Game 1 of the 2020 World Series could not have gone better for the Los Angeles Dodgers, with an 8-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Clayton Kershaw overcame first-inning traffic (while notably overthrowing his slider) to allow only one run and two hits with eight strikeouts in six surprisingly smooth innings. That’s the pitcher L.A. fans have always hoped to see when the stakes are highest.
Though it’s understandable, if in watching him serve up a home run to Kevin Kiermaier (with a postseason average of .194 coming into the game) viewers got to thinking about another “oh no, Kershaw” moment, the worst was not come. Not this time. And any dread among Dodgers fans that manager Dave Roberts would keep Kershaw in the game for what historically has been a troublesome seventh inning in October was settled. The three-time Cy Young Award winner pitched a clean sixth after his mates put up four runs in the fifth to lead 6-2, and was promptly pulled by his skipper.
Cody Bellinger blasted a two-run homer, demonstrating that his right shoulder, injured high-fiving after Game 7 big fly in the NLSC, is just fine. And Mookie Betts showed why he’s the difference between the past three Dodgers World Series teams and the 2020 edition.
Drawing a walk to lead off the fifth inning, Betts then stole second base and distracted Rays starter Tyler Glasnow enough that he walked Corey Seager. From there, he stole third base on the front end of a double steal. And on a ground ball by Max Muncy, Betts had such a head start that he beat out a good throw from Yandy Diaz to score the Dodgers’ third run.
Los Angeles was already winning on pitching and power. But without getting a hit, Betts helped manufacture a run with his speed and skillful baserunning. The Dodgers added two more runs in the inning, displaying how they can win games in so many different ways. (Betts added a home run to lead off the sixth, just to underline the point.)
The series is far from over. Starting pitchers Blake Snell and Charlie Morton give Tampa Bay a strong chance in each of the next two games. And with the Dodgers starting Tony Gonsolin in what may turn out to be a planned bullpen game, tomorrow's Game 2 may be turn out to be the Rays' best shot at a win.
But in dominating Game 1, the Dodgers look like a team that can do whatever it wants. This is what’s supposed to happen when they do everything right and don’t beat themselves. And now, the Dodgers only have to do it three more times.
Ian Casselberry watchdogs sports media for Awful Announcing. He’s covered baseball for SB Nation, Yahoo Sports and MLive, and was one of Bleacher Report’s first lead MLB writers. Please follow Ian on Twitter @iancass and give him a listen at The Podcass.