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Tampa Bay Rays’ Kevin Cash named AL Manager of the Year

Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash was selected American League Manager of the Year on Tuesday, receiving 22 of the 30 first-place votes.

Cash guided the Rays to a division title as well as the AL’s best regular-season record at 40-20. The Rays’ .667 win percentage was by far the best in franchise history.

Tampa Bay overcame a rash of pitching injuries to clinch the AL pennant before losing in six games to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.

Cash, who turns 43 on Dec. 6, hit .183 with 12 homers and 58 RBIs in 246 major league games as a catcher for five teams, including Tampa Bay. After his playing career, he worked as an advance scout for Texas and Toronto before joining Terry Francona’s staff in Cleveland as the bullpen coach.

The Tampa, Florida, native and Florida State alum was hired as Tampa Bay manager the day before his 37th birthday. “There is a sense of pride being a Tampa guy,” stated Cash, who is 454-416 in six years as manager of the Rays.

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Tampa Bay had a $29 million prorated payroll as of Aug. 1, which ranked 28th out of 30 teams.

Still, the Rays obtained the AL East for the first time since 2010.

Cash became the second manager in Rays history to win the AL Manager of the Year award, joining Joe Maddon, who won the award in 2008 and 2011. Cash ended third in the balloting for AL Manager of the Year each of the past two seasons.

Cash was roundly criticized for pulling ace left-hander Blake Snell in the sixth inning of the decisive Game 6 of the World Series versus the Dodgers. However, the Rays leaned heavily on their bullpen throughout the pandemic-shortened season, with 12 pitchers recording at least one save — matching the major league record. Cash has insisted that if he were to face the same situation again, he would trust his bullpen to close it out.

“Yes, I would do it the same way all over again. I would plead for a different outcome, that’s for sure,” Cash said. “That decision was not reflective of my confidence in Blake. It was very reflective of my confidence in Nick [Anderson], and that’s [what] I felt was, at the moment, the best chance for us to win the game.”

Voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America concluded before the start of the playoffs. Rick Renteria of the White Sox finished second, and Charlie Montoyo of the Blue Jays finished third.

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World Series 2020: Champs! The Dodgers end L.A.’s 32-year title drought

The Kirk Gibson home run had endured, but it had also run its course. The clip remained a constant presence around the Los Angeles Dodgers, consuming their broadcasts and playing on a near-constant loop at their stadium. It stood as the seminal moment from a bygone era, of a championship captured more than three decades earlier. A new memory had long been desired.

“We’ve heard it a lot, and we’ve seen a lot of highlights, and it’s fantastic,” Dave Roberts, the fifth-year manager, said. “But we wanna make our own mark on Dodgers history.”

On Tuesday night, in a neutral stadium 1,400 miles away, at the conclusion of a bizarre campaign played amid a global health crisis, these Dodgers ultimately made their mark.

Their 3-1 triumph over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the World Series won them their first championship since Gibson famously hobbled to the batter’s box in 1988, a fitting coronation for a dominant franchise.

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Tony Gonsolin, counted on to function as a traditional starter, recorded only five outs.

But four relievers — Dylan Floro, Alex Wood, Pedro Baez and Victor Gonzalez — retired 13 of the next 14 batters, keeping the game within reach long enough for the Dodgers to get past an electric Blake Snell and tap into the Rays’ bullpen.

After Rays manager Kevin Cash turned to Nick Anderson with one on, one out and the top of the order due up a third time in the sixth, the Dodgers’ offense finally came alive. Mookie Betts doubled, Austin Barnes scored on a wild pitch, and Betts slid home safely on a grounder to the right side.

Betts, the offseason acquirement who has somehow exceeded expectations, tacked on an important insurance run with a solo homer in the eighth, and Julio Urias cruised past the finish line, leading the Dodgers to the title — 16 days after the Los Angeles Lakers did the same.

The Dodgers, division champions for eight consecutive years, are finally champions again.

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