Clayton Kershaw has had his best stuff in postseasons past and lost, so even though he wasn't perfect Sunday night, he was thrilled to get his second World Series win in five days when his Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2 in Game 5.
Kershaw had retired the final eight batters he faced, going 5⅔ innings and allowing five hits and two runs. He struck out six, and now he's throw 30⅔ innings during these playoffs, striking out 37 batters with a 2.93 ERA and four wins. It's the first time he's ever won two games in the same playoff series.
"I thought he pitched a heck of a game," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said after the Dodgers took a 3-2 series lead. After an off day, Game 6 will be Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas.
Kershaw was spotted a 3-0 lead but gave up two runs in the third. The game swung in the fourth, when Tampa Bay had men on first and third with no outs. But Kershaw got a pop up and a strikeout and then Manuel Margot tried to steal home but was thrown out by Kershaw on a close play.
He got the first two outs on two pitches in the sixth when Roberts came out to get him. That was the plan, and they stuck to it. Kershaw's night ended after 86 pitches.
"It feels pretty good," Kershaw said of leaving with a 4-2 lead. "Anytime you can have success in the postseason, it just means so much. That's what you work for, that's what you play for this month. I know what the other end of that feels like ,too. I will definitely take it when I can get it.''
He liked that he battled through a few tough spots despite not being at his best.
"I didn't have my stuff like I did in Game 1,'' Kershaw said. "My slider wasn't there as good as it was, so fortunate to get through there."
Roberts was thrilled that he got so much out of Kershaw, and that his bullpen backed him up with 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits.
"To go out there and get two more hitters (in the sixth), we felt that that would be good enough (from Kershaw),'' Roberts said. "And at that point in time, once he did that, I thought it was time to take the baseball. And I think he felt good."
“He held up his part of the deal and got the two hitters (in the sixth). "He just grinded. He willed himself to that point, and I will say it wasn’t his best stuff. But he found a way to get outs and I give him all the credit.”
It was a satisfying result for Kershaw. Despite winning three National League Cy Young awards, an MVP award, a posting a regular-season career ERA of 2.43, he had a losing record in the postseason prior to the World Series. Now he's had two wins and put his team one win away from their first championship since 1988.
"A lot of credit goes to (Kershaw) for what we've been able to do in this World Series,'' said Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen, who pitched a perfect ninth inning to get the save . "There's a tough narrative on him. He's a phenomenal pitcher on the biggest stage, and he delivered for us again (Sunday).''
Both teams will enjoy an off day on Monday and rest up their bullpens for the final push. Game 6 is Tuesday night, and if Game 7 is necessary, it will be Wednesday night.
Here's the schedule;
World Series Schedule
All games at Globe Life Stadium, Arlington, Texas. (TV: FOX)
- Game 1, DODGERS 8, RAYS 3: Los Angeles struck first in the series with a two-run home run by Cody Bellinger and six solid innings from Clayton Kershaw, who allowed only two hits and one run. (Los Angeles leads series 1-0.)
- Game 2, RAYS 6, DODGERS 4: Blake Snell pitched no-hit ball for the first four innings for Tampa Bat as the Rays evened the series. Brandon Lowe, who's been struggling throughout the playoffs, homered twice, hitting a solo shot in the first and a two-run homer in the fifth. (Series tied 1-1.)
- OFF DAY on Thursday (Oct. 22).
- Game 3, DODGERS 6, RAYS 2: Walker Buehler was sensational in his start for the Dodgers, allowing just one run and three hits over six innings, and striking out 10 Tampa Bay hitters. Tampa Bay's Charlie Morton, a postseason hero, struggled to get outs with his slider, and was knocked out in the fifth inning. He gave up five runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. Mookie Betts, Justin Turner and Max Muncy all had two hits for the Dodgers in the easy win. (Los Angeles leads series 2-1.)
- Game 4, RAYS 8, DODGERS 7: This was one of the craziest games in World Series history, with the Rays rallying in the bottom of the ninth to steal a win. With two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning, journeyman outfielder Brett Phillips, literally the last guy on the Rays' roster, singled to center field off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. The tying run scored, but then the Dodgers kicked the ball around – twice — and Randy Arozarena scored to win the game. (Series tied 2-2.)
- Game 5, DODGERS 4, RAYS 2: The talk about Clayton Kershaw failing in the playoffs can stop now after the Dodgers' ace got his second World Series win on Sunday night. He pitched 5⅔ innings, allowing two run and five hits while striking out six, and the bullpen took it from there, pitching 3 1/3 scoreless innings the rest of the way and allowing just two hits. For Tampa Bay, Tyler Glasnow struggled once again, giving up two runs in the first inning and then surrendering solo homers to Doc Peterson and Max Mundy in the second and fourth innings, respectively. (Los Angeles leads series 3-2.)
- OFF DAY on Monday (Oct. 26)
- Game 6: Tuesday (Oct. 27) 8:08 p.m. ET: Tampa Bay will turn to 2018 Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell in an attempt to stay alive in the World Series. He's started five games in the playoffs, and has been mostly good, especially early in games. He threw four no-hit innings in Game 2 when the Rays won. In 24 1/3 innings, he has a 3.33 ERA and has struck out 28. The Dodgers will turn to Tony Gonsolin, with an early call to the bullpen likely if he struggles early. Gonsolin started Game 2, but pitched only 1 1/3 innings after giving up a run.
- Game 7: Wednesday (Oct. 28), 8:08 p.m. ET: Charlie Morton knows what it's like to pitch Game 7 of the World Series, winning it for the Houston Astros in 2017. He's hoping to get that chance again. If he does, the Dodgers will have Walker Buehler ready to go on full rest.