Clayton Kershaw pitched a post-season gem and Mookie Betts backed him up with a scintillating offensive effort as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 8-3 in game one of the 116th World Series.
Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award-winner and future Hall of Famer whose lackluster post-season record puts him under the microscope this time of year, was rock-solid as the Dodgers seized the initiative in Major League Baseball's best-of-seven championship showcase, being played this pandemic-disrupted year at the neutral site of Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
The 32-year-old lefthander surrendered two hits -- including one home run -- with eight strikeouts and one walk in six innings.
Betts boosted the Dodgers' bid for their first World Series title since 1988 with a solo home run and a World Series record-equalling two stolen bases in one inning.
Cody Bellinger, whose solo homer was crucial to the Dodgers' 4-3 series-clinching win over Atlanta in the National League Championship Series, came through again with a two-run homer off Rays starter Tyler Glasnow.
"It's awesome, it's great to get this series going with a win," said Kershaw, who endured World Series disappointment with the Dodgers in 2017 and 2018.
"It's always important to get that first game in a series, and just for me personally, it's awesome, to pitch well and get a win in a World Series."
Kershaw gave up a leadoff single to Yandi Diaz to open the game and needed 20 pitches to get out of the first inning.
That included a walk to Randy Arozarena that moved Diaz to second, but Kershaw struck out Hunter Renfroe and induced a ground out from Manuel Margo to end the danger, launching a run of 13 straight batters retired.
"I was fortunate to get out of the first inning without any runs," Kershaw said. "Then after that I locked it in a little better."
Glasnow surrendered just one hit through three innings, but Bellinger broke through with one out in the fourth, seizing upon a 98 mph first-pitch fastball from Glasnow and sending it 378 feet over the right centerfield wall for a home run that also scored Max Muncy -- who walked to open the inning and reached second on a wild pitch.
- 'Special' Betts -
Kershaw gave up a homer to Kevin Kiermaier in the top of the fifth.
The Dodgers responded in the bottom of the fifth, when Betts made Glasnow pay for a leadoff walk, stealing two bases and scoring as Max Muncy reached first base on a fielder's choice and Betts beat the throw to home.
"Stolen bases are a thing for me," said Betts, who helped the Boston Red Sox beat the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series and was traded to Los Angeles prior to this season. "That's how I create runs and create havoc on the basepaths.
"Once I get on the basepaths I'm just trying to get home."
After Will Smith singled to drive in a run, Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled Glasnow for Ryan Yarbrough, who surrendered run-scoring singles to Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez that pushed the Dodgers' lead to 6-1 through five.
Glasnow departed having given up three hits and six runs and a particularly damaging six walks.
"Not discouraging," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Disappointing, yeah (but) we bounce right back like we've done multiple times this year and look to find a way to win a game tomorrow."
Kershaw retired three straight in the top of the sixth, and Betts greeted Rays relief pitcher Josh Fleming with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the frame.
"Mookie's pretty special," Kershaw said. "He does things on the baseball field that not many people can do, and he does it consistently, which I think separates him from other guys."
The Dodgers piled it on with run-scoring doubles from Justin Turner and Muncy.
The Rays pulled back two runs in the seventh on singles from Mike Brosseau and Kiermaier, but the Rays rally stalled when Mike Zunino hit into a double play.