There was a point, maybe, when you grimaced.
You could see it coming. Sure, the Dodgers had a two-run lead, and sure, things had been running smoothly for most of the game. But then Clayton Kershaw gave up a solo home run in the fifth inning. And then, worse: When he made it back to the dugout between innings, and the camera followed him there, and you thought, sooner or later—probably sooner—things were going to get worse, and he was going to hold his head in his hands and stare into the abyss just as he has so many cruel, totally unfair Octobers before. Another chapter of Clayton Kershaw Narrative was coming, sure enough.
Except then, well, the Dodgers lineup happened.
In Tuesday night’s opening match of the World Series, Tyler Glasnow had been cruising for the Rays, save a Max Muncy walk followed by a Cody Bellinger home run in the fourth that gave Los Angeles the lead. Then, in the bottom of the fifth, he gave up a leadoff walk to Mookie Betts, who then stole second base (and restored order after the previous steal by Chris Taylor was changed to a wild pitch, robbing America—briefly—of free tacos).
What followed was a small-ball avalanche. Glasnow walked Corey Seager, who joined Betts for a double steal of second and third. Then Muncy reached base, and Betts did this:
A hit by Will Smith sent Seager home, and manager Kevin Cash finally yanked Glasnow—whose 112 pitches were a career high, as well as the most pitches thrown by any Rays pitcher this year. He was replaced by Ryan Yarbrough, who gave up two more runs courtesy of Taylor and a pinch-hitting Kike Hernández before he finally managed to stop the bleeding. Take it from Dickie V.: “When u walk 6 guys in 4 innings that is a formula for getting whipped.”
In the end, Los Angeles was up 6-1 by the time Kershaw finally retook the mound to pitch a clean 1-2-3 inning and bring his night—and at least for now, that dreaded Narrative—to a close.
It was a welcome return of a Dodgers offense that had been suddenly inconsistent this month. On Tuesday, the story of the night was Betts, who became the second player in World Series history to have a walk and two steals in one inning—after Babe Ruth. He followed it up in the sixth with a home run on the very first pitch he saw from Josh Fleming, plus a single to lead off the eighth. In a year of so little joy, may we all find solace in what we might consider calling the lol Red Sox game. Not, of course, that he was alone in the heroics:
The Rays attempted a comeback in the seventh inning, when Mike Brosseau and Kevin Kiermaier—who was responsible for that early solo shot off Kershaw—combined for a pair of RBI singles. But unfortunately for Tampa Bay, sometimes the best team in baseball looks a lot like the best team in baseball:
In the ninth inning, it was Bellinger—now with arm, um, re-socketed—who sounded what amounted to the death knell for the Rays, robbing a shoulda-woulda-coulda home run from Austin Meadows with a preposterous backward leap and holding the game at 8-3, which proved to be the final score. The teams will meet again tomorrow—but if the Dodgers’ bats are back, and the Rays can’t even count on the sorry luck of Clayton Kershaw, Tampa Bay will be in trouble.