With smiling, cardboard cutouts crowding the stands, players wearing masks in the dugouts and active rosters capped at 26 players until the end of the postseason, the 2020 World Series is certainly unlike any before. Yet, America’s beloved Fall Classic carries on, with the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers fighting for the right to be crowned champion.
The 60-game regular-season schedule did not originally include an expanded postseason format, but on July 23, five days into the season, MLB announced that they had decided on a single year of expanded playoffs. It was determined that this fall, 16 teams were given the chance to compete in this postseason instead of the customary 10. The postseason would also include neutral sites and a reduced number of days off.
For both the American and National Leagues, the three division winners, the three second-place teams from each division and the next two remaining teams with the best record would move on to the playoffs. The first round would be a best-of-three series, with the higher seed hosting all three games. Each following series would be in the normal best-of-seven format, with games hosted at neutral sites.
Baseball fans expected that teams would do poorly, with a brief “summer camp” replacing a month-long spring training and little time to acclimate to the rhythm of the regular season. The performance of the two World Series competitors proved otherwise: Despite new rules and regulations, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers came out of the regular season with the best combined regular-season winning percentage in World Series history.
After defeating the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees, the Rays played the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series. After the Rays jumped out to a 3-0 series lead, the Astros roared back to win three consecutive games and force a deciding Game 7. However, with a strong offensive performance in the winner-take-all game, the Rays avoided being on the wrong side of history and won their first American League pennant since 2008. There has been only one team to successfully come back from a 3-0 series deficit in MLB history (the Red Sox in 2004).
Tampa Bay’s World Series opponents, the Dodgers, also triumphed in seven games to earn a ticket to the Fall Classic. They beat the Milwaukee Brewers and the San Diego Padres without much trouble, but struggled immensely in the following round. After falling behind 3-1 in the National League Championship Series, the title favorite won three games in a row to keep their season alive, beating the Atlanta Braves 4-3 in a deciding Game 7.
In arguably the most memorable Fall Classic to date, the Rays, with the third lowest payroll in MLB, are facing off against the Dodgers All-Star roster. In Game 1, the Dodgers, led by a strong performance from ace Clayton Kershaw, blew out the Rays 8-3. However, the Rays bounced back in Game 2 Wednesday night, and took a 6-4 victory over the Dodgers. They will face off in Game 3 on Friday at 8:08 p.m. EDT.