Arlington: If the Los Angeles Dodgers were still in shock after the way Game 4 of the World Series ended, it didn’t show when they took the field for Game 5 less than 24 hours later.
The team got ace Clayton Kershaw a quick three-run lead, and he did his part by providing the stability on the mound he’s shown all postseason.
At no point was that presence more important than in the fourth inning Sunday, when the Tampa Bay Rays reached into their bag of unconventional tricks once again with a chance to tie.
But Kershaw held firm, and the Dodgers followed suit the rest of the way, finishing off a 4-2 victory at Arlington, Texas, to move one win away from ending their 32-year championship drought.
Down 3-2 with two outs in the fourth, Manuel Margot tried to steal home on Kershaw. While the southpaw was at the highest position of his delivery, Margot made a break for it, forcing Kershaw to step off to avoid a balk before throwing to the plate. His toss home was perfect for catcher Austin Barnes, who laid down the tag narrowly before Margot could get in to maintain the lead.
“He’s been doing that delivery for a long time now, so he’s obviously aware of people attempting to do that,” said Max Muncy, whose home run the next inning gave the Dodgers their final margin of victory. “He knew right away to step off.” Reliever Victor Gonzalez stranded two Rays in the eighth to protect the lead, and Blake Treinen fanned two after a leadoff single in the ninth to record the save and give Los Angeles the opportunity to close out the best-of-seven series Tuesday.
For the Rays, the loss was a disappointment after they gained the chance to seize momentum in the series following a wild walk-off victory a night prior.
Margot’s gambit could have paved the way for yet another unconventional Tampa Bay rally, but the savvy Kershaw wasn’t rattled in thwarting the chance.
“If Manny felt he had a read on it for whatever reason, it’s tough for me to say yes or no,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash of the steal attempt, which wasn’t a set play.
“He’s a talented base runner. He might be seeing something that I’m not or can’t appreciate in the moment right there, and he’s trying to do something to pick his team up,” Cash said.
“I knew the third baseman was pretty far away, so I knew I had some room,” Margot said. “I was just trying to score the run, but it didn’t turn out that way.” Kershaw (4-1) finished with two runs allowed on five hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out six and walking two.
Tampa Bay fell behind quick when Mookie Betts doubled and Corey Seager singled for a 1-0 lead off Tyler Glasnow just 10 pitches in. Cody Bellinger added an RBI single in the first, and Joc Pederson led off the second with a homer for a 3-0 Dodger lead.
The Rays cut their deficit to one on a Yandy Diaz run-scoring triple and a Randy Arozarena RBI single in the third. The hit by Arozarena was his 27th of the playoffs to surpass Pablo Sandoval’s single postseason record set in 2014.
Though the Margot steal ended the Tampa Bay threat to tie in the fourth, the team had runners on first and third with no outs to start the inning. Joey Wendle popped out and Willy Adames struck out.
After Muncy’s homer in the fifth made him the ninth Dodger in the series to go deep, Kershaw punched out Kevin Kiermaier in the bottom of the inning to surpass Justin Verlander’s all-time record of 205 postseason strikeouts.
“It’s just a special thing to get to be part of a team like this and get to be part of those names,” said Kershaw of the milestone.
Glasnow (2-3) settled down to pitch five innings. He gave up four runs on six hits, walking three, striking out seven and throwing a World Series-record three wild pitches.
“Give credit to Glass for calming himself in the moment and finding a way to get through five,” said Cash.