The Dodgers entered game seven of the National League Championship early on Monday morning knowing one more win would see them reach the showpiece.
They had begun the season as favourites after the acquisition of Mookie Betts from Boston and finished the campaign with a league-best 43 wins against 17 losses. The playoffs had been comfortable, with two series sweeps, until Atlanta.
The Braves hadn’t read the script and after four games needed just one win from the remaining three games. The Dodgers faced the prospect of once again falling short but, with backs against the wall, they responded and took the series to game seven.
On Sunday in the fifth inning, with the Braves leading 3-2, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman caught hold of a ball. As it headed to leftfield, Betts made his way to the eight-foot wall and leapt, pulling it back from a home run. The Dodgers tied it up in the next inning before taking the lead in the seventh and securing their third World Series berth in four years.
The seven-game series starts at 1am on Wednesday for UK fans and sets up a moment of significance for Andrew Friedman, Dodgers’ President of Baseball Operations.
Since taking on the role in 2014, he has overhauled the Dodgers. He took over when the payroll was north of £230 million, the most expensive in the league, and faced an additional £23m luxury tax fine for being over the salary cap.
Prior to his arrival, the Dodgers had sought a place at the top of the baseball mountain by spending big on free agents but had only made the playoffs four times in 16 years, never reaching the World Series. Under Friedman they have won the NL West eight years in a row, losing twice in the World Series.
Friedman has restructured the organisation and the core of the team is homegrown. He has made a point of keeping talented youngsters in the farm system and only using them as bargaining chips when transcendent talent becomes available, like Betts.
So why will this World Series be so significant for Friedman?
Not only did he overhaul the Dodgers but there is the added piquancy that his job before 2013 was as General Manager of Tampa Bay Rays.
When Friedman took over the Rays an expansion team had never had a winning season. By the time he left they had posted five consecutive winning seasons and reached a World Series. The former analyst did it by developing young players and staying within budget.
It was no surprise when the Dodgers came calling and Friedman jumped at the chance to take his philosophy to LA and back it up with big bucks.
So when the players line up in Arlington, Texas, on Tuesday, both sets of fans should raise a beer to the man. He hasn’t hit a ball for either team, but he did lay the foundations.
Despite his teams’ three appearances in the World Series, Friedman has yet to win one, but, either way, it’s his stamp, his philosophy that will be lifting the Commissioner’s Trophy this season.