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Joe Kelly made 2020 a little better last night

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The hero we didn’t know we needed

It’s been a rough year for Dodgers fans, to say the least. Earlier in the year, we learned that the Houston Astros cheated during the 2017 season, the year in which they defeated the Dodgers to win their first World Series in franchise history.

As if that series wasn’t painful enough on the players and fans years ago, it completely re-opened wounds that now will likely never go away.

Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit and it looked as if we wouldn’t get baseball in 2020. After months of back-and-forth discussion from the players and owners on a potential season, the two sides finally came to an agreement on a season being played. With a new schedule having to be made, the MLB decided to have teams play teams only in their divisions, along with teams in that division in the other league. For example, teams in the NL West would also play teams in the AL West.

This meant the Dodgers would face the Astros, for the first time since learning about the cheating scandal.

On Tuesday, the Dodgers arrived at Minute Maid Park in Houston. It was their first time returning to the park since their crushing Game 5 defeat in the 2017 World Series. As a fan, seeing the team step on that field again brought back a lot of bad memories. I can only imagine what the players and coaches were feeling.

Leading up to the game, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts repeatedly told the media that he didn’t expect any retaliation from his team. As the game progressed, it looked like we wouldn’t see any fireworks.

Then, in the top of the sixth inning, Joe Kelly took the mound for LA.

Kelly was a member of the Boston Red Sox in 2017, so he wasn’t even on the Dodgers team that got cheated out of a title. But, something a lot of people forgot, the Red Sox also lost to the Astros that postseason. So in a way, maybe Houston did cheat Kelly out of a championship.

After falling behind 3-0 in the count to Alex Bregman, a pitch slipped and went over his head and to the backstop. Based on Bregman’s reaction to the pitch, he knew the intent behind it.

A few batters later, Carlos Correa stepped up to the plate. On the first pitch of the AB, Kelly threw an 87-mph off-speed pitch that soared over his head. Correa took offense to it, and the entire country was immediately on watch.

A few pitches went by before Kelly struck out Correa on a filthy curve in the dirt. Then, Kelly gave us this exchange that will forever be in the record books.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Dodgers v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Joe Kelly stood up for every Dodgers player and coach. He stood up for every current MLB player and coach. He stood up for every former MLB player and coach. He stood up for every baseball fan. Tuesday night, he gained the respect of millions of baseball fans. He struck out Correa, walked back to his dugout, and did what I’m sure every person in America wishes they could have personally done.

And it was freaking awesome.

The Houston Astros cheated. They cheated to win a championship and received no real punishment.

With how much has happened in 2020 with the pandemic, baseball was desperately needed to help take our minds off of things. It’s America’s pastime for crying out loud. We need baseball, and after the awful year we’ve had, we oh so desperately needed last night.

For a brief moment at around 8:15 p.m. PT, all was forgotten in the world. For one moment, Dodgers fans were happy. Baseball fans were happy. Joe Kelly, a man that has had an up-and-down career, became the hero we didn’t know we needed. What happened in 2017 will never be taken away from us. It’s something we’ll all have to painfully remember and live with.

But what Kelly did last night, that’s also something we’ll never forget. He made us smile and laugh, and reminded us that things will be OK ... because America has baseball back.