The Los Angeles Dodgers took the initial step in their quest to win their first World Series title since 1988 with a 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros in Tuesday's Game 1 at Dodger Stadium.
Clayton Kershaw set the tone for the National League representatives with a dominant performance, striking out 11 and allowing just one run and three hits with zero walks in seven innings. Justin Turner and Chris Taylor provided the offense with home runs in the sixth and first innings, respectively, before the lockdown bullpen combination of Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen secured the win.
Turner and Taylor continued their postseason heroics after being named co-MVPs in the National League Championship Series victory over the Chicago Cubs, but Kershaw proved to be a difference.
Heading into Tuesday's start, Kershaw's 4.40 postseason ERA fueled the perception that he struggles in the playoffs. He silenced that narrative by nearly blanking an Astros lineup that led all of Major League Baseball with 896 runs this season. His only mistake came when Alex Bregman tied the score at one with a solo homer to lead off the fourth, which was the seventh playoff long ball the southpaw allowed this year.
However, Kershaw's ability to keep Astros off the bases outweighed the one home run.
Houston didn't have multiple runners on base a single time Tuesday, largely because of Kershaw's 11 strikeouts. He joined Dodgers royalty with the punchouts:
The only thing hotter than Los Angeles' ace was the temperature, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:
If not for the long balls from Turner and Taylor, Dallas Keuchel would have matched Kershaw frame for frame. Like his counterpart, the Astros lefty didn't allow multiple baserunners at a time in Tuesday's start, and he wiped out the Dodgers' first three runners with double plays.
In all, Keuchel allowed three earned runs, six hits and one walk while striking out three in 6.2 innings. He nearly overcame Taylor drilling his first pitch over the wall to open the World Series scoring:
It was more October magic for the Los Angeles leadoff hitter after he tallied three multihit games and two home runs in the NLCS. He also worked a critical walk with two outs in the sixth, which allowed Turner to bat in the inning.
The result was the game-winning homer:
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Turner's blast evened him with Duke Snider for the most career RBI in Dodgers playoff history at 26.
Turner's shot set the stage for the dominant Dodgers bullpen that didn't allow a single run in the NLCS to close the door. Morrow worked a 1-2-3 eighth before Jansen was his typically brilliant self in a perfect ninth against the top of Houston's order.
Despite the loss, Houston can still steal home-field advantage if it wins Game 2 Wednesday.
It will send Justin Verlander to the mound to face Rich Hill. Verlander has been nothing short of remarkable in four postseason appearances with the Astros, posting a 1.46 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. Hill has been less effective but still impressive in his two postseason starts this year with a 3.00 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.
A vintage performance from either would give their team momentum before the series shifts to Houston for Games 3 through 5.