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Kirk Gibson

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    November 3, 2020 9:09 PM CST

    When the Rays clinched the American League pennant with a 4-2 victory over the Astros in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series on Saturday night, they advanced to the World Series for the second time in franchise history. They'll face the Dodgers, who beat the Braves, 4-3, in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series on Sunday night, earning a trip to the Fall Classic for the third time in the past four years. Tampa Bay's victory guaranteed that a long World Series championship drought will be broken in 2020. The Astros won it all three years ago Jackie Robinson Youth Jersey, but now that Houston is out, the team celebrating at the end of this unprecedented postseason will be doing so for the first time in a long time. Here's a look at the World Series title droughts for the Rays and Dodgers. It's been World Series title or bust for the Dodgers for the past three years, ever since they lost in seven games to the Astros in 2017. But while Los Angeles reached the Fall Classic again in '18, a loss to Boston and a shocking early exit from the postseason last year has it still seeking its first championship in more than three decades. The last time the Dodgers won it all, they defeated a heavily favored A's team led by Bash Brothers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. Oakland's lineup was the most formidable in baseball, and Los Angeles' was the opposite. It also didn't help matters that the Dodgers were without their best hitter to open the Series, Kirk Gibson, who was sidelined by two injured knees. But with the Dodgers trailing, 4-3, in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 1, Gibson surprisingly hobbled to the plate as a pinch-hitter with one on and two out against the game's premier closer, Dennis Eckersley. The rest, as they say, is history -- Gibson hit one of the most improbable home runs in baseball history, lifting Los Angeles to a stunning 5-4 win. The Dodgers won it all five days later behind a brilliant performance from World Series MVP Orel Hershiser. The only time the Rays reached the World Series prior to 2020, current manager Kevin Cash was a catcher for the Red Sox Joc Pederson Jersey, and current Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was an outfielder on Tampa Bay's roster. The former face of the Rays' franchise, third baseman Evan Longoria, was a 22-year-old rookie. Longoria launched six homers that postseason for Tampa Bay, including four in a seven-game ALCS against Cash's Red Sox. Game 7 was a nail-biter, and Rays manager Joe Maddon summoned rookie left-hander David Price, who had only made five career appearances to that point, from the bullpen with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning. With the Rays leading, 3-1, Price struck out J.D. Drew to escape the jam. He then worked around a walk in the ninth to pick up the pennant-clinching save. Just as they have been for their entire history, the Rays were underdogs in the World Series against a Phillies club led by slugger Ryan Howard and 24-year-old left-hander Cole Hamels. And though Tampa Bay lost the Series in five games, three of the four losses were by one run. The Rays' lone win came in Game 2 at Tropicana Field, when right-hander James Shields threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings in a 4-2 victory. Overall, the Rays hit .212 against strong Phillies pitching Julio Urias Jersey. Carl Crawford hit two of the Rays' four home runs in the Series, and after an AL Rookie of the Year Award campaign in the regular season and strong postseason to that point, Longoria went 1-for-20 in the Fall Classic. Following that World Series loss, the Rays reached the postseason four times from 2009-19, losing in the AL Division Series each time. The teams with the best regular-season record in each league this year are set to meet in the World Series, with Game 1 between the Dodgers and Rays scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 8:09 p.m. ET at Globe Life Field in Arlington. World Series Game 1: 8 p.m. ET on FOX As the reigning seven-time NL West champions, the Dodgers entered 2020 poised to take home an eighth straight division title, especially after the club's offseason acquisition of Mookie Betts from Boston. They ultimately recorded baseball's best record (43-17) during the 60-game regular season before sweeping Milwaukee and San Diego in the Wild Card and Division Series to reach the NLCS, where they rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Braves in seven games to reach the World Series for the third time in four years. The Rays, on the other hand, are making their second World Series appearance in franchise history and first since they lost to the Phillies in five games in 2008. They edged the Astros in Game 7 of the ALCS, after relinquishing a 3-0 series lead, to reach the Fall Classic, following wins against the Blue Jays and Yankees in the Wild Card and Division Series, respectively. They ran away with the American League East title this year, spending the final 44 days of the regular season in first place en route to a 40-20 record. But while the two organizations occupied opposite ends of the payroll spectrum this season, both league champions took a similar approach to constructing their pennant-winning teams, developing key homegrown players (amateurs drafted or signed by the organization) while also bolstering their rosters through trades and free-agent signings. There are, however, some notable differences between the two World Series rosters. The Dodgers, with homegrown players comprising half of their projected World Series roster Justin Turner Jersey, have fared far better in the Draft than Tampa Bay, hitting big on first-round picks Clayton Kershaw (2006), NLCS MVP Corey Seager (2012), Walker Buehler (2015) and Will Smith (2016). They also have done better with later-round selections, getting Cody Bellinger (2013), Dustin May (2016) and Edwin Ríos (2015) in rounds 3-6 as well as Tony Gonsolin (2016) and Joc Pederson (2010) in the ninth round or later. The Rays' contingent of homegrown talent is headlined by 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, a supplemental first-round pick in '11, and fellow southpaw Shane McClanahan, who made his big league debut against New York in the ALDS a little more than two years after the Rays selected him with the No. 31 overall pick. Third-rounder Brandon Lowe (2015) and Kevin Kiermaier, a 31st-round pick in '10, both ranked among the top three on the Rays in WAR during the regular season, and 2017 fifth-rounder Josh Fleming also finished in the top 10. The impact of both teams' international efforts can be seen in the composition of their respective postseason bullpens. Each of the Dodgers' four international signees have pitched well en route to the Fall Classic, with Kenley Janson, Pedro Báez, Julio Urías and Victor González all working high-leverage spots in relief. The Rays' pen features a pair of flame-throwing international signees in Diego Castillo, who saved two games in the ALCS, and the recently activated José Alvarado. Mike Brosseau, a non-drafted free agent signed by the Rays in June 2016, captured the national spotlight with his series-winning home run off the Yankees' Aroldis Chapman in Game 5 of the ALDS. He finished fourth on the club in WAR during the regular season and provides the Rays with defensive flexibility and a sound right-handed bat. Yoshi Tsutsugo, who signed a two-year, $12 million pact in December, offers some left-handed pop off the bench following an eight-homer rookie campaign. Not only do players acquired via trade comprise 16 of 28 spots on the Rays' projected WS roster – they had the highest total of the four teams to reach the Championship Series – but many have emerged as highly valuable, impact players after joining the organization early on in their professional careers Kirk Gibson Jersey. Trading David Price to Detroit in July 2014 netted the Rays a long-term shortstop in Willy Adames, a 7.5-WAR player across his first three seasons, while Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows have quickly developed into star-caliber players after being acquired from Pittsburgh in the lopsided Chris Archer Deadline deal in '18. Bringing in Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot and ALCS MVP Randy Arozarena through separate offseason trades helped fortify the Rays' outfield this year, while the decision to trade from a point of depth (OF Jesús Sánchez, RHP Ryne Stanek) to get righty Nick Anderson from Miami at last year's Deadline gave the Rays arguably baseball's best reliever during the regular season. What's more, the Rays' ability to find value in smaller deals cannot be understated. The club has acquired numerous hitters in such deals since the end of the 2017 season, getting bats like Joey Wendle (A's), Mike Zunino (Mariners), Yandy Díaz (Indians) and Ji-Man Choi (Brewers). Ryan Yarbrough, whose 1.2 WAR led all Rays hurlers during the regular season, was a big get for Tampa Bay in the January 2017 deal that sent Drew Smyly to Seattle, and Pete Fairbanks, acquired from Texas in a one-for-one prospect swap for Nick Solak, has the look of a long-term bullpen asset for the organization.