The Los Angeles Dodgers took the opening game of the 2020 World Series with an 8-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
Clayton Kershaw tossed six innings and struck out eight, allowing just one earned run off a Kevin Kiermaier solo home run.
Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts each hit homers for the Dodgers, who scored all eight of their runs between the fourth and sixth innings to take an 8-1 edge. The Rays mounted a seventh-inning rally to cut the deficit to 8-3 but could not come any closer.
Los Angeles is seeking its seventh World Series crown and first since 1988. Tampa Bay is looking for its first-ever Series title since debuting in MLB as an expansion franchise in 1998.
Rays SP Tyler Glasnow: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 6 ER, 6 BB, 8 K
Rays OF Kevin Kiermaier: 2-for-3, R, 2 RBI, HR
Rays 3B Joey Wendle: 1-for-4, 1 R, 2B
Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, BB, 8 K
Dodgers RF Mookie Betts: 2-for-4, 2 R, RBI, BB, 2 SB, HR
Dodgers CF Cody Bellinger: 1-for-4, R, 2 RBI, HR
Kershaw Tosses 6-Inning Gem
The Dodgers ace found himself in trouble in the top of the first inning after the Rays put runners on first and second with one out following a Yandy Diaz single and a Randy Arozarena walk.
Rays cleanup hitter Hunter Renfroe, who sports a career .915 OPS against left-handers, then strolled to the plate.
The game could have pivoted one of two ways at that point: Either Renfroe (and the hitters behind him) could bury Kershaw and put him in an early hole, or the left-hander could wiggle his way out of a jam and wrest momentum back from the Rays.
The latter option happened and with relative ease: Kershaw set Renfroe down swinging on a 75 mph breaking ball before Manuel Margot tapped a ball back to the left-hander for an easy putout.
From that moment forward, Kershaw put on a masterclass in pitching, with his slider doing serious work, per ESPN's Jeff Passan:
Kershaw did hang a breaking ball against Kiermaier, who was responsible for the pitcher's only blemish from the second through sixth frames.
Still, Kershaw retired 13 straight batters from his first-inning jam until the Kiermaier homer, and he then set down his final four batters before being pulled from the game at 78 pitches.
The left-hander could have gone longer, but manager Dave Roberts trusted his bullpen to preserve a seven-run lead and subsequently Kershaw's arm in advance of another potential World Series start.
Ultimately, Kershaw flummoxed Rays batters all night, and one stat from ESPN Stats & Info proved this notion:
He also tied a few former postseason star pitchers in Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett in another category, per MLB Stats:
In conjunction with the Dodgers' run support, Kershaw cruised to victory and moved the team one step closer to securing its first World Series in 32 years.
Dodger Bats Get to Glasnow in 4-Run 5th
Rays starter Tyler Glasnow nearly threw as many balls (54) as strikes (58), walked six and couldn't get out of the fifth inning.
It's fair to wonder whether Glasnow should have been given the opportunity to take the mound in the fifth: He threw 86 pitches through four innings and gave up two runs in the fourth off a Bellinger moonshot.
Plus, the Rays are historically known for their quick hooks. Zach Kram of The Ringer pointed out that Glasnow's 112 pitches were the most by any Rays pitcher since 2008. Of note, manager Kevin Cash pulled starter Charlie Morton after just 66 pitches in Game 7 of this year's American League Championship Series despite the right-hander throwing 5.2 shutout innings until that point.
ESPN's Karl Ravech questioned leaving Glasnow in:
Glasnow walked Betts and Corey Seager before punching out Justin Turner on a 98 mph fastball, but the two Dodgers runners stole second and third to get into scoring position.
A Max Muncy groundout led to an attempt at nabbing Betts out at home, but that effort proved futile. A Will Smith RBI single then ended Glasnow's night.
Tampa Bay couldn't limit the damage from there: RBI singles from Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez put L.A. up 6-1, and the Dodgers went up 8-1 off a Betts solo homer and a Muncy RBI double.
It's difficult to say whether the Rays could have pulled out a win had Cash gone to the pen earlier, as Tampa's bats were still largely quiet in a three-run effort. But the Rays dug themselves a deep hole in the middle innings that they could not climb out of before it was too late.
Game 2 will take place Wednesday at 8:08 p.m. ET. Globe Life Field will be the home for the entire series, and Fox will televise every contest.