ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — No dogpile, no champagne and a mask on nearly every face — the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated their first World Series title since 1988 in a manner no one could have imagined prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
They started the party without Justin Turner, too, after their red-headed star received a positive COVID-19 test in the middle of their clinching victory.
Turner was removed from Los Angeles’ 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 on Tuesday night after registering Major League Baseball’s first positive test in 59 days and wasn’t initially on the field as the Dodgers enjoyed the spoils of a title earned during a most unusual season.
He returned to the field about an hour after the game, hugging longtime teammate Clayton Kershaw and sitting front-and-center for a team photo next to manager Dave Roberts with his mask pulled down under his bushy beard.
“Thanks to everyone reaching out!,” Turner said on Twitter. “I feel great, no symptoms at all. Just experienced every emotion you can possibly imagine. Can’t believe I couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys! So proud of this team & unbelievably happy for the City of LA.”
MLB insulated postseason teams in neutral-site bubbles after traveling them across the country during a shortened 60-game season. Turner was the first player since the playoffs began to be flagged for the coronavirus.
The 35-year-old Turner has been a staple in the Dodgers’ lineup for seven of their eight consecutive NL West titles. A late-blooming slugger who helped reshape the game by succeeding with an upper-cut swing, Turner is LA’s career leader with 12 postseason home runs, including a pair in this Series, in which he hit .364 and also played stellar defense.
“It’s gut-wrenching,” World Series MVP Corey Seager said. “If I could switch places with him right now, I would. That’s just not right.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed Turner’s positive test moments after presenting the World Series trophy to Los Angeles — a jarring reminder of all that’s been different in this season where the perennially favored Dodgers finally broke through.
Mookie Betts, who came to the Dodgers to make a World Series difference, had a mad dash to home plate in the sixth inning to put Los Angeles over the top.
“I just came to be a part of it. I’m just happy I could contribute,” Betts said
The end of a frustrating championship drought for LA — and perhaps just the start for Betts and the Dodgers, whose seventh World Series title was their sixth since leaving Brooklyn to the West Coast in 1958.
“I had a crazy feeling that came to fruition,” Roberts said. “It’s just a special group of players, organization, all that we’ve kind of overcome.”
Betts bolted from third for the go-ahead run on Seager’s infield grounder, then led off the eighth with a punctuating homer.
“It was absolutely phenomenal. This team was incredible,” said Seager, also the NLCS MVP who had franchise records with his eight homers and 20 RBIs this postseason. “We never stopped. We were ready to go as soon as the bell was called. Once it did, we kept rolling. You can’t say enough about what we did this season.”
Kershaw was warming in the bullpen when Julio Urías struck out Willy Adames to end it and ran alongside teammates to celebrate in the infield, later joined by family who had been in the bubble with them in North Texas.
Players were handed face masks as they gathered, although many of their embraces came mask-free even after Turner’s positive test.
The Dodgers had played 5,014 regular season games and were in their 114th postseason game since Orel Hershiser struck out Oakland’s Tony Phillips for the final out of the World Series in 1988, the same year Kershaw — the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner who won Games 1 and 5 of this Series — was born in nearby Dallas.
Los Angeles had come up short in the World Series twice in the previous three years. Betts was on the other side two years ago and homered in the clinching Game 5 for the Boston Red Sox, who before this season traded the 2018 AL MVP to the Dodgers. They later gave him a $365 million, 12-year extension that goes until he turns 40 in 2032.
Betts’ 3.2-second sprint was just enough to beat the throw by first baseman Ji-Man Choi, pushing Los Angeles ahead 2-1 moments after Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled ace left-hander Blake Snell despite a dominant performance over 5 1/3 innings.
“I’m not exactly sure why,” Betts said when asked about the move. “I’m not going to ask any questions. He was pitching a great game.”
Snell struck out nine — including the first time all season that Betts, Seager and Turner each struck out in their first two at-bats. But the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner didn’t see the top three batters in the Dodgers lineup a third time.
Randy Arozarena, the powerful Tampa Bay rookie, extended his postseason record with his 10th homer in the first off rookie right-hander Tony Gonsolin, the first of seven Dodgers pitchers. The Rays never got another runner past second base as LA’s bullpen gave reliever-reliant Tampa Bay a taste of its own medicine while allowing only two hits and no walks over 7 1/3 innings.
About 2 1/2 weeks after the Lakers won the NBA title while finishing their season in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, the Dodgers gave Los Angeles another championship in this year when the novel coronavirus pandemic has delayed, shortened and moved around sports seasons.
The MLB season didn’t start until late July and was abbreviated to 60 games for the shortest regular season since 1878. And the expanded postseason, with 16 teams making it instead of 10, almost went the full distance.
It ended when Urías got the last two out Tampa Bay batters on called third strikes — the 15th and 16 Ks by the Rays, with catcher Austin Barnes stuffing the last pitch in his back pocket. Along with the 11 strikeouts by the Dodgers, it was the most combined strikeouts in a nine-inning World Series game.
Both League Championship Series went to seven games, with Los Angeles beating Atlanta in the National League, and Tampa Bay needing all seven games in the American League after blowing a 3-0 series lead against Houston.
Betts made sure the Dodgers didn’t need another game.
Chants of “M-V-P!, M-V-P!” broke out when he hit his double in the sixth off reliever Nick Anderson. Snell, the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner had had already struck out Betts twice, plus the Dodgers leadoff hitter had a .531 OPS against lefties this season, compared to 1.061 versus right-handers.
Those chants got even louder — even with the a limited crowd of 11,437 — when Betts went deep on an 0-2 pitch by hard-throwing right-hander Pete Fairbanks.
There were plenty of fans in Dodgers blue at the new $1.2 billion home of the Texas Rangers, the stadium with the retractable roof where they played 16 games over three weeks. And the roof was closed for the final one, with misty conditions and a game-time temperature of 39 degrees outside.
The Dodgers, who had a majors-best 43-17 record in the regular season, swept San Diego in three games during their NL Division Series there before the NLCS.
Los Angeles was home team for the final game of the season, like in the 2017 World Series when the Houston Astros won Game 7 at Dodger Stadium, and two years ago against the Red Sox.