By Earl Heath
Contributing Sports Writer
Clayton Kershaw was ready to get things going in his third World Series appearance. He grew up and played high school ball just thirty miles from Globe Field. COVID-19 has made major changes all throughout sports. It’s the first World Series played at a neutral site since 1944.
The 32-year-old veteran was facing a feisty Tampa Bay team (40-20) with the best record in the American League in this shortened season. But they had 96 and 90 wins during the past two seasons. They knocked out the Yankees and the Astros on the way to the Fall Classic.
Kershaw was in control from the start retiring 17 of the first 18 hitters he faced. The Dodgers came away with a 8-3 win. He went a solid six innings with four straight shutouts throwing just 78 pitches, while give up only two hits. He struck-out eight giving him (201) placing him second on the all-time the post season list behind Justin Verlander (205). His only mishap came on a solo homerun to Kevin Kiermier in the fifth.
“After having extra days rest you could tell his pitches were crisp,” said catcher Austin Barnes. “He was hitting both sides of the plate with his slider, he was intense.”
Max Muncy led off the bottom of the 4th with a walk. Two batters later Cody Bellinger hit the first pitch off Rays starter Tyler Glasnow, a towering 380-foot blast over the right field fence for a 2-0 lead.
Bellinger is still recovering from a shoulder injury that occurred during celebrating the game winning homer over the Braves during the ALCS. That incident made players instead change to soccer kicks to celebrate.
“I was conscious about it,” said Bellinger. “I felt good in the cage taking BP before the game, so I knew I was good to go.” That was his third home run in four at-bats against the former Hart high standout.
In fifth Mookie Betts walked and stole second Seager walked. They then pulled off a double steal putting them at second and third. Muncy then hit a sharp grounder to first. Betts already had a good lead broke for home slid head first just out of reach of Rays catcher Mike Zunino to make it 3-1.
“I told the guys before the game I am going to be aggressive when I’m on the bases,” said Betts. “I wanted to make things easier for my teammates. “During spring training I work on my base running, during BP, I do that so I can use it on nights like tonight.”
Betts led off the sixth with his first postseason a home run. Turner followed with a double. Then Muncy doubled him in to give the ‘Blue Crew’ an 8-1 lead. L.A. is the only team to score 8 runs against the Rays since August, a 53-game stretch.
Dylon Floro replaced Kershaw in the seventh and gave up two runs. Victor Gonzalez followed him in the seventh and made a sensational play. With one out the Rays Mike Zunino hit a shot back to the mound, Gonzalez snared it with his glove hand wheeled around and threw quickly to Keke Hernandez covering second for a double play that killed a potential Ray rally.
Pedro Baez had a one, two, three eight inning and Joe Kelly came in and pitched the ninth.
Dodger Manager Dave Roberts made it through tough 2020 with COVID- 19 changing all our lives. In March when Spring Training was it was unsure if there would even be a World Series. After a tough seven game ALCS where the Dodgers had to come back from a 3-1 deficit against a young fiery Atlanta Braves team. After an off day the team appear to be refreshed heading into game one of the World Series.
DODGER NOTES: With Betts and Seager stolen bases the Dodgers became the first team to steal three bases in an inning during a World Series since the Giants in 1912. Betts an American League MVP also became the first player to steal two bases, score two runs and homer in a World Series game since Babe Ruth did it in 1921.He leads all players in the post season with four stole bases. ”Stolen bases are the thing for me,” said Betts. “That’s how I create runs, that’s how I cause havoc on the bases.”