Sports Kershaw caps redemptive October with gutsy Game 5 effort
Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw scratched from NLCS Game 2; rookie Tony Gonsolin will start vs. Braves
Three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw won't pitch Game 2 for the Dodgers due to back spasms. Tony Gonsolin will start for the Dodgers.Rookie Tony Gonsolin will make his postseason debut in Kershaw's place, a move that significantly alters the Dodgers' pitching calculus this series.
As much as Clayton Kershaw had chipped away at hisof postseason failure this October - crafting a 2.88 ERA through four outings and turning in a gem in the World Series opener - his latest attempt to expunge the lone blight on his Hall of Fame resume ultimately hinged on Game 5.
A slipup Sunday at Globe Life Field, with the series suddenly tied at 2-2 following the Los Angeles Dodgers'in Game 4, would've negated his prior efforts. His reputation as a playoff choker - which, again, isn't as clear-cut as his inflated ERA may suggest - would've been reinforced in the minds of many baseball fans, perhaps irretrievably.
How to watch Rays vs. Astros: ALCS Game 4 live stream, schedule, TV channel, start time
The Tampa Bay Rays can sweep the ALCS with a win over the Houston Astros on WednesdayThe Rays were the AL's top-seeded team and are looking to win their first league championship since 2008, which marked the franchise's only World Series appearance. Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena went 6-for-12 with a home run in the first three games of the series at Petco Park in San Diego and is batting .462 overall in the postseason.
However, in his biggest start of the year, Kershaw didn't falter. Instead, the three-time Cy Young Award winner capped his redemptive postseason with a gutsy 5 2/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays, propelling the Dodgers to a 4-2 win and putting them on the precipice of their first championship in 32 years. And while the vaunted left-hander walked off the mound in the bottom of the sixth inning with many of the Dodgers fans in attendance shaking their heads - a reaction he no doubt grew accustomed to over the years as his postseason misfires mounted - their frustration on this occasion wasn't with him. Rather, they were peeved at manager Dave Roberts for taking him out.
Ironically, had Roberts relieved Kershaw two innings earlier, the decision may have been less controversial. Unlike in Game 1, when he limited Tampa Bay to one run over six innings, Kershaw didn't have his best stuff Sunday. His slider, which became his most frequently used pitch this year, was markedly less sharp: After generating 11 whiffs with the pitch in the series opener, Kershaw induced only seven in Game 5 despite throwing just one fewer slider. With his primary weapon dulled and his command occasionally spotty, Kershaw didn't look nearly as invulnerable.
How to watch Rays vs. Astros: ALCS Game 6 live stream, schedule, TV channel, start time
The Tampa Bay rays lead the Houston Astros 3-2 in the 2020 ALCS, but the Astros have the momentum after two wins in a row.Carlos Correa hit a walk-off home run in the ninth inning of Game 5 to extend the series, a dramatic blast that has the Astros dreaming of pulling off an unbelievable comeback. Houston is just the fourth team in baseball history to force a Game 6 after trailing 3-0, but only one – the 2004 Boston Red Sox – managed to come all the way back to win a series.
In the bottom of the third, after being staked to an early 3-0 lead, Kershaw gave two runs back, serving up a triple to Yandy Diaz - aided by a rare miscue in right field by Mookie Betts - on a fastball that caught too much of the plate and a single from Randy Arozarena on a hanging 3-0 curveball. Neither ball was scorched - each had an exit velocity between 93-94 mph - but it was still hard not to see the combination of poor batted-ball luck (Kevin Kiermaier reached on a tapper to lead off the inning) and imperfect execution as a precursor to another devastating start.
And, sure enough, Kershaw's outing looked poised to fully unravel an inning later. After a leadoff walk to Manuel Margot, who promptly reached third following a stolen base and an error, Kershaw issued another free pass to Hunter Renfroe, putting runners at the corners with nobody out. The stage was set for another memorable Kershaw implosion. Had Roberts gone to his bullpen to extinguish the threat, it would've been understandable. Instead, he stuck with his ace.
Free tacos! Dodgers' Mookie Betts (again) wins everyone Taco Bell with World Series stolen base
Mookie Betts' stolen base in Game 1 of the World Series won free Taco Bell, for the second time in three years.Taco Bell's annual "Steal a Base, Steal a Taco" promotion has been a great success through the years, setting Twitter ablaze anticipating the first stolen base of the World Series – which earns everyone a free Doritos Locos taco.
His ace delivered.
First, Kershaw induced an infield pop-up from Joey Wendle, who couldn't get his barrel on a 92-mph fastball perfectly located on the inside edge of the plate. Then, Kershaw flummoxed Willy Adames with a masterful three-pitch sequence, getting him to chase a curveball out of the zone for strike three. And, before he could retire Kiermaier for the inning's final out, Kershaw instead nabbed Margot, cutting down the intrepid outfielder as he attempted the firstin a World Series game since 2002.
From that point onward, Kershaw was perfect. He needed only 16 pitches to retire the next five batters he faced, the first two via strikeout. By the time Roberts emerged from the dugout with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the sixth, his club's lead extended to two runs, Kershaw was so locked in that even Justin Turner - who knows all too well what can happen when too much is asked of Kershaw - was lobbying his manager to leave the lefty in. (Turner was unsuccessful.)
All told, Kershaw allowed two runs on five hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings, surrendering only three hard-hit balls while notching six strikeouts to become the all-time postseason strikeout. While it wasn't the most dominant performance of his career, it was enough. It's a fitting capper to a postseason that should recalibrate the collective perception of Kershaw, at least a little bit.
WATCH: Fan at World Series flings glove on field after catching Will Smith home run
A fan at Game 2 of the 2020 World Series caught Will Smith's home run before his glove somehow wound up in left field.A fan sitting in Globe Life Field's fifth row of the left-field seats was perfectly positioned to catch Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Will Smith's sixth-inning solo home run. The man, equipped with a mitt on his left hand, leaned back in his seat and reached to haul in the baseball.
Assuming he doesn't pitch in relief in Game 6 (or, if necessary, Game 7), Kershaw finishes his postseason with a 2.93 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. He struck out 37 and issued just five walks over 30 2/3 innings. L.A. won all but one of his five starts. It was, in short, the finest October of his singular career.
While the Dodgers may or may not end up winning the Fall Classic, Kershaw will bear no responsibility if they come up short: He allowed three runs combined in his two World Series starts, fashioning a 2.31 ERA while holding the Rays to a .179 batting average. Never before, moreover, had Kershaw won two games in a single postseason series.
Simply put, Kershaw's postseason performance finally reflected his greatness instead of undermining it. This time around, there were no pained sound bites to dispense. ("Maybe one of these days, I won't fail, we won't fail, and we'll win one of these things," Kershaw toldfollowing the 2017 World Series.)
This time around, the definitive image of Kershaw's postseason isn't one of. Instead, thanks in large part to his own brilliance, the most indelible image of Kershaw this October may well be one of him hoisting the Commissioner's Trophy.
Jonah Birenbaum is theScore's senior MLB writer. He steams a good ham. You can find him on Twitter.
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World Series Game 5 start is the latest 'biggest game of Clayton Kershaw's career' .
The Dodgers left-hander has another opportunity to change the narrative about his pitching in October. More importantly, he can help LA regain control of this year's Fall Classic.All eyes will be on Kershaw, the future Hall of Famer who owns a complicated, convoluted postseason legacy. But Game 5 isn’t about his legacy, at least not for Kershaw, and not for the Dodgers. At least not quite yet. Legacy talk is retrospective.