Two relievers who were left off the playoff roster in the earlier rounds recorded seven huge outs early Tuesday night, stabilizing a wobbly pitching staff and laying the foundation for a robust bullpen relay effort that ended with the Dodgers hoisting the World Series trophy for the first time in 32 years.
Dylan Floro, inactive for the wild-card series against Milwaukee, relieved shaky starter Tony Gonsolin in the second inning and struck out Tampa Bay slugger Randy Arozarena with two runners on base to snuff out a rally.
Floro then handed the baton to left-hander Alex Wood, who was inactive for the wild-card series and National League Division Series against San Diego but showed why he belonged on the World Series roster.
Wood needed only 20 pitches to retire the side in order in the third and fourth innings, recording three strikeouts. Pedro Báez, Victor González, Brusdar Graterol and Julio Urías covered the final five scoreless innings to finish a 3-1 series-clinching Game 6 victory over the Rays in Globe Life Field.
"They just made their pitches, they executed, they didn't let the moment get to them," Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes said in an on-field interview. "The first two innings were a grind for us, we were a little bit on our heels for the first part of the game, and those guys kept us in it. Those guys won us the game."
Thrust into an early high-leverage situation, Floro replaced Gonsolin after Kevin Kiermaier had laced a 112-mph, one-out double over the head of right fielder Mookie Betts, and Ji-Man Choi walked with two outs.
Up stepped the dangerous Arozarena, who had lined his record 10th home run of the postseason, a solo shot to right field, off Gonsolin to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
But Floro, the former Cal State Fullerton standout, made quick work of Arozarena, whiffing him on three pitches, all 87-mph changeups. Arozarena took two pitches for strikes, the first on the inside corner and the second down and in, before swinging through another down-and-in changeup.
Though his outing was brief, it was Floro's fourth scoreless appearance in six outings this postseason.
Next up was Wood, who earned a more prominent role with strong outing in a Game 2 loss to the Rays, when he threw two scoreless innings and was so aggressive in attacking the zone that 24 of his 26 pitches were strikes.
Wood struck out Austin Meadows with a sweeping curve, got Brandon Lowe to ground back to the mound and Manuel Margot to fly to center field in the third.
Joey Wendle lined out softly to third, Willy Adames struck out on an above-the-zone, 92-mph fastball and Kiermaier swung through a 93-mph fastball in the fourth.
Wood was replaced by Báez, who struck out Mike Zunino with a changeup and got Choi to pop to third before giving up a single to Arozarena.
On came González, the left-hander who got Meadows to ground out to end the fifth and struck out the side in the sixth to earn the victory. Graterol got the first two outs of the seventh before Zunino singled. Urías entered and retired the final seven batters.
Urías struck out pinch-hitter Mike Brosseau with a 94-mph fastball on the inside corner and blew a 97-mph fastball by Adames to end the game, Barnes shoving the ball in his back pocket before heading to the mound to start a wild celebration.
"It's so great for Flo, for Woody, for Victor, for Bazooka [Graterol], and for Julio to do what he did," manager Dave Roberts said in a postgame videoconference, his voice hoarse from the celebration. "All those guys, you look up and down our roster, everyone contributed and came up big for us."
Urías' closing effort was a near carbon copy of his performance in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series, when the 24-year-old left-hander nailed down the final nine outs in the clincher.
While Urias finished the game, Kenley Jansen, the franchise's all-time saves leader who has been such a big part of so many postseason moments but had his role reduced because of this October's struggles, watched from the bullpen with pride, not envy.
"It's a team, man," Jansen said. "I'm ready any time the phone rings. Yes, we all want that moment, but Julio was throwing ball really well, and that's awesome. I feel like I'm a true Dodger now. After 32 years, the trophy going back to L.A. It's an awesome feeling. I will cherish and remember this moment my whole life."
Roberts said he didn't put Urías in the game expecting that he would finish it, but Urías, who was working on two days' rest after throwing 4-2/3 innings and 80 pitches in Game 4 on Saturday, needed only 27 pitches, 19 of them strikes, to record seven outs.
"I didn't know, I just liked him right there to get out of that spot [in the seventh] and felt that as long as he's throwing the baseball well and feels good, we're gonna keep running him out there," Roberts said. "I really didn't know what to expect. I was hoping he'd go out and throw the baseball like he did, though."
Urías, who wrapped himself in the Mexican flag for the on-field celebration and his videoconference, became the first Mexican-born pitcher to appear in five World Series games, according to ESPN Stats & Info, breaking a tie with former St Louis reliever Fernando Salas, who appeared in four games in the 2011 World Series against Texas. … Gonsolin has given up six home runs in 86-2/3 regular-season innings the last two years, but the right-hander was victimized by the long ball this postseason, giving up four homers in 9-1/3 innings. … The Dodgers and Rays combined for 27 strikeouts Tuesday night, setting a record for a World Series game. … Gonsolin wore custom cleats that benefit More Than Baseball, an advocacy group for minor league players.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.