LOS ANGELES—Clayton Kershaw pitched seven scorching innings to lead the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros in game one of the World Series on Tuesday.
Backed by Justin Turner’s two-run home run and Chris Taylor’s lead-off homer, Kershaw steamrolled the vaunted Astros offense.
The temperature at first pitch of 103 F (39 C) was a record for a Major League Baseball playoff game, and a fitting cauldron for the opening clash in the best-of-seven series between teams that each won more than 100 regular-season games.
Kershaw set the tone by retiring the first three Astros batters.
Then Dodgers centerfielder Taylor smacked a towering homer off the first pitch thrown by Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel to put Los Angeles up 1-0.
It was only the fourth leadoff homer ever recorded in a World Series game one.
Keuchel, the 2015 American League Cy Young award-winner, settled down to retire Turner, Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig and the duel between Kershaw and Keuchel was on.
“I felt good,” Kershaw said. “CT getting that monkey off our back and getting that first run across the board was huge.”
Three-time Cy Young award-winner Kershaw, making his first World series start, had faced just one batter over the minimum through the first three innings when Astros third baseman Alex Bregman broke through with a solo homer to lead off the fourth.
Bregman pounced on a waist-high fastball and powered it over the left field fence, drawing a grimace from Kershaw, who promptly struck out the next three batters.
It was the only hiccup for Kershaw, who surrendered three hits in seven innings with no walks and 11 strikeouts—one shy of his playoff record of 12. He threw 57 of his 83 pitches for strikes.
“I think (Houston) is a really good hitting team. They hit a lot of homers and don’t strike out. There’s little room for error,” Kershaw said. “So it’s important for me to establish pitches, be able to throw multiple things for strikes, and I’m thankful I was able to do that tonight.
“I made a few mistakes,” he added. “Obviously Bregman got me ... For the most part, though, I’ll takeit.”
After Bregman’s homer, Kershaw struck out the next three batters to get back on track.
- ‘Special night’ -
“Tonight was one of those nights, I think the first time in awhile, where we’ve seen all three of his pitches synched up,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He just was repeating the delivery, held the velocity. Was throwing the baseball where he needed to, where he wanted to.
“Very talented team over there,” Roberts added. “For him to get ahead, keep them off balance work them from front to back, up and down, to all quadrants -- this was a special night for Clayton.”
Keuchel delivered a solid performance himself. After giving up the first-pitch homer he retired 12 of the next 15 hitters he faced.
But after walking Taylor with two outs in the second he surrendered a two-run home run to Turner -- the walkoff hero of the Dodgers’ game-two win over the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship series.
“I didn’t know if it was going to be a home run or not,” said Turner, who said he thought the heat made the ball travel further.
“That was a good at-bat,” Roberts said. “Grinded, got two strikes, behind the count and Keuchel tried to come in with a cutter and left it out over (the plate) a little bit. “Really took a great swing.
“Gosh JT has had so many big hits for us this year,” added Roberts of Turner, whose four home runs in these playoffs are one shy of the Dodgers club record.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch lifted Keuchel with two outs in the seventh, after he gave up a deep single to Corey Seager.
“Keuchel was really good tonight,” Hinch said. “He was just a pitch or two less than Kershaw. He wasn’t as fancy with the punch-outs.”
Dodgers relief pitcher Brandon Morrow retired the side in the top of the eighth and closing pitcher Kenley Jansen set down three in the top of the ninth to send the crowd of 54,253 at Dodger Stadium into a frenzy.
The Dodgers, in pursuit of a seventh World Series title and their first since 1988, will try to build on their 1-0 lead when they host game two on Wednesday.
The Astros are seeking a first World Series crown in their second appearance.
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