Clayton Kershaw has pitched in the final game of the season for the Los Angeles Dodgers six of the last seven years. None of those were followed by lifting the World Series trophy.
There are his three National League Cy Young Awards, even an MVP during one of his 21-win seasons, and the current streak of eight consecutive NL West titles for the Dodgers.
But the 32-year-old ace lefty has a losing record (11-12) in the postseason — and Los Angeles hasn’t won a World Series since 1988. That is the same year Kershaw was born in Dallas, where he still lives and not far from where he is about to get another chance to change that for the Dodgers and add a huge missing piece to his otherwise sparkling resume.
“I was throwing sim games May and June in Dallas, thinking about, man, are we even going to play a season?” Kershaw said Monday.
And now for the third time in four years, Kershaw is set to start Game 1 of the World Series for the Dodgers, who were on the verge of their season ending when he left his NL Championship Series start last week in Arlington, Texas, where the World Series is also being played.
California-born Tyler Glasnow, a 27-year-old righthander who grew up watching the early part of Kershaw’s career, starts Tuesday night for the Tampa Bay Rays in their first World Series game since 2008. Glasnow was 5-1 with a 4.08 ERA in 11 starts during the regular season and is 2-1 with a 4.66 ERA in four postseason starts.
The World Series opener comes a week after Kershaw was scratched before his scheduled start in Game 2 of the NLCS against Atlanta because of back spasms. He instead started two days later in Game 4, which was tied 1-1 before he left after allowing three hits in a row to start the sixth in what became a six-run inning for the Braves on the way to a 10-2 win and a 3-1 series lead.
But the Dodgers then won three consecutive games when facing elimination — only the second time in their storied history they did that. Kershaw was in the bullpen stretching at times during Game 7 on Sunday night, but never entered the clinching 4-3 victory.
Kershaw was 6-2 with a 2.16 ERA in 10 starts during the regular season, then had 13 strikeouts in eight scoreless innings to win the clinching Game 2 against Milwaukee in the first round. He went six innings to beat San Diego during the NLDS in his first Arlington start.
“He’s so competitive,” first-year teammate and 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts said. “He does everything right.”
But as good as Kershaw has been in going 175-76 with a 2.43 ERA in the regular season over his 13 seasons, the eight-time All-Star has had plenty of disappointing finishes in the postseason, when his ERA is nearly two runs higher at 4.31.
Bellinger happy shoulder is OK
Cody Bellinger knocked his right shoulder out of whack with a celebration after his home run that sent the Dodgers to the World Series.
The reigning NL MVP said Monday he was “feeling pretty good” and manager Dave Roberts said he expects Bellinger to start in center field for Game 1 against the Rays on Tuesday night.
Bellinger, who had already separated his shoulder multiple times, hurt it again with the emphatic celebration that followed his go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of Game 7 of the NLCS, a 4-3 victory over the Braves on Sunday night. He did a leaping high-five with Kiké Hernández, whose pinch-hit solo shot an inning earlier had tied the game.
“It was an exciting time. It was pure adrenaline, kind of like a thing where you just black out,” Bellinger said. “I wish that I didn’t do it, but it was such a cool moment for me, and it was just pure excitement.”
Bellinger said the discomfort was similar to when he separated the shoulder on plays in the field in the past.
“It’s maybe the third time I’ve done it, and it’s all the same,” he explained. “The next day it’s the same. I already expected what to feel and how I was going to feel, but I feel good right now.”
The Friedman influence
The World Series matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays is a rare meeting of baseball’s best for the title, and a matchup of organizations with Andrew Friedman’s imprint.
Friedman was the Rays' director of baseball operations from 2004-05 and then general manager until he left in October 2014 to become the Dodgers president of baseball operations.
Game 1 is Tuesday night.
Despite the shortened schedule and expanded playoffs, the teams with the best record in each league meet in the World Series for just the fourth time since Major League Baseball realigned each league into three divisions in 1995.
Reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger, newcomer Mookie Betts, and manager Dave Roberts’s Dodgers went 43-17, the best record in the National League by eight wins. They overcame a 3-1 deficit in the NL Championship Series, beat Atlanta, 4-3, on Bellinger’s late home run in Game 7 on Sunday night and reached the World Series for the third time in four years.
Rookie sensation Randy Arozarena and skipper Kevin Cash’s bullpen-rich Rays were 40-20 and topped the American League by four victories. They also won a Game 7, topping Houston, 4-2, in the ALCS and earn the second World Series trip in franchise history.
“Going to be a fun Series,” Bellinger said.
Because of its superior record, Los Angeles has “home field advantage” when the neutral site Series starts in Arlington, Texas, and will bat last in Games 1 and 2, and then in 6 and 7, if necessary.
“From the moment that we were able to put a season together, once they figured out that COVID thing, everybody was expecting us to get to the World Series. We were expecting to get to the World Series,” said Hernandez, who tied Game 7 with a pinch-hit home run in the sixth inning.
About 11,000 fans will be allowed at Globe Life Field, the new home of the Texas Rangers with a retractable roof, for each game.
Reds promote Krall
Cincinnati Reds general manager Nick Krall has been promoted to to director of baseball operations.
The Reds announced that Krall will replace Dick Williams, who resigned Oct. 7 to assume a larger role in his family’s development business. Krall will still hold the GM title but now will report directly to owner Bob Castellini. Krall spent 15 years working alongside Williams, including the last three seasons as general manager, and has been involved in all aspects of the day-to-day operations of the team.
The 2021 season will be Krall’s 19th in the organization. He was hired by the Reds in 2003 to oversee the team’s advance scouting preparation and has steadily advanced through the front office.
Nationals hire Hickey
Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez turned to longtime friend Jim Hickey to take over as pitching coach, the team announced. Martinez and Hickey spent seven years together with the Tampa Bay Rays. Hickey, 59, has spent 15 seasons as a pitching coach, last with the Chicago Cubs. Hickey left the Cubs in November 2018 and has since been a special assistant for player development with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That he was looking for a full-time job in the majors, and that Martinez planned to bring his own guys aboard, made Hickey and the Nationals a logical match. Paul Menhart parted ways with the team less than a month ago after nearly two years on the job … Bill Miller will be the umpire crew chief for the World Series and will work home plate for Game 3. This will be the fourth World Series for the 53-year-old Miller, who made his big league debut in 1997 and also worked the Fall Classic in 2010, 2013, and 2017. Miller’s crew includes Jerry Meals, Mark Carlson, Laz Diaz, Chris Guccione, Marvin Hudson, and Todd Tichenor, the commissioner’s office said … The baseball players' association announced it is starting an annual Curt Flood Award. Part of the annual Players Choice Awards, the Flood honor will be given to a player “who in the image of Flood demonstrated a selfless, longtime devotion to the players' association and advancement of players' rights.”