Clayton Kershaw pitched a post-season gem and Mookie Betts backed him up with a scintillating offensive effort as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 8-3, in Game 1 of the 116th World Series.
Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award-winner and future Hall of Famer whose lackluster post-season record puts him under the microscope this time of year, was rock-solid as the Dodgers seized the iniative in Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven championship showcase, being played this pandemic-disrupted year at the neutral site of Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
The 32-year-old lefthander surrendered two hits — including one home run — with eight strikeouts and one walk in six innings, throwing 53 of his 78 pitches for strikes.
Betts boosted the Dodgers’ bid for their first World Series title since 1988 with a solo home run and a World Series record-equalling two stolen bases in one inning.
Cody Bellinger, whose solo homer was crucial to the Dodgers’ 4-3 series-clinching win over Atlanta in the National League Championship Series, came through again with a two-run homer off Rays starter Tyler Glasnow.
“It’s awesome, it’s great to get this series going with a win,” Kershaw said.
“That’s the biggest thing for us. It’s always important to get that first game in a series, and just for me personally, it’s awesome, to pitch well and get a win in a World Series. I’m just thankful to get another opportunity.”
Kershaw gave up a leadoff single to Yandi Diaz to open the game and needed 20 pitches to get out of the first inning.
That included a walk to Randy Arozarena that moved Diaz to second, but Kershaw struck out Hunter Renfroe and induced a ground out from Manuel Margo to end the danger, launching a run of 13 straight batters retired.
The sensational Arozarena, who came into the game with a rookie record of seven home runs this post-season was 0-for-3 at the plate, with one walk.
Bellinger breaks through
Glasnow was similarly impressive in surrendering just one hit through three innings.
But Bellinger broke through with one out in the fourth, seizing upon a 98 mph first-pitch fastball from Glasnow and sending it 378 feet over the right centerfield wall for a home run that also scored Max Muncy — who walked to open the inning and reached second on a wild pitch.
With a 2-0 lead to start the fifth Kershaw retired Joey Wendle and Willy Adames before Kevin Kiermaier belted a homer that cut the deficit to 2-1.
The Dodgers responded in the bottom of the fifth, when Betts made Glasnow pay for a leadoff walk, stealing two bases and scoring as Muncy reached first base on a fielder’s choice and Betts beat the throw to home.
After Will Smith singled to drive in a run, Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled Glasnow for Ryan Yarbrough, who surrendered run-scoring singles to Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez that pushed the Dodgers’ lead to 6-1 through five.
Kershaw retired three straight in the top of the sixth, and Betts greeted Rays relief pitcher Josh Fleming with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the frame.
The Dodgers piled it on with run-scoring doubles from Justin Turner and Muncy.
With Dylan Floro on the mound in the seventh the Rays threatened with a single from Manuel Margot and a double from Joey Wendle that was bobbled by Bellinger at the centerfield wall.
Victor Gonzalez replaced Floro on the mound with one out and runners at second and third, and Rays pinch-hitter Mike Brosseau promptly lined a run-scoring single to right field.
Kiermaier also singled in a run, but the Rays rally stalled when Mike Zunino hit into a double play.
Pedro Baez pitched a scoreless eighth for the Dodgers and reliever Joe Kelly closed it out in the ninth – aided by Bellinger’s leaping catch at the wall off a fly ball from Rays leadoff hitter Austin Meadows.