ARLINGTON, Texas — A socially-distanced crowd of 11,437 showed up at Globe Life Field for Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night, the vast majority of them fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
They came wanting to see Clayton Kershaw continue what has been a strong postseason and pitch the Dodgers to a needed victory following a brutal loss in Game 4 on Saturday night.
Kershaw obliged, holding the Tampa Bay Rays to two runs. He recorded the first two outs of the sixth inning on two pitches before manager Dave Roberts came out of the dugout and walked to the mound.
What followed was oddly refreshing.
The fans booed, loudly and lustily, when Roberts took Kershaw out of the game, then booed him again when he returned to the dugout.
After a season played to the soundtrack of canned crowd noise, real-life fans again had their say. It felt like a postseason game, not an imitation.
The Dodgers faithful were ultimately rewarded with a 4-2 victory as Roberts skillfully used his bullpen to get 10 relatively stress-free outs. Los Angeles now has a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 on Tuesday.
Kershaw put the Dodgers one win away from their first championship since 1988. In his 30th postseason start, the 32-year-old lefthander allowed two runs on five hits and struck out six with two walks.
Kershaw has started five games this postseason and is 4-1 with a 2.93 earned run average. That includes two victories against the Rays in the Series.
Kershaw dropped his career World Series ERA from 5.30 to 4.46 ERA in those two starts, softening the only bruise on an otherwise impeccable Hall of Fame resume.
“There’s a tough narrative on him,” said Blake Treinen, who closed the game out. “He’s a phenomenal pitcher on the biggest stage . . . I think a lot of credit goes to what he’s done in this World Series for us.”
Kershaw’s 13 postseason victories are fourth all time. His 207 strikeouts are the most.
The move was pre-determined, Kershaw said, and he took no offense even though the fans did.
“I just felt, we felt, that he was at the end and he had enough to get two outs,” Roberts said. “We talked about it and he held up his end of the deal. We didn’t say how many pitches; we said two hitters.”
Kershaw, who didn’t have a particularly good slider or curveball, left the game having retired seven in a row not counting his calmly stepping off the rubber and throwing to the plate to catch Manuel Margot trying a straight steal of home to end the fourth inning.
It was the first time since 2002 a player tried a steal of home in the World Series. That was Brad Fullmer of the Angels, who was successful in Game 2 against the Giants.
The last time it didn’t work was in 1991 when the Braves caught Shane Mack of the Twins. The pitcher that time was John Smoltz, who called the game for Fox on Sunday.
With his back to third base, Kershaw didn’t see Margot break when he came set. But he did hear first basemen Max Muncy yell at him to step off.
“I wasn’t really anticipating it,” Kershaw said. “That was a big out for us right there.”
The Rays didn’t come close to scoring again. Dustin May replaced Kershaw and retired five of the six batters he faced. Victor Gonzalez got two outs in the eighth to get the ball to Treinen.
Unlike Saturday, there was no ninth inning meltdown for the Dodgers. Treinen allowed a leadoff single and calmly retired the next three hitters. It’s a good bet he’ll close from if the opportunity comes up again instead of Kenley Jansen.
The Rays used six relief pitchers in their 8-7 victory in Game 4 on Saturday. They needed a strong start from Tyler Glasnow and didn’t get it.
The righthander went five innings, getting pulled after 102 pitches. He allowed five runs on six hits, three walks, and three wild pitches.
Mookie Betts, quiet in Game 4, led off the game with a double and scored on a single by Corey Seager. Cody Bellinger drove in Seager with a two-out single.
Joc Pederson and Muncy later homered off Glasnow, who has allowed 20 earned runs in 29⅔ postseason innings.
Monday’s day off will allow the Rays to start Blake Snell on full rest for Game 6 with Charlie Morton available for Game 7, if it gets that far.
The Dodgers will start Tony Gonsolin in Game 6 and would have their ace, Walker Buehler, for Game 7. He stuffed the Rays in Game 3, giving up one run in six innings and striking out 10.
Advantage Dodgers? Kershaw is eager to find out.
“Sitting around one win away from a World Series is going to be hard, especially when you’ve been at the same hotel for four weeks,” he said. “But we can wait one more day.”