AFP/Arlington, United States
The Los Angeles Dodgers, led by pitcher Clayton Kershaw’s gutsy performance, shook off a crushing defeat to beat Tampa Bay 4-2 and move within one win of their first World Series title in 32 years on Sunday.
Joc Pederson and Max Muncy homered for the Dodgers and Kershaw notched the 13th post-season win of his career - his fourth this post-season - as Los Angeles took a three-games-to-two lead in Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven championship series. “Tonight was a grind, all the way through,” said Kershaw. “My slider wasn’t as good as it was in game one. But I stuck with the game plan.
“To only give up two runs is huge for me.”
Kershaw and the Dodgers, who came up agonisingly short in World Series appearances in 2017 and 2018, can lock up their first title since 1988 in game six at Globe Life Field in Arlington on Tuesday.
“It is very exciting, but at same time we’ve got to win one more. I am going to keep it together for one more game,” Kershaw said.
Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award-winner whose Hall of Fame resume is lacking a World Series title, pitched 5 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on five hits.
His six strikeouts took his career post-season tally to a record 207 - surpassing the 205 of Justin Verlander.
Perhaps his most memorable throw to home on the night, however, wasn’t a pitch, but a sharp throw to cut down Manuel Margo as he tried to steal home and thwart a Rays rally attempt.
The Dodgers insisted they were over the disappointment of game four, when a couple of Dodgers errors helped the Rays walk off 8-7 winners after being down to their last strike.
It certainly looked as if they had put it behind them when they leapt on Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow in the first inning.
Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager said battling Glasnow and pushing up his pitch count would be key, and Los Angeles did a good job of it.
Mookie Betts led off with a stand-up double and scored on a single from Seager. Seager reached second and third on two wild pitches from Glasnow and scored on a single from Cody Bellinger before Glasnow - who became the first pitcher to throw three wild pitches in a World Series game - ended the inning after throwing 34 pitches.
Pederson led off the second with a home run, clubbing a 98-mph fastball from Glasnow over the left centrefield wall to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead.
Muncy’s towering homer off a Glasnow fastball with two outs in the fifth put the Dodgers up 4-2.
“That one felt pretty good,” Muncy said. “(It’s) not to many times you connect right middle of the barrel. It felt really solid.”
The Rays had pulled back two runs in the bottom of the third when Yandy Diaz belted a line drive down the right field line that Betts couldn’t corral for a run-scoring triple. Diaz scored on a single from Randy Arozarena, whose 27th hit of these playoffs gave him the record for most in a single post-season.
Kershaw kept the Rays from building any momentum, despite the aggressive efforts of Manuel Margot, who drew a walk to lead off the fourth, stole second and reached third when the attempt to catch him at second failed.
Kershaw nailed Margot as he tried to steal home to end the inning and retired three straight in the fifth and two in the sixth before handing over to Dustin May.
“It has happened to me before,” of Margot’s attempt to steal home.
“I work on that with the first baseman. I just know now to step up fast and throw it.
“That was a big out for us right there.”
Rays manager Kevin Cash called it a “frustrating inning.”
“Man on third, no outs, first and third, no outs. Pop-up, strike out and then get thrown out trying to do that. Ideally, we’ve got to find a way to get that guy in to tie the game there.”
Dodgers fans, the majority of the 11,437 in attendance at the neutral venue, booed when Dodgers manager Dave Roberts went to the mound to tell Kershaw his night was done after he retired the first two batters of the sixth inning,
But they cheered Kershaw as he headed to the dugout and the Dodgers bullpen didn’t let them down. May recorded five outs before yielding to Victor Gonzalez, who faced the potential go-ahead run at the plate in the eighth but retired Arozarena and Brandon Lowe to end the inning.
Rays aim to rebound
Blake Treinen gave up a leadoff single in the ninth, but retired the next three to gain the save.
While the Dodgers looked toward Tuesday saying they needed to keep focused on the game at hand, and not on hoisting the trophy, the Rays said they would come ready to bounce back.
Tampa Bay won game-five and game-seven series clinchers this post-season, and Kiermaier said they could do it again.
“If there’s any team who can respond well with their backs against the wall, knowing what’s at stake - we’re in a situation now where it’s win or go home - our group is the group to come through,” he said.
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