ARLINGTON, Texas — This calls for a parade.
Minnesota’s 29-year World Series drought, a dry spell that dates back to Jack Morris’ 10-inning shutout for the ages in Game 7 against the Braves, finally ended Wednesday night.
Cue up the marching bands and convertibles. Only, the parade route should run through Brainerd, not Minneapolis.
Nick Anderson, who was a 1-year-old toddler when Morris pitched the Twins to the 1991 World Series championship, became the seventh Minnesota-born pitcher to be credited with a World Series victory Wednesday night at Globe Life Field, and the first since St. Paul native Morris. Anderson is a graduate of Brainerd High School and was born in Crosby, a few miles east on Hwy. 210.
And while Anderson’s workload was a fraction of Morris’ career-defining burden — Anderson threw 19 pitches and recorded four outs, compared to Morris’ 126 pitches over 10 shutout innings — the moment was still a big one for his team.
“When the game is on the line and he’s available,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said after the Rays evened the series with a 6-4 victory over the Dodgers, “we’re going to go to him.”
That moment came in the fifth inning of Game 2, when Tampa Bay starter Blake Snell suddenly and inexplicably lost his control, his no-hitter — and ultimately, credit for the victory. Snell, handed an early 5-0 lead thanks mostly to Brandon Lowe’s pair of home runs, had not allowed a hit and was one out away from qualifying for his own first World Series win when Enrique Hernandez drew a five-pitch walk.
Then Chris Taylor smacked a hanging curveball onto the tarped seats in right field, and as the Dodgers celebrated their first hit and runs, Cash ordered Anderson to warm up.
Turned out to be a good call: Snell got ahead of Mookie Betts but then walked him, too. And when Corey Seager followed with a sharp single to right, Cash had seen enough. In came Anderson, the Brainerd native who had been the Rays’ — and arguably the American League’s — best reliever all year.
“He’s been as good as any reliever in baseball from the day that we acquired him,” Cash said. “He does so many things — the stuff is dominant — but he does so many things really, really well. He’s efficient. He controls the running game as good as any reliever. There’s just a lot to like about what he does.”
What he does mostly is throw four-seam fastballs that can range from 95-98 mph, and put them in spots where even fastball-devouring hitters like, say, L.A. third baseman Justin Turner, can’t catch up to them.
That’s what happened Wednesday, when, after falling behind 2-0, Anderson threw three straight fastballs to Turner, each a little farther away, and the Dodgers’ slugger, who has doubled in both games thus far, swung at each, the last one ending the inning.
“I really like when we have an opportunity to get Nick in the game to calm the situation down,” Cash said. “He’s pretty good at doing that.”
Anderson, who spent the 2015-18 seasons in the Twins’ minor-league system before being traded away, stayed in to pitch the sixth inning as well, and did something that was unheard of during the regular season: He allowed a home run to a right-handed batter, Dodger catcher Will Smith. This off a pitcher against whom right-handers went 1-for-29 — that’s an .034 batting average — during the nine-week season. Anderson hasn’t been nearly as sharp during the postseason, when his workload increased, and Smith’s homer was the fourth he’s allowed in nine postseason appearances.
But he still retired Max Muncy on a popup, then followed Smith’s homer by getting Cody Bellinger to ground out and pinch-hitter Edwin Rios to whiff on a curveball in the dirt.
The Rays went on to win, tying the series, and Anderson joined Morris, Jerry Koosman of Morris, Minn., Blix Donnelly of Olivia, Rube Walberg of Pine City, Bullet Joe Bush of Ehime, and Hall of Fame righthander Chief Bender of Crow Wing County as World Series winners from Minnesota.
“Credit Nick for going out there and executing pitches about as well as you can,” Cash said. “He throws the fastball, locates the fastball at the top of the zone as good as any pitcher we’ve seen.”