Dodgers win National League pennant to set up rags vs. riches World Series

If you were busy being disappointing at Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams last night while they lost to the San Francisco 49ers despite being gifted many opportunities in the second half to get back into the game, you might have missed an exciting Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

Don’t worry, I didn’t. I tuned in for the best parts of the baseball game, which was better than the football game that had zero good parts. The Atlanta Braves, who at one point led the series 3-1 before the Los Angeles Dodgers stormed back and forced a winner-take-all finale, got up early 2-0 thanks to an RBI single by Marcell Ozuna and a solo home run from Dansby Swanson.

The 2017 and 2018 NL pennant winners wouldn’t stay down for long, though. Los Angeles evened things up on on two-RBI single by Will Smith in the third, but Atlanta went back ahead when Austin Riley drove in Ozzie Albies in the fourth. The Braves were in control again, but baseball fans everywhere could feel the momentum shift when Mookie Betts made the catch of his life in the fifth.

Kike Hernandez made the score 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth with a solo shot, and the Dodgers came inches away from taking the lead in the same inning. However, Chris Taylor was cut down at the plate on a ground ball by Albies.

Great job by my guy Travis d’Arnaud to legally block the plate and leave no doubt that Taylor was meat. For a moment, it looked like the Braves were back in the driver’s seat, but we’re not in the 1990s anymore with Atlanta winning the pennant every other year. This is Los Angeles’s era and Cody Bellinger made sure everyone knew it.

I don’t think anyone minds Bellinger pimping a home run if it wins the freaking pennant, and that’s exactly what that blast did. The Dodgers’ bullpen held up with Julio Urias retiring the final nine Braves in a row to secure the team’s third trip to the World Series in the last four seasons.

This time around, they’ll face the Tampa Bay Rays, a rag-tag group of misfits that has dominated the shortened season thanks to a rotation headlined by Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell backed by an even better bullpen. Plus, their lineup has been much more dangerous in October thanks to the emergence of Randy Arozarena, a former Cardinals prospect who has hit .382/.433/.855 with seven home runs in the postseason.

The overwhelming theme of the World Series is bound to be Los Angeles’s large-market riches going up against the relatively anonymous Rays and their shoestring budget. The Dodgers just signed Mookie Betts to a $365 million contract while Tampa Bay has just two players — Snell and Kevin Kiermaier — on deals worth at least $50 million.

Current president of baseball operations for Los Angeles Andrew Friedman knows how it is. He used to run baseball ops for the Rays before taking over one of baseball’s most storied franchises. Friedman put Tampa Bay on the map and led them to the 2008 pennant following a decade of cellar-dwelling. I’m sure he’s happy where he’s at, but the man must be feeling something watching his current juggernaut go up against the underdog that he worked so hard to build into a contender way back when.

No matter who wins the upcoming Fall Classic, many fans will be happy that the Houston Astros didn’t get to take part. I think an Astros vs. Dodgers series would have been electric because of how many of the Los Angeles players still feel Houston robbed them of the title in 2017 with their sign-stealing. Would a Houston victory been a sign that cheating in baseball pays off? Or would it be proof that the Astros were talented enough to win three years ago without the cameras and the trash cans?

I’m surprised more investigating hasn’t been done into what alleged ringleaders Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran were doing when they weren’t with the Astros in recent years. Cora as manager of the Red Sox made comments during last year’s London Series that implied he suspected Beltran of using a similar system with the Yankees.

Before helping the Astros cheat in 2017, he played for the Yankees from 2014 through 2016. After 2017, he joined the Yankees as a special assistant, so one has to wonder if he was cooking up a similar scheme in New York. Cora, meanwhile had his 2018 Boston team investigated for sign-stealing. The organization was even penalized for its wrongdoing, but the players didn’t seem to have nearly as much involvement as the 2017 Astros did.

Still, that’s two scandals in two years for Cora, with the Astros getting 99 percent of the heat from the fans and media. It has made me wonder over the past few months how many of Houston’s critics have taken part in similar schemes themselves or would have been compliant had they been put in a similar situation as players like Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. I don’t know if the other shoe will ever drop for Yankees fans, but they should be more careful with their outrage when Beltran was cooking up who-knows-what for them behind the scenes.

So that’s why I’ve been pulling for the Astros this year. They just didn’t have what it takes with Gerrit Cole pitching for the enemy and Justin Verlander out due to Tommy John surgery. It’s fun rooting for the heel and the players are likable enough. I don’t think Altuve, Correa, and George Springer are bad people, but what really made me love them was how they drove Yankees fans crazy. The real bad guy will whoever hires Cora once his suspension is up. After his teams were caught cheating two years in a row, he’s the common denominator who can’t be trusted going forward.

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