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Chris Archer believes Tampa Bay Rays could have best rotation in majors



PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Chris Archer believes the Tampa Bay Rays are capable of having the best rotation in the major leagues.

“We have some very dynamic arms in this room,” the two-time AL All-Star said after reporting to spring training, where a bevy of young starters and prospects are competing for roles on a staff that will have a different look after losing Alex Cobb to free agency.

“I say this every year, because we always have a special organization when it comes to arms, but I’m willing to put it up against everybody in the league,” Archer added. “And in order for us to back it up, we have to produce. I think everybody in here is capable of doing that.”

Archer, 29; Jake Odorizzi, 28; Blake Snell, 25; Nathan Eovaldi, 28; Matt Andriese, 28; and Jake Faria, 24, are the leading candidates for the Rays’ five-man starting rotation entering camp.

That could change if Odorizzi, subject of trade speculation this winter, winds up being dealt to trim payroll.

Adding to the intrigue is the presence of promising prospects Brent Honeywell, Yonny Chirinos, Jose DeLeon and Ryan Yarbrough — long shots to make the Opening Day roster who nevertheless may get an opportunity to contribute this season.

Archer, 10-12 with a 4.07 ERA a year ago when he worked at least 200 innings for the third consecutive season, is excited about the possibilities.

“I know there are a lot of pitching staffs out there excited about what they have, but as far as our depth — one through seven, eight, nine, even 10 guys — we’re going to have three or four guys in Triple-A who could be starting in the big leagues somewhere for somebody,” Archer said.

“I’ll put it up against anybody’s,” the right-hander added. “And at the end of the season, we can look at the numbers and see how we all fared.”

With just five players 30 years or older — catcher Wilson Ramos, outfielder Denard Span and relievers Sergio Romo, Chaz Roe and Dan Jennings — on the 40-man roster, Tampa Bay has one of the youngest clubs in baseball.

The Rays enter 2018 with a streak of 560 consecutive games started by pitchers under 30, the longest such stretch in the majors.

Archer, an All-Star in 2015 and 2017, is eager to lead the way again.

“In order for us to be successful, we have to pitch at our top capabilities,” he reiterated.

“We don’t have to be anything more than what we are. But we have to produce, just like on the position-player side — offense, defense, everybody has to be clicking,” Archer added. “We talk about that every year, but pitching is our strong suit, and we need to take full advantage of it.”

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Social media reacts to the Los Angeles Dodgers winning the 2020 World Series



The 2020 World Series is in the books and the Los Angeles Dodgers are baseball’s champions after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2 in the series.

After getting only two hits through the first five innings, the Dodgers’ offense got going in the sixth inning when L.A. scored two runs.

That offense came after Rays manager Kevin Cash removed starter Blake Snell from the game. To that point, the top three hitters in the Dodgers’ lineup had each struck out twice against Snell.

The decision to take out Snell after 5⅓ innings when he had given up only two hits and struck out nine will be highly scrutinized. Social media was quick to react.

After the first inning when Randy Arozarena homered for Tampa Bay’s only run, the Dodgers’ bullpen shut down the Rays, and Mookie Betts put the exclamation point on the win with an eighth-inning home run. Here’s how social media reveled in the Dodgers’ first World Series win since 1988.

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Los Angeles Dodgers favored to repeat as World Series champs in 2021



The Los Angeles Dodgers, fresh off of winning their first World Series title since 1988, have been installed as the favorites to win next year’s World Series, too.

The Dodgers, who finished off the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in a clinching Game 6 Tuesday in Arlington, Texas, head into the offseason at +400 to win the 2021 World Series at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. The New York Yankees are next at +650, followed by the San Diego Padres at +850.

The Dodgers practically went wire-to-wire as the favorites to win this year’s World Series title and were the betting favorite in each of their 78 games, including in the postseason. They overcame a 3-1 deficit to the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series and outlasted the Rays in a hard-fought World Series to win the franchise’s seventh championship.

The Rays are +1,000 to win next season’s World Series, followed by the Braves and Chicago White Sox, who are each at +1,200. The Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics are +1,400, followed by the Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians, who are each +2,000.

The Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds are each +2,500, followed by the New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals, who are all at +3,000.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have the longest odds at 300-1 at Caesars Sportbook by William Hill, with the Detroit Tigers also facing long odds at 200-1.

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Champs! The best Dodgers team ever ends L.A.’s 32-year title drought



ARLINGTON, Texas — The Kirk Gibson home run had endured, but it had also run its course. The clip remained a constant presence around the Los Angeles Dodgers, consuming their broadcasts and playing on a near-constant loop at their stadium. It stood as the seminal moment from a bygone era, of a championship captured more than three decades earlier. A new memory had long been desired.

“We’ve heard it a lot, and we’ve seen a lot of highlights, and it’s fantastic,” Dave Roberts, the fifth-year manager, said. “But we wanna make our own mark on Dodgers history.”

On Tuesday night, in a neutral stadium 1,400 miles away, at the conclusion of a bizarre season played amid a global health crisis, these Dodgers finally made their mark. Their 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the World Series won them their first championship since Gibson famously hobbled to the batter’s box in 1988, a fitting coronation for a dominant franchise.

Tony Gonsolin, counted on to function as a traditional starter, recorded only five outs. But four relievers — Dylan Floro, Alex Wood, Pedro Baez and Victor Gonzalez — retired 13 of the next 14 batters, keeping the game within reach long enough for the Dodgers to get past an electric Blake Snell and tap into the Rays’ bullpen.

After Rays manager Kevin Cash turned to Nick Anderson with one on, one out and the top of the order due up a third time in the sixth, the Dodgers’ offense finally came alive. Mookie Betts doubled, Austin Barnes scored on a wild pitch, and Betts slid home safely on a grounder to the right side. Betts, the offseason acquisition who has somehow exceeded expectations, tacked on an important insurance run with a solo homer in the eighth, and Julio Urias cruised past the finish line, leading the Dodgers to the title — 16 days after the Los Angeles Lakers did the same.

Roberts, second-guessed for a litany of his October decisions in recent years, is a champion. Justin Turner, a lifelong Dodgers fan who identifies Gibson’s homer as his first baseball memory, is a champion. Clayton Kershaw, ridiculed for his postseason shortcomings, is a champion. Kenley Jansen, stripped of his title as the team’s closer, is a champion.

The Dodgers, division champions for eight straight years, are finally champions again.

“We’ve been through a lot as a team, especially the guys who have been here for as long,” utility infielder Enrique Hernandez, who has finished his sixth and perhaps final season with the Dodgers, said before Game 6. “And the guys who have been here before me have been through even more.”

Their journey began with the most aggressive move of the Andrew Friedman era, finalized on Feb. 10, when a substantial chunk of a promising future was sent to the Boston Red Sox for one season of Betts. The spring training that followed filled Friedman with a level of optimism he rarely allows. The older players looked sharp, the younger players had come into their own, and Betts was already striking an important tone about commitment.

Then the coronavirus pandemic swept through the United States, canceling what remained of spring training and shutting down the sport for more than three months.

“The most difficult thing professionally during the quarantine period was the periods of time when I felt like we would never get a chance to watch this team play,” Friedman said. “That was extremely difficult.”

When Major League Baseball resumed in July, the Dodgers proved to be one of the greatest teams in baseball history.

They won 43 of their 60 games and finished with the fourth-highest per-game run differential in the modern era. Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Joc Pederson struggled through a shortened, fan-less season with no access to in-game video, but the Dodgers’ offense still led the majors in runs. Their starting rotation lost the likes of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and David Price, the latter of whom opted out, and yet it still boasted the sport’s second-lowest ERA. Betts, signed to a record extension before Opening Day, played like an MVP. Corey Seager returned to being one of the game’s best shortstops. Dustin May and Gonsolin each made their case for Rookie of the Year honors. Will Smith emerged as a premier catcher. And Kershaw tapped back into the stuff of his prime.

The Dodgers swept through the first two rounds of an expanded postseason, and it wasn’t until they faced the upstart Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series that they truly felt challenged.

“We showed up and out-talented everybody every day, and it was easy,” longtime Dodgers pitcher Wood said. “We never had much of a challenge in the regular season or the first two rounds, and then you get punched in the face, go down 2-0, and it’s like, ‘Whoa, what just happened?’ We had just been out-talenting everyone the whole entire season, and we didn’t really know what we were made of, who we were, truly, as a team.”

The Dodgers split the next two games, fell behind 3-1, and were eager to find out. The extensive text chain involving every member of the team — including Price, who made his presence felt despite his absence — began to develop a theme built around the possibility of accomplishing something special. What followed were three consecutive wins — all of them tight, all of them involving a game-changing defensive play from Betts — and a feeling of invincibility.

The World Series functioned as a coronation. Their fans traveled en masse, making a neutral-site, quarter-capacity stadium feel like an enduring home venue. The Dodgers’ offense — led by Seager, Turner and Muncy in the Nos. 2-4 spots — set new benchmarks for home-run variance and two-out production. Kershaw won two games in the same postseason series for the first time in his career. Walker Buehler proved himself, once again, as a bona-fide ace.

The Dodgers stomached a heart-wrenching walk-off loss in Game 4, committing a comedy of errors to let two runs score in the bottom of the ninth — but they came right back to win Game 5. In Game 6, the Dodgers did what they do best — keep the game close, wait out a dominant starting pitcher and pull away late.

“There’s been a lot of times where we’ve sat as a group, we’ve sat in front of you guys [the media] and we’ve talked internally and to you guys about, ‘Oh, this is the best team we’ve ever played on,'” Hernandez said. “This season, I think, we can all agree that this is the best team we’ve seen since we’ve been here.”

The 2020 campaign was unlike any other, with protocols that oftentimes sapped joy from the players. The shortest, most unconventional regular season was followed by the longest, most volatile postseason. And it was the Dodgers, trapped inside a Dallas bubble for most of October, who conquered it. When it began, they were asked if winning a championship this year would feel as thrilling.

By the end of it, many had come around on the thought that it might be even more special.

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