ARLINGTON, Texas — Since Orel Hershiser struck out Oakland’s Tony Phillips for the final out of the 1988 World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers have played 5,014 regular-season games and 113 more in the postseason in pursuit of their next title. They have spent $3.69 billion in player payroll over 32 seasons.
One more win and that elusive seventh championship will be theirs.
“I think it’s going to be really welcoming to the players, this generation,” Hershiser said Monday, a day before the Dodgers take a 3-2 World Series lead into Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Rays. “It’s definitely a generational win for this group of guys and I’m thinking of the Kenley Jansens, the Clayton Kershaws, the Justin Turners, the guys that have been here through all the division titles.”
Kershaw got his second win of the Series on Sunday, and Tony Gonsolin starts Tuesday against the Rays’ Blake Snell. The rookie right-hander hopes to keep the World Series from reaching a Game 7 for the fourth time in five years.
If Tampa Bay manages to win, Walker Buehler would start Game 7 for the Dodgers on Wednesday and Charlie Morton for the Rays in the finale of the first neutral-site Series.
Gonsolin was used as an opener in Game 2, allowing Brandon Lowe’s first-inning homer, lasting just four outs and taking the loss as the Rays won 6-4. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he views the 25-year-old right-hander as a traditional starter this time through and hopes for five or six innings from him.
“It’s mostly an eye test because he’s shown that when he’s rolling, he gets lefties, righties out. When he’s not, you can see that he’s not on point,” Roberts said. “I think for me, it’s just let Tony go until he’s not being as effective as we feel he should be.”
Los Angeles, with a big league-leading payroll of $95.6 million in the pandemic-shortened season, has outplayed the low-budget Rays, 28th among the 30 teams at $29.3 million. The Dodgers have outscored the Rays 29-21, outhit them .264 to .228 and outhomered them 11-8 with an offense led by Corey Seager (.471, two homers, four RBIs), Max Muncy (.389, six RBIs) and Justin Turner (.364).
While Manuel Margot (.400), Kevin Kiermaier (.375, two homers, three RBIs) and Randy Arozarena (.333, two homers, three RBIs) have produced, Austin Meadows (.154), Joey Wendle (.133) and Mike Zunino (0 for 13) have struggled. Lowe (3 for 21, three homers, six RBIs) has been hit and miss.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said he plans on formulating his lineup to guard against a short outing by Gonsolin followed by righty-lefty switches. He hopes Snell pitches aggressively.
“We just haven’t done a good enough job of establishing that we’re going to get outs within the zone early in the count,” he said. “But the Dodgers do a tremendous job of seeing pitches, getting deep in the count, pretty fearless with hitting with two strikes.”
Mookie Betts is 5 for 22 (.227) but has sparked the Dodgers with superior defense and four stolen bases — three shy of Lou Brock’s Series record After beating the Dodgers with Boston in the 2018 Series, Betts was acquired by Los Angeles in a trade last February and signed a $365 million contract through 2032.
“We got a steal,” Roberts said. “And I’m just so grateful that the deal was done because it’s not only helping us this year, it’s going to help us for the next wave of young players and really enhance what we have as a culture going forward. And it’s going to affect players that haven’t been drafted by the Dodgers yet.”
Tampa Bay won its first division title since 2010 and is in the Series for the second time, following a five-game loss to Philadelphia in 2008. The Rays and Cash have impressed Roberts with their relentlessness, evidenced by their ninth-inning rally to win Game 4.