ARLINGTON -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have yet another shot at Major League Baseball's biggest prize as they ride a wave of momentum into their 2020 World Series clash with the Tampa Bay Rays starting Tuesday.
A Dodgers team that came up short in baseball's championship showcase in 2017 and 2018 looked as if they wouldn't even make it to the World Series when they fell 3-1 behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series.
But Los Angeles roared back, capping a three-game winning streak with a 4-3 game-seven triumph on Sunday aided by home runs from Enrique Hernandez and Cody Bellinger.
"Obviously the comeback we were able to do, we do feel good about our momentum and our ability to win games at any point," said Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who will start game one on Tuesday against opposite number Tyler Glasnow.
The Dodgers endured heartbreak in recent years as they sought the club's seventh World Series title -- but first since 1988.
They lost a decisive seventh game to the Houston Astros in 2017 -- the Astros triumph later tainted by revelations of electronically aided sign-stealing that season.
In 2018 it was the Boston Red Sox who denied the Dodgers.
This time the Dodgers, one of the richest teams in Major League Baseball, will be up against a low-budget but highly talented Rays team that built the best record in the American League in the coronavirus pandemic shortened season.
The Rays had the third-lowest Opening Day payroll in the major leagues according to Spotrac at $28.2 million.
In the playoffs they knocked off the Toronto Blue Jays ($54.4 million), New York Yankees ($109.4 million) and Houston Astros ($82.5 million).
In the Dodgers they'll face the team with the second-highest payroll at $107.9 million.
Tampa Bay's victory over the Astros in the American League Championship Series was a gut-wrenching affair.
The Rays took a series lead before the Astros won three straight to force game seven, the Rays finally coming out on top to reach the World Series for the second time in their 22-year history.
They fell to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008.
Rookie Randy Arozarena epitomizes the young talent that has buoyed the Rays. After hitting seven home runs in 23 regular-season contests, he has hit seven in 14 post-season games.
Pitcher Charlie Morton adds a dash of veteran experience. He pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings in the Rays' series clinching victory over the Astros.
"We're lucky to have Charlie Morton," manager Kevin Cash said. "For a group that doesn't have a wealth of experience in these roles, Charlie does. He's been there, done that and lined up really well for us."
The Dodgers' wealth of experienced big-game contenders includes Kershaw, a generational pitching talent who is still seeking to cement his legacy with a World Series title.
The Dodgers have carried a heavy weight of expectation since finishing the regular season with baseball's best record of 43-17.
Hernandez said their comeback from 3-1 down in the NLCS has tempered the team.
"Everybody was expecting us to get to the World Series," Hernandez said. "We were expecting us to get to the World Series, to the point that when we were down, 3-1, we hadn't gone through any adversity throughout the season.
"It was time to get it done. By then, we had nothing to lose -- they have something to lose, they shouldn't lose this series. We took it one inning at a time and were able to pull it off.
"But the job's not done. The goal isn't to get to the World Series, it's to win the World Series."
If they can do it, the Dodgers will deliver a second major title of the season to Los Angeles sports fans who saw their beloved Lakers win the NBA championship for the first time since 2010.
Like the Lakers in the NBA's quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida, the Dodgers will be battling in neutral territory against the Rays at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
- Work to do -
Thanks to the pandemic, the home of the Texas Rangers is being used as the first neutral World Series site in modern MLB history.
Some 11,500 fans will be allowed in per game, scattered around a ballpark that can accommodate more than 40,000.
The Dodgers have already experienced the return of fans, who were allowed in to Globe Life Field for NLCS games played there.
After the breakneck pace of the league championship series which both featured seven games in seven days, the World Series will follow it's traditional schedule of two back-to-back games followed by a rest day before three more games -- as needed.
Another rest day would be followed, if needed, by games six and seven on October 27 and 28.
© Agence France-Presse