Clayton Kershaw fools Rays in Dodgers’ Game 1 victory – Press Enterprise

Clayton Kershaw fools Rays in Dodgers’ Game 1 victory – Press Enterprise

Clayton Kershaw has done plenty in his baseball career, but he’d never pitched with a five-run lead in a World Series game until Tuesday.

Overshadowed by a resilient offense that roughed up the Tampa Bay Rays in an 8-3 victory, Kershaw earned his first win in a World Series since Game 1 of the 2017 series against the Houston Astros.

The Rays batted first as the designated “road team” in Globe Life Field, not far from Kershaw’s home town of Dallas. Yandy Diaz led off with a single. With one out, Kershaw walked Randy Arozarena, but Manuel Margot grounded out to end the inning. That set off a streak in which Kershaw retired 18 of 19 batters until he was removed from the game.

The streak was interrupted only by a Kevin Kiermaier home run in the fifth inning. Kershaw had 78 pitches on his ledger when he was pulled after the sixth inning. He induced 19 misses on 38 swings, including 11 on his signature slider alone.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, that was the best swing-and-miss rate in a postseason game in Kershaw’s career. Kershaw struck out eight batters, giving him 202 strikeouts in his postseason career. Only Justin Verlander, with 205, has more.

“He was going after hitters, putting them on their heels a little bit,” Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes said. “The curveball was keeping them off balance and the slider was clicking a little bit. The only (slider) that was hung up there was Kiermaier. (Kershaw) threw the ball well. He was efficient. He set the tone for us.”

Kershaw abandoned his slider briefly in the first inning. He repeatedly bounced the pitch in the dirt in front of home plate, too far in front to fool major league hitters. A fastball and curveball served him until the end of the inning.

Back in the Dodgers’ dugout after the top of the first, Kershaw told Barnes that he would re-discover what was missing from his slider.

“I don’t really have an alternative,” Kershaw said, laughing. “I kind of have to figure it out. I had a good idea of what I was doing. Took a second to figure it out, made the adjustment I needed to. I threw some better (sliders) through the course of the game.”

That was the last semblance of drama for the veteran left-hander.

After Kiermaier’s home run cut the lead to 2-1, nine men batted in the bottom of the fifth inning as the Dodgers knocked Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow out of the game. Four runs scored, and Kershaw had a 6-1 lead.

The largest lead the three-time Cy Young Award winner had pitched with previously was in Game 5 of the 2017 World Series, and the Astros quickly erased their 4-0 deficit against Kershaw.

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