Baseball in a bubble: recapping the 2020 MLB postseason

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

by Zach Welch

The Dodgers celebrate after winning game 7 of the World Series. (Photo: Getty Images.)

Of all the things 2020 has taken away from us, baseball wasn’t one of them. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many changes and parameters were necessary for the health of the league. With a condensed season, fanless games, and playoffs in a bubble, this season did not lack the craziness that is baseball.

There are a few major rule changes that need to be noted to have a full understanding of the wacky playoff situation. Eight teams from both the American and National Leagues made the playoffs. The top seed played the eight seed, the second seed played the seven seed, and so on. The first round was a best-of-three series, leading to a best-of-five series in the second round. The third and fourth rounds, however, featured the traditional seven game series.

The wild card series (first round) was held at the higher ranked team's home stadium for all three games. In the second, third, and fourth rounds, the remaining teams also played at designated fields for the entirety of the remaining playoff games. These were played at stadiums in San Diego, Los Angeles, Arlington, and Houston.

The wildcard round did not disappoint with the series sweeps, high scoring games, and drama that baseball fans love. In the ALCS, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Rays traveled to San Diego to face each other. The Rays swept by winning the first two games with a 8-run differential. The Yankees and Astros both had upset sweeps over their opponents, but what can you expect from two of the best franchises over the last twenty years? The Chicago White Sox gave the Athletics a scare when they visited, but Oakland was able to finish the series with a dramatic 6-4 win.

In the NLCS, the early part of the playoffs did not lack entertainment either. The Dodgers confidently swept the Brewers, as they were set to make a deep playoff run. The Padres very narrowly squeezed by the Cardinals in a dramatic game three. The Marlins and Braves both fairly easily swept by their opponents.

The divisional round really showed us who the legitimate contenders were. Many people thought that the Padres-Dodgers series would be one of the best series of this postseason. However, the Padres’ youth and inexperience really came to light as they allowed the Dodgers to go up early in games, and keep that lead. Meanwhile, the Braves easily defeated Miami who shocked the world with their upset over the Cubs.

The Houston Astros showed that they wouldn't allow doubters affect their play as they beat a very strong Oakland Athletics team. (This should conclude the argument of whether or not the Astros need to cheat to win; what they did was wrong, but doesn't take away from the talent they have on their roster.) The Rays-Yankees series was the nailbiter you want in any major sport. Mike Brosseau hit a go-ahead home run late in the 8th inning of game three to give the Rays a 2-1 lead. The Rays dominant bullpen wasn't about to blow it for the team as they held on to win the series.

The league championship series presented great matchups including the young but strong Rays versus the suddenly underdog Astros, as well as the dominant and experienced Dodgers against the underrated Braves. Both series went to seven games, but the Dodgers and Rays were both led by strong performances at the plate and on the mound to win.

In game seven of the ALCS, the Rays went up 4-0 in a dominant performance though the first 7 innings. The Astros refused to go down without a fight, scaring the Rays with two runs in the 8th inning. Pete Fairbanks closed the game out, refusing to allow another run and punching the Rays’ ticket to the World Series. In the other game, the Braves and Dodgers were neck-and-neck until the captain, Cody Bellinger, smashed a ball into right center to give the Dodgers a 4-3 lead. With the depth of the Dodgers’ pitching crew, it was over. The Braves would lose to the Dodgers, and Atlanta fans were in disbelief that they had just given up a 3-0 lead.

In this crazy year, the World Series fit perfectly. The Dodgers and the Rays both played phenomenal baseball all year, Rays with their infusion of youth that electrified their team, and the Dodgers who had already been creating a dynasty for years before adding superstar Mookie Betts in the offseason.

Three highly competitive games gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead in the series. Then game 4 happened, one of the wilder games in MLB postseason history. The Dodgers had momentum all game until a late comeback by the Rays. In the bottom of the 9th inning with two runners on base and the Dodgers leading 7-6, Rays’ reserve outfielder Brett Philips dropped a hit into shallow center field. The first of two fielding errors allowed the tying run to score, and the second––a drop by the Dodgers’ catcher––allowed the Rays to win it. The series was tied, 2-2.

Everything was set up for a great finish in Arlington. The Rays played very good baseball in games 5 and 6 but couldn't beat the Dodgers’ stacked lineup. The Dodgers won in 6 games, giving them their 7th team championship and the city of Los Angeles two major sport champion teams in three months.


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