Dodgers didn’t need Clayton Kershaw’s best in Game 1 — but they got it

  • Joined ESPN in 2016 to cover the Los Angeles Rams
  • Previously covered the Angels for MLB.com

ARLINGTON, Texas — The bottom of the fifth inning was coming, the Los Angeles Dodgers led by only a run, the top of the Tampa Bay Rays’ lineup was due up a third time in the following half inning, and it looked like the makings of a scenario that has played out several other times this year — tight game, Clayton Kershaw tiring, and manager Dave Roberts extending him just a little longer than necessary.

Then the offense made it a nonfactor.

When the Dodgers got their third look off Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow in their half of the fifth on Tuesday night, they drew back-to-back walks to Mookie Betts and Corey Seager, who then pulled off a double steal, and got RBI singles from Will Smith, Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez. By the time Kershaw took the mound again — after a 36-minute wait — the Dodgers’ lead in Game 1 of the 2020 World Series had ballooned to five, en route to an 8-3 victory.

Kershaw retired the Rays in order in the sixth — with help on a diving play by third baseman Justin Turner — and completed what could only be considered a stellar outing, allowing one run and three baserunners while striking out eight over six innings. Kershaw entered with a 5.40 ERA in the World Series and an 8.12 ERA in his postseason career after the opposing lineup turns over a third time.

But this much is now clear: Kershaw, who joined Justin Verlander as the only pitchers with 200 or more strikeouts in the postseason, no longer needs to carry a heavy burden for the Dodgers.

His supporting staff is good enough to lift him up.

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