World Series Game 1: Mookie Betts and the Dodgers thoroughly dominate the Rays

Mike Oz
·5-min read
Mookie Betts helped the Dodgers win Game 1 at the plate and on the basepaths. (Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Mookie Betts helped the Dodgers win Game 1 at the plate and on the basepaths. (Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

When they get to the World Series, the Dodgers have become pretty well accustomed to a particular D-word — disappointment. But this year, they believe, will be different. And Game 1 of the 2020 series started with a loud statement from the Dodgers.

And it came with another D-word — dominance.

The Dodgers thoroughly beat the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 on Tuesday night, as Clayton Kershaw pitched beautifully, Mookie Betts contributed in literally every way possible and L.A. left with an 8-3 win.

Of these last three Dodgers World Series appearances, this is the only time we’ve seen them dominate an opponent. Usually at this point in the postseason — as talented as their rosters have been — they’re just trying to stay alive and winning by slim margins.

In the 2018 World Series, the only game they won took 18 innings. In 2017, their biggest win was 6-2, but five of those runs came in the ninth inning. So if things truly are going to be different for the Dodgers in 2020, this was a good start.

Since Kershaw is the focal point of the postseason narrative any time he steps on the mound, it should be said right away that he pitched as well as the Dodgers could have hoped. He threw six innings, striking out eight, allowing just two hits — one of which was a solo homer.

The Dodgers played so well across the board that the game didn’t live or die with Kershaw, which is the thing that’s truly been his postseason kryptonite over the years. This time around, he got a booming two-run homer from Cody Bellinger in the fourth inning that put the Dodgers ahead. When Kevin Kiermaier homered off Kershaw in the fifth, the offense responded by quickly making everyone forget about it.

They piled on five runs in the fifth inning, showing the other dimension of their lineup. They can beat you without homers too.

It started with a Mookie Betts walk and stolen base, ratcheting up the pressure on Rays starter Tyler Glasnow. When he walked Corey Seager next, the Rays probably should have pulled Glasnow, but they kept him in and paid the price.

Justin Turner struck out, but an aggressive Betts stole third and then scored when Max Muncy hit into a fielder’s choice. The whole sequence was really propelled by Betts’ ability to create chaos on the basepaths. Without that, it could have been a Turner strikeout and a double play, but with Betts’ aggressiveness, the Dodgers effectively won the game right there.

Will Smith came up next and singled to make it 4-1. That’s when the Rays pulled Glasnow, but Ryan Yarbrough didn’t fare much better. He allowed RBI singles to Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernández. At that point, it was 6-1 and the gap felt like the distance between L.A. and Tampa Bay.

Betts came back up in the sixth and led off with a homer — he added another single later in the game to finish with two hits, two runs scored, two stolen bases and the homer. Red Sox fans had to be wondering why their front office would ever trade him.

Interesting how when you trade for one of the best players in baseball, World Series disappointment can turn into World Series dominance.

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The Rays put together a threat in the seventh inning against the Dodgers bullpen. They got one run across and were in a position to score more. With Victor González on the mound and runners at first and second base, Mike Zunino hit a scorcher right back at González, who made the quick play to catch the liner and double up the runner at second base.

It squashed the threat — and was quite an exciting play.

Plus: Fresh off his NBA title, Lakers star LeBron James seems downright invested in the Dodgers bringing another trophy back to L.A. He tweeted his astonishment at González’s reflexes.

And then recapped the action having tweeted through the Dodgers’ win.

WHAT’S NEXT

These two teams are back for Game 2 on Wednesday with the Rays hoping for a vastly different result. They’ll have Blake Snell on the mound, which they’ll feel good about. He’s a former Cy Young winner, who has a career 2.44 ERA in the postseason.

Snell has great stuff, but doesn’t often go tremendously deep into postseason games. Given what the Dodgers were able to do against the usually great Rays bullpen in Game 1, that could be a problem.

The Dodgers had played their Game 2 plans closer to the vest, but announced Tuesday night that Tony Gonsolin will get the start. He pitched in relief in Sunday’s NLCS Game 7, allowing two runs on two hits in two innings of work. He started Game 2 of that series, taking the loss after running into trouble in the middle innings.

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