Dodgers’ stars shine in victory over Rays

by Gary Shelton on October 21, 2020

in general

Kiermaier drove in two of the Rays' three runs./

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

Up close, the mountain looks steeper than they thought. Up close, the teeth look sharper.

Forget what the scouting reports said. At first glance, the Los Angeles Dodgers may be even more formidable than the Tampa Bay Rays might have first believed.

The Rays got a glimpse of just how difficult their World Series is going to be Tuesday night, ending up on the wrong end of an 8-3 bashing. Clayton Kershaw looked intimidating, even more so than Gerrit Cole or Arodlis Chapman. Mookie Betts looked even more dangerous than Giancarlo Stanton or Jose Altuve.

This isn't going to be easy, is it?

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The Rays' first World Series game in 12 years hit a sour note when the Dodgers -- riding their stars of Kershaw, Betts and Cody Bellinger -- scored their eight runs in the three middle innings and coasted to victory.

Of course, the Rays made the same statements that any team losing the first game in a best-of-seven series makes. They vowed to tighten up and get better.

“We're not discouraged," Rays' manager Kevin Cash said. "Disappointing , yeah. We have Blake on the mound (tonight), which is very encouraging. We’ll be good.”

Well, the Rays have a chance to be better offensively, anyway. Kershaw allowed two of the Rays' first three batters to reach base, then mowed down 13 batters in a row. In all, he went six innings and gave up only two hits (one a home run by Kevin Kiermaier). He struck out eight.

Ah, but you've seen other pitchers humble the Rays' batting order. But few players have shredded the Ray' defense the way Betts did. Betrs had a home run, a single, a walk, two stolen bases and scored two runs.

Want an example of just how good Betts was? In the fourth inning, with the Dodgers leading 2-1, he walked. He stole second. He stole third. Then, with the infield in, he scored ahead of a ground ball to Yandy Diaz. It keyed a four-run inning.

Rays' starter Tyler Glasnow had opened the game with three shutout innings. But he seemed to struggle with his control, and he walked six in only 4 2/3 innings.

“I think it was ultimately a lack of strike-throwing," Cash said. "I looked up at one point and it was 37 strikes and 37 balls. That’s not ideal witth an offense like this that can really capitalize on the free passes. The at-bat with (Max) Muncy, I felt he was the best guy to get a strikeout. I felt like Glass with his stuff was equipped to get a strikeout. He got a ground ball, but Mookie just got a tremendous jump."

Said Glasnow: "The curve ball -- I didn’t have much feel for it. When I fall behind and people know I'm only throwing one pitch for strikes, it gets a little easier."

Walks have haunted this team most of its excellent season. Opposing home runs, too. And a lot of pitchers have mastered the Rays. When that happens, Tampa Bay can seem as if it doesn't measure up.

And so, once again, you wonder if the Rays can respond.

"Tonight, they outplayed us," said Kiermaier, who drove in two of the Ray's three runs. "They did. They had big at-bats at crucial times. We had a tough task of getting momentum going for us. Kershaw threw the ball great. He did a great job of limiting the damage and keeping the bats pretty quiet. They had some really good at-bats and kind of blew it open. That’s baseball sometimes. We’ve got to get some momentum going.

“Kershaw, his resume speaks for itself. He’s one of the best to ever take the mound for a reason. We just have to piece together a little better at-bats. We’ve got to get guys on and move base to base. We’ve been doing that all post-season. We’ve got to come out tomorrow and firing on all cylinders early as can be."

The Rays and Dodgers begin their game at 8:08 p.m. in Arlington, Texas.

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