The Los Angeles Dodgers are the 2020 MLB champions. That sentence doesn’t figure to get old anytime soon for Dodgers fans who’ve waited 32 long years for a World Series title. In one of the most challenging seasons anyone could have ever imagined, the Dodgers ended it on top of the baseball mountain, claiming a championship that eluded them for so long.
For the last seven consecutive years, the Dodgers won the N.L West only to come up short in the postseason. Each of those years had defining moments that turned the series against the Dodgers. This year, those types of moments went for them more times than not.
Below, we look at the top 13 moments of the Dodgers’ 2020 postseason. These are the moments that were the most pivotal in the games they won, and without them, the outcome could have very well been different.
Why 13? Well, for one, 10 just wasn’t enough to cover all the significant plays and turning points of this years’ playoffs. And being that the Dodgers needed 13 postseason wins to claim the championship this year, it seems fitting that there should be a moment listed for each victory. So, here they are.
13: Dodgers make history with 11-run first inning
After dropping the first two games to the Braves in the NLCS, the Dodgers needed to set the tone early in Game 3. They did just that, scoring an MLB postseason record 11 runs in the first inning, capped off by Max Muncy’s grand slam. Game 3 was a must-win and the victory got the Dodgers back into the series.
12: Urias shuts down Braves in Game 7
Julio Urias had a great postseason, and it wouldn’t seem right to omit his contributions on this list. He was lights out in these playoffs, including three shutout innings in relief against the Braves in Game 7 of the NLCS. Perhaps his biggest moment though, came in Game 7 of the World Series, when he was brought in the seventh inning with the tying run on first base. Urias struck out Yandy Diaz to end the Rays’ threat, and he’d go on to close out the game with 2+ shutout innings.
11: Hernandez’s home run ties Game 7 of NLCS
Late in Game 7 of the NLCS, the Dodgers were 12 outs away from going home. But leading off the bottom of the sixth inning, Kiké Hernandez hit a pinch-hit home run off A.J Minter that tied the game and gave the Dodgers the jolt of energy they needed. A true momentum-shifting moment.
10: Buehler gets out of bases loaded jam
In Game 6 of the NLCS, the Dodgers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but things almost turned around immediately when Walker Buehler gave up three straight singles in the top of the second inning. With the bases loaded and no outs, the Braves were primed to put up a crooked number that might have changed the course of Game 6. But Buehler buckled down big time, striking out Austin Riley and Nick Markakis before getting a ground out to end the threat.
9: Betts’ home run in Game 6 of World Series
In the bottom of the eighth in Game 6 of the World Series, the Dodgers were clinging to a one-run lead. An insurance run would be HUGE. Mookie Betts supplied that insurance when he led off with a laser shot over the left-center field wall. Globe Life Field, full of Dodgers fans, erupted. Although there were still three defensive outs to get, that homerun really seemed like the series clincher. The added run provided Julio Urias with an extra cushion and allowed him to pitch the ninth inning with even more confidence.
8: Bellinger robs Tatis Jr.
The only moment on this list that doesn’t come from the World Series or NLCS, but still a very important play. The Dodgers were up a run in the seventh inning when Fernando Tatis Jr. launched a ball to deep center. Cody Bellinger went back on it, got to the wall, and jumped up to rob a home run and keep the Dodgers ahead. If that ball goes over the fence, the Padres have the lead, and perhaps it changes the outcome of Game 2. The defensive gem by Bellinger saved the game and ensured the Dodgers went up 2-0 in the series.
7: Betts’ leaping grab in Game 7 of NLCS
From one great defensive play to another. Mookie Betts put on a defensive clinic in the NLCS, and his leaping catch in Game 7 to rob Freddie Freeman might have been his best play. With the Dodgers down a run in the bottom of the fifth inning, Freeman skied one to right that sent Betts to the wall. He leaped up and pulled back a would-be home run, keeping it a one-run game.
6: Kershaw stops attempted steal of home
In Game 5 of the World Series, the Rays were down one run in the fourth inning when they got runners on the corners with no one out. Clayton Kershaw then retired the next two hitters and was on the verge of getting out of the jam. As he was coming into his stretch, Manuel Margot took off from third base, racing towards home. Max Muncy yelled out to Kershaw to “step off,” and he did so just in time to throw out a diving Margot at home plate. It was a heads up play by both Muncy and Kershaw, who could have easily balked. It also stopped the Rays momentum. If they score that run, it’s a tie game and the inning isn’t over yet.
5: Dodgers capitalize after Snell is removed
Facing elimination in Game 6 of the World Series, the Rays turned Blake Snell, who dominated the Dodgers through five innings. He struck out nine of the 18 batters he faced and was making the entire Dodgers offense look lost. But when Austin Barnes singled with one out in the sixth, Tampa manager Kevin Cash inexplicably removed Snell and went to the bullpen. The Dodgers quickly took advantage, as Mookie Betts greeted Nick Anderson with a double. A wild pitch and RBI grounder later, and the Dodgers had a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. There’s no telling what would have happened if Snell was left in the game, but one thing is for certain… the Dodgers were very happy when he left, and it was a huge turning point in the game and series.
4: Betts’ catch, Ozuna’s blunder in Game 5 of NLCS
Up 3-1 in the NLCS, the Atlanta Braves had the Dodgers on the ropes in Game 5. They were up 2-0 in the third inning and had runners on second and third with only one out. A big inning for the Braves there may have put the game out of reach for the Dodgers. Dansby Swanson flied a ball into shallow right field that seemed destined to drop. But Mookie Betts, showing off his speed, sprinted in and made a shoelace catch. Tagging from third, Marcell Ozuna slid in safe at home to momentarily make it 3-0. However, the replay showed that Ozuna left the bag early and did not tag up. The run was taken off the board and just like that, the Dodgers were out of the inning still down only two. Ozuna’s misplay saved the Dodgers at least one run, but combined with the great catch by Betts, it really makes the play a true game-changer.
3: Will Smith homers against… Will Smith
Just a few innings after Betts’ catch, the Dodgers found themselves still down a run with only 10 outs to work with. With two outs in the sixth inning, Will Smith of the Dodgers came up with two on and faced – you guessed it – Will Smith of the Braves. On a 3-2 pitch, Smith (Dodgers), launched a drive over the left field wall for a 3-run home run, giving the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Not only did Smith win the battle of Will Smiths, but he also turned Game 5 completely around, keeping the Dodgers alive in the series.
2: Turner makes incredible double play in Game 7 of NLCS
Such a weird play, but so much significance. In Game 7 of the NLCS, the Braves once again had the Dodgers on the ropes. Atlanta was up a run and had runners on second and third with no outs in the fourth inning. A hit would have busted the game wide open. Nick Markakis hit a hard grounder to the left side that looked like it was going to be a single off the bat since the Dodgers had the shift on for the lefty. The ball went right to Turner though, and he threw it home to get Dansby Swanson who was running on contact. After a brief rundown, Turner dove at Swanson to apply the tag for the first out. He then quickly got up and threw a strike to Corey Seager, who was coving third base, and they got Austin Riley for the crazy double play. An inning that could have been so damaging for the Dodgers was ended on the next batter, and they were able to keep it a one-run game.
1: Cody’s blast wins NLCS
After the improbable double play by Turner, and the tying home run from Hernandez, the Dodgers and Braves were still tied late in Game 7 of the NLCS. In the bottom of the seventh inning, with two outs, Cody Bellinger stepped up to face the Braves’ Chris Martin. Bellinger got a 2-2 fastball right in his wheelhouse and didn’t miss. He crushed it into deep right and knew it was gone right away. After all the other critical moments up until that point, the Dodgers still needed one last turning point play to punch their ticket to the World Series. Bellinger’s home run was the difference in that deciding Game 7, and without it, who knows how the game ends.
There were so many memorable moments in the 2020 postseason. How would you rank them all? Let us know in the comments below!