World Series Game 1 Recap

The Dodgers' stars played big in Texas.

We didn’t know if this day would come. The world was ravaged by a global pandemic, and for a while, it seemed this baseball season might never happen.

Very soon after, it didn’t seem to matter if there was a season or not. Baseball happens or it doesn’t. What does that matter when so many people have had their lives irreparably torn apart by this virus? What would even be the point of a bastardized season without historical precedent or comparative anyway?

But as we settled into life alongside this slow burn towards vaccination, it began to matter again. Call it resumption of normalcy. Call it distraction. Call it whatever you want.

But as the 2020 World Series kicked off on Tuesday night, there was no hint of an asterisk. There was no hint of ‘less-than baseball.’ This was heck-yeah baseball.

Admittedly, it was an all-DH World Series at a neutral site after a 60-game season. But gosh darn it, this was baseball and we couldn’t have asked for a better World Series match-up.

Frankly, as the 2020 World Series kicked off on Tuesday night, there was really only one narrative at the top of the page: could Clayton Kershaw overcome his playoff demons?

But Kershaw’s playoff woes, in my opinion, are overblown. Don’t get me wrong: he has struggled in the postseason at times. It’s just not the whole story. Because the other part of the story is this: Dude shoves. In the postseason. All the time.

Well, not all the time. And there’s the rub. His overall postseason ERA is about double his regular season ERA. In his defense, he never gets to face the Pirates in the playoffs, you know what I mean? The Athletic’s Grant Paulsen gets it:

Teams ask supernatural things from their players in the playoffs – especially from star players like Kershaw. There’s no grading curve. You either pass or you fail. On that scale, Kershaw has rightly been deemed a playoff failure.

And yet, on Tuesday night, he led his team into World Series battle for the third time in the past four seasons. And he answered the call.

Well, Mookie Betts answered the call. But Kershaw was there, too. With a blowout in the making, the Dodgers didn’t have to ask for too much from Kershaw. He did his job, giving up just 1 run over 78 pitches in 6 innings.

But the real star of the show was Betts. In the fifth inning, Betts walked, stole two bases, and scored a run while sparking a monster 4-run inning that booted Rays’ starter Tyler Glasnow from the game. It was, as described by the telecast, a Ruthian performance from Betts.

On third base with the infield in, Betts reminded us why he’s the most dynamic player in baseball. He put on a base running clinic to score on a ground out to first base, stretching the Dodger lead to two runs. Betts can influence a baseball game in so many ways, the whack-a-mole gold medalist isn’t skilled enough to keep him down. Betts had a couple of hits in this one, a couple of stolen bases, he won tacos for the nation, and he went deep. This may very well end up the Mookie Betts series, but if not, at least we got a Mookie Betts game.

By the time Betts was done running in the fifth, Glasnow had given up 4 earned runs with 2 more waiting on the base paths in the 5th inning.

Ryan Yarbrough came in and got the tough out: Cody Bellinger popped out to third with runners on the corners. After surviving that 10-pitch battle with Bellinger, lil’ Chris Taylor stepped into the box and singled home the runner on third on the first pitch he saw. It was…the most “Dodger” thing.

Kiké Hernandez then pinch-hit for Joc Pederson in what’s quickly becoming the moment of every playoff game Dodgers fans look forward to most. Hernandez, of course, singled home another run – the last belonging to Glasnow.

The youthful Glasnow ended the night with 6 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings, hitting a new career high with 112 pitches. And this was a game in which he actually pitched pretty well until losing his command in the fifth.

The Rays did some other okay things in this game – Kevin Kiermaier played hard and drove in a couple, Mike Brosseau had a good at-bat – but it all paled in comparison to the effort put forth by the Los Angeles machine.

Playoff games have a habit of staying close until the end. Something to do with the intense focus games with such high stakes demands. But game one of the World Series ended in the fifth. It was a big inning for the Dodgers for the obvious reason – namely, those six runs – but also because it took the pressure off of our man Kershaw.

On a side note, if it weren’t for Betts, we’d be showering all the same accolades on Bellinger, who not only homered, but made a number of stellar plays in center field. He even poked a little fun at himself by coming up with a new way to celebrate home runs:


Looking ahead, the Rays are going to have to hit, and they’re going to have to hit in game two. Walker Buehler awaits them in game three, and he’s as good as his pants are tight.

I personally hope the Rays can make this a series, if only to ensure we get another moment for Kershaw to shine. He got the win tonight, but it won’t be enough to silence the critics who say he can’t come through in the playoffs.

Contrary to popular belief, postseason heroes aren’t born – they’re made when teams ask too much from a player…and that player succeeds. Stephen Strasburg in 2019 is a classic example. There could be no reasonable expectation that he would go 5-0 in the postseason – if for no other reason than it had never been done before. If he’d given the Nats anything less, however, Washington doesn’t walk away from 2019 as the champs. Strasburg wouldn’t be a World Series MVP and playoff hero. He’d be another guy on a Nats franchise known for postseason failure.

That’s the horrible purgatory where Kershaw remains today. When Dave Roberts called his number last year in the win-or-go-home deciding game five of the ALDS against the Nats, Kershaw came in and, like tonight, did his job. He struck out Adam Eaton to get out of the 7th inning. But then Roberts sent Kershaw back out to the hill for the 8th against the heart of the Nats order. Kershaw was on 4-days rest, so it wasn’t inconceivable to think Kershaw could finish the game even. But it was still a lot to ask for a guy not used to entering games in relief.

You know the rest: Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto homered off Kershaw, and the Dodgers ultimately lost in 10 innings. Maybe it was too much to ask for Kershaw to enter in that spot and get those outs – but that’s the box Kershaw needs to check. Until he can succeed when too much is asked of him, he won’t shake his playoff reputation.

On Tuesday night, despite everything that’s happened, the Dodgers gave Kershaw the ball to open the World Series and asked him to keep them in the game until they could provide some offense. He did exactly that. After 78 pitchers, Roberts patted him on the back and sent him to the showers.

He did his job. It was enough to put the Dodgers three wins from a World Series championship. But if the Rays can’t slow down Betts and Bellinger, Kershaw may not get the chance to prove he can do more.

Photo by Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

TC Zencka

TC Zencka contributes regularly to Pitcher List, and MLB Trade Rumors. Come say hi on Twitter.

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