The Los Angeles Dodgers, carrying the stigma of October Losers, are one win away from removing all talk about 1988, as in, “The Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since 1988.”
With a 4-2 win Sunday night in Game 5, the Dodgers took a three games to two lead over the Tampa Bay Rays and can be fitted for championship rings with a victory in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
The Dodgers have won eight straight National League West division titles and 19 overall. But since 1988, this season is only their third appearance in the Fall Classic.
They made it in 2017 and lost to the Houston Astros and the Astros were later discovered to have illegally pilfered signs. They made it in 2018 and lost to the Boston Red Sox.
The Dodgers scored three runs in the first two innings and made them stand up behind starter Clayton Kershaw and bullpenners Dustin May, Victor Gonzalez and Blake Treinen silenced the Rays over the last 3 1/3 innings on no runs, two hits and one walk.
Kershaw pitched 5 2/3 innings and gave up two runs, five hits, two walks and struck out six, without the great stuff he displayed in Game 2. But he was credited with the victory and is 4-and-1 for this postseason. And it is the first time in his career he has won two games in a post-season series.
“Tonight was a bit of a grind,” said Kershaw. "I didn’t have my stuff like Game 1, my slider wasn’t there. "
Although the Dodgers are one win away, Kershaw knows there still is work to be accomplished.
“It is very exciting right now, but at the same time we have one more game to win. We need to keep it together for one more game.”`
Tampa Bay starter Tyler Glasnow displayed a glass jaw in the early going and the Dodgers jumped on him for three runs in the first two innngs.
It took him 35 pitches to navigate the first inning and the Dodgers put two runs on the board.
The first two reached, an opening double by Mookie Betts and a run-scoring single by Corey Seager. After a walk to Max Muncy, Muncy’s 20th walk of the postseason, Chris Taylor beat a two-out single to second base and a second run scored.
The Dodgers made it 3-0 in the second when Joc Pederson dropped one into the left-center bullpen for a home run.
The Rays put their leadoff batter in base in each of the first three innings and didn’t score until the third against Kershaw. Kevin Kermaier led off the third with an infield hit to left of the mound and with one out Yandy Diaz tripled into the right field corner for a run.
Rookie sensation Randy Arozarena singled to left field and the Rays were within one, 3-2. It was Arozarena’s 27th hit this postseason, a record.
The relentless Rays put their leadoff batter on base for the fourth straight time in the fourth, a walk to Manuel Margot. And he reached third on a stolen base and error.
Kershaw then walked Hunter Renfroe to put runners on third and first with no outs. After Kershaw retired the next two, Margot tried to steal home, but Kershaw calmly stepped off the rubber and threw home, enabling catcher Austin Barnes to slap on a tag at the last blink.
“It has happened to me one time before,” said Kershaw. “Carlos Gomez tried it against me in Houston. I work on that with my first baseman to give me a heads-up. If they break, say something.”
When Margot broke for home, LA first baseman Max Muncy yelled and pointed toward home.
“So I just know to step off (the rubber) and throw,” he said. “It is something that doesn’t happen a lot, but it has happened before and I was prepared for it.”
With two outs in the fifth, Max Muncy became the ninth different Dodger to hit a home run, a record, and it came with two outs, the 59th two-out run in the postseason for the Dodgers. And it was the ninth home run given up in this postseason by Glasnow, also a record.
Kershaw produced his first 1-2-3 inning in the fifth and threw two pitches in the sixth and recorded two outs, the last on his 85th pitch. And then with the few Dodgers fans permitted in the stadium booing lustily, manager Dave Roberts removed Kershaw.
It was a pre-arranged plan by Roberts. He wanted Kershaw to face 21 batters and he faced 21 batters.
The Rays put runners on second and first with one out in the eighth with the man they wanted at the plate, Arozarena agains left hander Victor Gonzalez. He popped up the first pitch and Brandon Lowe flied to center, Tampa Bay’s final thrust.
Treinen, a former closer for the Oakland Athletics, gave up a leadoff single to Margot in the ninth, then flicked away the next three for is first career postseason save.