ARLINGTON, Texas — Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts and the Los Angeles Dodgers left the Tampa Bay Rays stuck in neutral to start a most strange World Series played amid the pandemic.
Kershaw dominated for six innings, Bellinger and Betts homered and the Dodgers chased a wild Tyler Glasnow in the fifth inning for an 8-3 win Tuesday night in the first Series held at a neutral site.
A crowd limited by the coronavirus to 11,388 at Globe Life Field, the new $1.2 billion home of the Texas Rangers, marked the smallest for baseball’s top event in 111 years.
Kershaw, a regular season star with an erratic postseason history, looked like the ace who so often stars on midsummer evenings with the San Gabriel Mountains behind him at Dodger Stadium. With these games shifted, the 32-year-old left-hander wound up pitching not far from his season home in Dallas.
The three-time CY Young Award winner allowed one run and two hits, struck out eight and walked one. He induced 19 swings and misses among his 78 pitches — more than his three previous Series starts combined. He threw nine balls in the first, when he stranded a pair of runners, then threw just nine more over the next three innings.
Kershaw retired 13 in a row before his only mistake, a fastball Kevin Kiermeier pulled for a home run in the fifth inning that cut the Rays’ deficit to 2-1. The five-time ERA champ improved to 2-2 in the World Series and 12-12 in postseason play, a shadow of his 175-76 regular season record.
Game 2 is Wednesday night. The Dodgers, who posted the best record in the majors during the shortened season and showed off all their stars in Game 1, plan to throw a collection of relievers against Rays ace Blake Snell.
Bellinger changes up celebration
Bellinger bashed a home run in the World Series opener, and celebrated with his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates.
Foot taps — not forearm knocks. Much easier on his delicate right shoulder that popped out of its socket during a home run celebration in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series.
Bellinger’s two-run shot gave the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning and they went on to an 8-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.
Instead of jumping up and banging elbows, a grinning Bellinger ran up to teammate Max Muncy and exchanged foot taps before making his way down a line of Dodgers doing the same thing.
Bellinger and Mookie Betts traded taps with their right feet as Justin Turner laughed, Will Smith clapped and manager Dave Roberts appeared to be smiling behind his face mask.
There had been concern about Bellinger’s shoulder after the Dodgers wrapped up the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. He said it felt sore going into the World Series. His shoulder took another hit in the seventh, when he crashed into the center-field wall trying unsuccessfully to corral Joey Wendle’s double.
Bellinger leaped, reached high with his right arm and banged into the fence grabbing Austin Meadows’ long fly leading off the ninth. On the mound, reliever Joe Kelly pointed to his right shoulder while looking back at a smiling Bellinger.
The 2019 NL MVP is finding his stroke just in time to help the Dodgers try to end a World Series championship drought that dates to 1988.
Bellinger entered 5 for 44 (.114) in 12 career World Series games, with 23 strikeouts. He had struggled during the shortened 60-game regular season, hitting .239 with 12 home runs, 30 RBIs and 42 strikeouts.
Rays’ Glasnow wilts
Glasnow had already given up Bellinger’s two-run homer and four of his six walks when he went back out for the fifth inning.
Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash might have waited a smidge too long to go to his bullpen in Game 1 of the World Series.
Glasnow was charged with all four runs in the small-ball fifth by the Los Angeles Dodgers — three singles, four walks and three stolen bases that tied a Fall Classic record — as the Rays lost 8-3 on Tuesday night in the franchise’s first Series game since 2008.
The 6-foot-8 Glasnow started fast enough in his first World Series start, pumping the occasional 100 mph fastball while matching postseason veteran Kershaw out for out through three
But after striking out three around the second of his three walks to Corey Seager in the third, Glasnow walked Max Muncy to start the fourth. Two batters later, Bellinger hit the fastest pitch he ever has for a homer (98.2 mph).
Glasnow, who struck out eight, started the fifth with consecutive walks to Mookie Betts and Seager, but Cash stayed with him long enough to give up Muncy’s run-scoring fielder’s choice and Will Smith’s soft single to center.
The six runs were the most Glasnow has allowed in seven postseason starts.