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Dodgers take World Series Game 1 with historic start by Clayton Kershaw

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The Dodgers took an early lead in the World Series on Tuesday night, banking on an incredible performance from Clayton Kershaw as they topped the Astros 3-1 in Game 1. Even in the sweltering heat — a blistering 103 degrees at first pitch — Kershaw kept his composure against a stacked Astros’ lineup, collecting 11 strikeouts en route to his first career World Series win.

Kershaw was perfect through 2 1/3 innings. He needed just nine pitches to get through the first inning and retired the first seven batters in a row before Josh Reddick lined a one-out base hit into right field in the third. No matter: the southpaw returned with back-to-back strikeouts against Dallas Keuchel and George Springer, and it wasn’t until the fourth inning that he’d make his second and biggest mistake of the night.

Alex Bregman‘s game-tying home run — his third of the postseason and first-ever off of Kershaw — tied things up for the Astros. The Dodgers’ ace has now given up eight runs on seven homers in the playoffs this year, but it’s the rest of his stats that merit a closer look. By the end of his seven-inning outing in Game 1, he’d fired 57 strikes in 83 pitches and fanned 11 of 24 batters while allowing three hits and zero walks. The last World Series starter to engineer an 11-strikeout, zero-walk game? Brooklyn Dodgers’ right-hander Don Newcombe in Game 1 of the 1949 Series.

Dallas Keuchel, meanwhile, found it a little more difficult to stay on top of the Dodgers’ hitters. NLCS co-MVP Chris Taylor engineered a first-pitch home run in the bottom of the first inning, giving Los Angeles the boost they needed to prop up Kershaw’s efforts. Enrique Hernandez, Austin Barnes and Corey Seager returned with base hits in the second, third and fifth, respectively, but the Dodgers weren’t able to secure the go-ahead run until fellow co-MVP Justin Turner hit one out in the sixth.

Both starters made their exit in the seventh inning. Kershaw was done after the Dodgers bobbled a pair of inning-ending plays, while Keuchel had his leash yanked following Seager’s second base hit of the night. Brad Peacock relieved Keuchel and immediately yielded a walk to Logan Forsythe, but that was the only concession made on either side. Each team’s bullpen proved impenetrable. Brandon Morrow and Chris Devenski got the job done with a scoreless eighth inning, while Kenley Jansen returned in the ninth for three straight outs and his fourth save of October.

The Dodgers will try to capitalize on their home field advantage again on Wednesday, when Rich Hill (12-8, 3.32 ERA) takes the mound against Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.36 ERA). The forecast is 91 degrees at game time. Verlander hasn’t lost a postseason game yet; neither have the Dodgers lost at home. First pitch is set for 8:00 PM ET.

Mariners sign Ichiro to a minor league deal

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USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners will sign Ichiro Suzuki to a minor-league deal. If he makes the roster he’ll make $750,000. At least until he retires.

I say that because it seems quite clear that the idea here, telegraphed since last season, is to activate Ichiro for the Mariners’ series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 20-21 and for hoopla surrounding it all. The Mariners and A’s will have a 28-man roster for that series, which is officially part of the regular season schedule, but it will be pared back down to 25 once games begin in the United States.

Suzuki, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances through May 2 last season, at which point he agreed to be deactivated to join the Mariners’ front office. Many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later that season or during the offseason, but the Japan Series soon crystalized as an obvious way for him to offer his final farewell to both his American and his Japanese fans.

Unless of course he goes 6-10 with three doubles in that series, at which point everyone will be tempted to keep him on the roster past Japan. Which, given the Mariners’ rebuild and likely poor performance this coming season, wouldn’t exactly be hurting anyone, would it?