The Los Angeles Dodgers will face the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday, turning to Clayton Kershaw in hopes of getting the first of four victories that would give them their first championship since 1988.
Manager Dave Roberts called it the “biggest of no brainers” to have Kershaw start the World Series opener because of “the timing of things and how we use our starters but also who he is and what he’s done.”
“To have him start Game 1, something he’s done before, just makes us feel that much better about it,” Roberts said.
Kershaw was the Game 1 starter both of the last two times the Dodgers were in the World Series.
Kershaw was the winning pitcher in the 2017 opener, limiting the Houston Astros to one run and three hits in seven innings in a 3-1 victory. He was the loser in the 2018 opener, allowing five runs and seven hits in four innings in an 8-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
In his most recent start, Kershaw was charged with his first loss of the 2020 postseason following two victories, allowing four runs and seven hits to the Atlanta Braves Thursday in a 10-2 loss in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.
Kershaw is six strikeouts away from tying Hall of Famer John Smoltz for the second most in postseason history with 199. Justin Verlander is first with 205. Smoltz will be the analyst on Fox’s telecast of the game. The first pitch is set for 5:09 p.m.
Kershaw will be facing a Tampa Bay lineup that had the 21st-best batting average among Major League Baseball’s 30 teams in the regular season, .238, was 14th in home runs with 80, 11th in on-base percentage, .328, 15th in slugging percentage, .425, and 13th in on-base plus slugging, (the sum of the on-base percentage and slugging percentage) .753.
“Their pitching staff is what gets talked about a lot, but they’ve got a lot of guys on the offensive side that can make you pay if you make mistakes,” Kershaw said.
Rookie Randy Arozarena has made each of the Rays’ first three 2020 postseason opponents pay for their mistakes. He is first in the postseason in hits (21), extra-base hits (11), total bases (47) and runs (11).
Arozarena’s seven home runs are one short of the record for the most in a single postseason, set by Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants in 2002 and tied by Carlos Beltran of the Houston Astros in 2004 and Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers in 2011.
Arozarena’s 21 hits is one short of Derek Jeter’s record for most by a rookie in a postseason.
Arozarena defected from Cuba in 2014 after playing two seasons in the Cuban National Series, Cuba’s primary domestic professional baseball competition. After playing five games for the Toros de Tijuana of the Mexican League in 2016, he was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Arozarena made his major league debut with the Cardinals in 2019, hitting .300 in 19 games. He wore 66 with St. Louis as a tribute to the similarities he sees between his game and that of former Dodger outfielder Yasiel Puig, a fellow Cuban, who also wears the number.
Arozarena describes Puig as loco, Spanish for crazy.
“But he’s a good player,” Arozarena said. “I have similar characteristics. Every time I play hard. I have the same arm. And yes, I love that number. I played with that number in Mexico, too.”
Arozarena wears 56 with Tampa Bay because 66 is retired in honor of Don Zimmer, a coach with the team in his final 11 seasons in professional baseball. Zimmer would add one to his number each season so it would coincide with the number of years he was in professional baseball. He died in 2014 at age 83.
Arozarena was acquired by the Rays on Jan. 9 in a trade involving three other players and two draft choices. At the time of the trade, he was ranked by Baseball America as the 10th-best prospect in the Cardinals system.
Arozarena was on the alternate training site COVID-19-Related Injury List/Rehab from July 22-Aug. 29. He made his debut with Tampa Bay Aug. 30 and hit .283 with seven home runs, 11 RBI and a .281 batting average.
Right-hander Tyler Glasnow will start for the Rays. He was 5-1 with a 4.08 ERA in 11 starts during the regular season and 2-1 with a 4.66 ERA in the 2020 postseason.
Glasnow is coming off a 4-3 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series Wednesday when he allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings.
Glasnow has thrown 23 pitches at 100 mph or faster this postseason, the most among any pitcher, according to StatCast. Dodger rookie reliever Brusdar Graterol is second with 19.
Dodger center fielder Cody Bellinger dislocated his right shoulder by smashing forearms with teammate Kike Hernandez after Bellinger’s tie-breaking home run in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series Sunday.
“I hit Kike’s shoulder a little too hard, and my shoulder popped out, so I had to go back into the trainer’s room and they popped it back in so I could go out and play defense,” Bellinger told MLB Network. “It kind of hurt.”
Bellinger told reporters Monday he felt fine.
“As I understand, I think he’s still a little bit sore, it’s a loose shoulder,” Roberts said. “How we handle it going forward is another question. I think as far as right now, we’re going to kind of tape it up. I know there’s some braces they ordered, and I expect him to be in there (Tuesday) night.”
The Dodgers had the National League’s best record during the coronavirus-shortened regular season, 43-17, while Tampa Bay had the American League’s best record, 40-20.
This will be the fourth time in the Wild Card Era, which began in 1995, that the teams in both leagues with the best records will meet in the World Series.
The entire Series will be played at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, like the NLCS. The final three rounds of baseball’s postseason are being played at neutral sites in an attempt to reduce the possibility of spreading the coronavirus.
This will be the first time the entire World Series is being played at the same stadium since 1944, when the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the St. Louis Browns in six games at Sportsman’s Park, the home stadium for both teams.
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