league championship rounds we have ever seen, we arrive at a Fall Classic that somehow feels pretty normal, despite the long and winding road we took to get here. Heck, there are even going to be a couple of fans in the stands to cheer the teams on!

In this article, we are going to take a deep dive into both teams. We will tell you how they both got here, break down each team’s pitching staff and lineup, and finally, give you a high-value play to make on who will win the 2020 Major League Baseball World Series. Let’s get started!

Tampa Bay Rays (40-20) at Los Angeles Dodgers (43-17)

The Los Angeles Dodgers will square off with the Tampa Bay Rays tonight in game one of the 2020 Major League Baseball World Series, kicking off a best of seven series to crown baseball’s world champion. This will be the first-ever neutral-site World Series, as all seven of these games will be played at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, the home of the Texas Rangers, with the teams alternating between being the “home” and “away” team that gets to bat last.

Unlike each of the previous playoff series, this series will be more traditional, as the teams will have days off, rather than playing seven games in seven days, like they did in the championship series. This matchup features a dynamic that is shockingly fairly rare, as both teams finished the regular season as the best team in their respective leagues, making this a true strength on strength match up, with the top seeds both advancing. This will also be the first time since 2004 that both leagues championship series went the full seven games, setting up what I see as a very evenly matched Fall Classic.

How Did We Get Here?

The Los Angeles Dodgers cruised through the regular season, posting one of the highest winning percentages in the history of Major League Baseball and finishing with the best record in the game. The Dodgers finished the 60-game regular season as the top-scoring team in the game and also gave up the fewest runs as well, with the lowest team ERA. Not many teams can finish with that holy trifecta of excellence, and by every way that we can measure a team’s success, the Dodgers were the best team in 2020.

In the wild card round, LA swept the Milwaukee Brewers in two games, allowing just two total runs in the series. In the division series, against the San Diego Padres, the team most people saw as the second-best team in the NL, the Dodgers had little trouble dispatching the Pads, as they again swept them, this time in three games, with a run differential of +14.

It wasn’t until the NLCS, against the Atlanta Braves, that the Dodgers started to run into any trouble. LA lost the first two games of the series against Atlanta, and it looked like their recent run of playoff disappointments might sting them again this year. They battled back to blow the Braves out in game three 15-3, but Atlanta returned the favor in game four, shellacking the Dodgers 10-2, to again take a two-game series lead.

Faced with a 3-1 deficit in the series and no room for error, the Dodgers had to win three straight games to come back and take the series, something that just doesn’t happen very often in Major League Baseball. But the Dodgers showed a ton of heart late in the series with Atlanta, and despite their starting rotation being in shambles, went on a furious run and stormed back in the series, sweeping the final three games to advance to their third World Series in the last four seasons.

For Tampa Bay, the Rays had a similar run through the regular season as they spent much of the year as the American League’s best team. Tampa Bay coasted to the largest division lead in baseball, finishing seven games ahead of the second-place New York Yankees, and posted a +60-run differential that was tied for the best in the AL.

The playoffs haven’t been nearly as easy on Tampa Bay as they have been on the Dodgers, though. After sweeping the Toronto Blue Jays in two games in the wild card round, the Rays needed all five games to eliminate the New York Yankees in the ALDS. Tampa Bay trailed late in that game five with New York and took the lead on a dramatic eighth-inning home run from Mike Brosseau to win the game and the series.

The ALCS started out well enough for Tampa Bay as they won the first three games, and it looked like they were going to walk right through the Houston Astros enroot to just the second World Series appearance in franchise history. But the Astros managed to win three straight after the slow start and forced a decisive game seven. Tampa Bay managed to avoid becoming just the second team ever to blow a 3-0 series lead and took game seven in yet another tightly contested game to earn their chance at the franchise’s first world title.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays have had a flair for the dramatic this season, and just when you count them out, they find a way to redeem themselves and win games. They did the rest of America a huge favor when they knocked the cheating Houston Astros out of the playoffs, and while they are again betting underdogs in this series, they enter the World Series in much better shape than the Dodgers do in terms of the overall health of the team. A lot of people are counting the Rays out in this series, and that is exactly what Tampa Bay is hoping for, as they love to play the underdog role.

Pitching

The Tampa Bay Rays have made it this far by having an elite pitching staff and stellar defense. The Rays make seemingly impossible plays look routine on defense, and in the ALCS against Houston, they had several improbable catches and throws that won them the series. That lethal combination of pitching and defense has led the Rays to allow four runs or fewer in ten of their fourteen postseason games, seven times holding opposing teams to two runs or less.

The Rays will have the luxury of having their starting rotation mostly set for this series. Tampa Bay will open up in game one with Tyler Glasnow, who hasn’t pitched since 10/14, and will be on an extra day’s rest. In game two, they are likely to go with recent Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell.

Snell was solid against the Houston Astros in two starts, working nine innings and allowing only three earned runs, and will be pitching on four day’s rest. Normally four day’s rest would be a concern, but Snell threw just 82-pitches in four innings in his last outing and hasn’t pitched more than five innings in any of his last three starts, so he should have some gas left in the tank.

Rays manager Kevin Cash hasn’t named his game three starter, but you can be almost guaranteed that it will be Charlie Morton, as he will be on full rest and was the hero of the ALCS against Houston. In that series, Morton made two starts, pitched a combined 10.2 innings, and didn’t allow even a single run.

That including a monster performance in game seven. Morton has a long history of being a stud in the playoffs, and his record in elimination games is 4-0 with a 0.46 ERA. Starting Morton in game three sets the Rays up to use him in game seven on four day’s rest, and with his history of being unhittable when everything is on the line, you can bet that is what Tampa Bay is going to do if this series goes the distance.

Lineup

The big question mark for the Rays is their bats. The Rays haven’t scored more than five runs in a game in their last nine contests and have only scored more than four runs in four of their fourteen playoff games this year. When you look at the hitting stats for Tampa Bay, only Randy Arozarena has been able to consistently hit the baseball, as he is the only player that is hitting north of .300 in the postseason. Their team batting average sits at just .209, nearly fifty points lower than the Dodgers.

Mike Zunino has shown his trademark power, as he has four home runs in this postseason, the second-most ever by a catcher in one postseason. But he has also shown his trademark strikeouts as he has a team high 18 Ks in just 37-at bats. Manuel Margot has also had some big hits for Tampa Bay, as he is second on the team in homers and leads the squad in RBI. But the standout star for the Rays in the playoffs has been rookie sensation Randy Arozarena.

Arozarena leads the team in basically every offensive category, including hits, batting average, slugging, OPS, and runs scored. His seven home runs are the most by any player in this series, and no player that has been a regular for their team is hitting for a higher average than Arozarena’s .382.

Mookie Betts and Corey Seager lead the Dodgers will 14 hits apiece, and those numbers pale in comparison to the 21 hits that Arozarena has racked up. While he might not have the headlining name of some of the other guys in this series, nobody is hitting better than Arozarena right now.

Los Angeles Dodgers

When the Los Angeles Dodgers made the big move to bring in Mookie Betts in the offseason, it signaled to the rest of the National League that the Dodgers were all-in on winning their first World Series title since 1988. They came into the regular season as the most hyped team in recent memory, and after finishing the regular season with a .718 winning percentage and winning their first five playoff games, the questions shifted from will the Dodgers win the World Series, to will this team even lose a game?

The Braves sobered those expectations on LA after winning three of the first four games on the NLCS. But after seeing LA come back to win three straight games and take the series, the Dodgers winning it all has gone back to being a foregone conclusion in many people’s minds. But when you look at what the Dodgers had to do to get here, there are a lot of uncertainties surrounding the Boys in Blue.

Pitching

The Dodgers had, by far, the best pitching staff in the game in the regular season. Their starters were elite, and their bullpen seemingly never gave up a run or blew a game. But after having to play the grueling seven games in seven days NLCS, the Dodgers pitching staff looks to be overworked and vulnerable. There is certainly a lot of talent on the mound for LA, but they averaged using more than five pitchers a game against Atlanta, and nearly everyone on this staff is stretched thin.

Julio Urias was the unlikely hero of the NLCS as he started game three and earned the win with five innings of one-run ball. With limited options to turn to in game seven, Dave Roberts turned to Urias out of the bullpen to finish out the final three innings against the Braves. Urias came up big for LA as he didn’t allow a hit in the three perfect innings and picked up his second win of the series. But with him just having pitched, he probably won’t be available until at least game three.

Clayton Kershaw’s long history of stinking it up in the playoffs has reared its ugly head once again, as Kershaw has not been good in his last two starts. In his last two outings, coming against the Braves and the Padres, Kershaw has pitched a combined eleven innings and has got hammered for seven earned runs.

The Dodgers are going with Kersh in game one, despite his recent struggles and back spasms that saw him get scratched from his scheduled game two start. If he can’t live down his postseason demons, the Dodgers may quickly be regretting that decision.

LA will be forced to use some combination of Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin to start at least one game of this series, and both of those guys were awful against Atlanta. Gonsolin stepped up to start for Kershaw in game two and was promptly smashed for five runs in just four and a third innings. They went back to Gonsolin in game seven, this time out of the bullpen, and again he got rocked for two runs in just two innings on two hits and three walks. May struggled as well, as he worked three innings against the Braves and gave up three runs on four hits and four walks.

Lineup

When you look up and down this Dodgers lineup, it is hard to find a soft spot, as all of these guys are good. It was no surprise that they ended the regular season as the top-scoring team in the game, as they have the most talented lineup. But if you were to look at just their playoff hitting stats, you might be surprised at how mediocre they have been. Established stars like Max Muncy, AJ Pollock, Chris Taylor, and Justin Turner are all hitting below .230, and outside of Corey Seager, the Dodgers are experiencing a power outage.

The Dodgers have just 18 home runs in the 2020 postseason, which is seven fewer than the Rays. Only Seager and game seven hero Cody Bellinger have more than two home runs for the Dodgers right now. Joc Pederson, Mookie Betts, Chris Taylor, AJ Pollock, and Will Smith all have one home run or fewer.

I think we can all recognize that this Dodgers lineup is very good, but they aren’t really playing like it right now, and against a Rays team that can absolutely pitch their brains out. LA just might struggle at the dish more than most people think.

Who Do I like?

It is hard not to like both of these teams, as they were both the best team in their respective leagues all year long. But I am very concerned about this Dodgers pitching staff. They had to go for broke against Atlanta, and having Clayton Kershaw start game one on short rest is a very risky move. Dave Roberts has shown time and again that he will make the wrong call when it matters, and I don’t think I would be going with Kershaw to lead off this series.

If LA losses game one, and I have a strong feeling that may end up being the case, they are going to find themselves in a spot where they have to beat Blake Snell and Charlie Morton in four of the last six games. That is a tall order for any team, and I don’t think the Dodgers are going to be able to do it. I will invoke the famous Yogi Berra quote when the Yankees great said baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.

The Dodgers and Kershaw specifically are fighting demons from the last five years, and while the Rays are going to be playing loose with nothing to lose, the Dodgers know that every decision that they make, every play that they miss, and every game that that they lose, is going to be dissected.

They call The Masters golf tournament a tradition like none other. Baseball’s version of a tradition like none other, is the Dodgers coming into the playoffs looking unbeatable, only to blow it and find a way to break their fan’s hearts time and again.

The Bet

Game one will set the tone for this entire series. If playoff Kershaw shows up and blows this game, I don’t see how the Dodgers are going to be able to recover. Not that losing one game is that big of a deal, but remember, with Kershaw going in game one, that means that LA will have him available to start later in this series as well. Kershaw is a massive head case, and if he loses game one and gets called upon again late in this series, in what could potentially be an elimination game, that is a must fade spot and I just don’t trust that he won’t implode.

The Dodgers are the more talented team in this series. But they were much more talented than the National last year and still saw their season come to an end at the hands of the Nats. You could say the same thing about every playoff series the Dodgers have lost in the last handful of seasons. On paper, they are always the better team. But with Kershaw consistently blowing games and Dave Roberts finding a way to bungle just about every tough decision he makes, this team continues to underachieve.

The Rays are the exact opposite, as nobody ever expects them to win, yet despite the fact that they spent roughly the same amount of money this season on their entire team, as the Dodgers did on just Kershaw and Betts, they find ways to win games year in and year out. The only missing piece to this Tampa Bay Rays success story is a World Series title and I think this is the year that they break through and make it happen.

The Dodgers hit this series with their bats underperforming, their pitching staff an absolute mess, and more banged up than they would like to be. We didn’t even talk about Cody Bellinger’s shoulder yet, and for those of you that don’t know, last year’s NL MVP dislocated his shoulder celebrating his game-winning home run in game seven, and the full extent of the injury still isn’t known. If Bellinger isn’t at 100%, it is just one more thing working against LA. I am going with the upset in this series, as I see the Tampa Bay Rays winning their first World Series title in franchise history!

The Bet: Tampa Bay Rays To Win The Series +165