Clayton Kershaw returned to form, Mookie Betts made a taco run and the Los Angeles Dodgers grabbed the lead in the World Series with an 8-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.
Here are 10 observations from Game 1.
1. Whenever Babe Ruth’s name earns a mention, it’s good for baseball.
Mookie Betts became the first player to walk and steal two bases in an inning of a World Series game since Babe Ruth, who did it against the New York Giants in 1921. Coincidentally, both were traded to their respective teams by the Boston Red Sox almost 100 years apart.
Baseball is a game that thrives on its traditions, so when you’re able to link one of the best players of the modern era with one of the greatest players in history in a World Series game, it’s about as good as it gets.
2. Kevin Cash can do no wrong.
Kevin Cash, the brilliant Rays manager, is renowned for his expertise on how to employ his pitchers. But he inexplicably left starter Tyler Glasnow in for a season-high 112 pitches when it was apparent Glasnow was tiring in the fifth inning.
Glasnow had thrown more than 100 pitches only three times the last three years, but instead of going to the bullpen with two on and two outs in a 3-1 game, Cash allowed Glasnow to face Will Smith, who singled home another run in what turned into a game-breaking four-run inning for the Dodgers.
“It felt like (Glasnow) was the best guy to get a strikeout with,” Cash explained afterward.
Had Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made that same decision and watched it backfire, fans would’ve been calling for his head on Twitter, as they did during the National League Championship Series when he left Kershaw in too long. Oddly, there was little criticism of Cash’s move.
3. Clayton Kershaw is forgiven … at least for one day.
Barry Bonds constantly was reminded of his dismal postseason performances with the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants before he finally broke out in the 2002 playoffs, leading the Giants to the World Series. He hit .471 with four home runs in a seven-game loss to the Anaheim Angels that year, erasing the narrative once and for all.
Clayton Kershaw, naturally, was again reminded of his postseason nightmares before and during Game 1, only to dominate the Rays for six innings, allowing one run on two hits while striking out eight. He ran his career postseason strikeout total to 201 — only four behind all-time leader Justin Verlander — though it should be noted they’ve had a lot more opportunities than some of the great postseason pitchers because of expanded playoffs.
Regardless, Kershaw reduced his World Series ERA to 4.68, which includes a Game 5 loss to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in 2017 in which he allowed six runs in 4⅓ innings. That one probably deserves an asterisk because the Astros were later found guilty of sign-stealing.
4. Is hugging appropriate in a World Series game?
Mookie Betts stole the show in Game 1 with his deft baserunning and opposite-field home run after showing off his stellar defense against the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS. But he also caught some grief for a brief hug with Rays infielder Willy Adames after stealing second base, earning fans a free taco from a fast-food company through a national promotion.
Was it OK for Adames to hug an opposing player during a World Series game? Would Betts have hugged Carlos Correa or Jose Altuve if the Dodgers were playing the hated Astros? And what would Bob Gibson or Don Drysdale have said if they saw one of their teammates hugging an opposing player in a playoff game, or even a regular-season game for that matter? Free tacos aren’t reason enough for a hug.
5. Fan shots at Globe Life Field were noticeably lacking.
The ubiquitous shot of kids eating hot dogs and nachos and enjoying a World Series game were few and far between as Fox Sports kept the cameras focused on the game and the two dugouts. There were no shots of C-list celebrities or Fox sitcom stars watching in the stands, a Fox playoff tradition, even though the Dodgers were involved. Fox did manage to show Dodgers President Andrew Friedman a few times, including once when he was half-masking it.
6. John Smoltz is a big yawn.
Joe Buck gets a ton of grief for his play-by-play, but he’s much better at his job than his broadcast partner. I’m not sure why John Smoltz is considered the top color commentator in baseball. He doesn’t tell interesting stories and his in-game analysis is weak.
During Game 1 Smoltz tried to convince viewers that one benefit of COVID-19 protocols was that players are forced to stay in the dugouts instead of hanging in the clubhouse, thus bonding more and talking baseball. Really?
7. Mark Prior looked like he was having deja vu.
Despite a seven-run lead in the seventh, the Dodgers were briefly threatened by a late Rays rally after Clayton Kershaw had been removed. After the Rays scored a pair of runs, the Fox Sports telecast focused on Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior fidgeting with his mask in the dugout. The score was 8-3.
In his last postseason appearance with the Chicago Cubs in 2003 — Game 6 of the NLCS — Prior had a 3-0 lead over the Florida Marlins in the eighth inning with five outs remaining. The Marlins knocked him out with an eight-run inning that included a foul ball that may or may not have been caught by left fielder Moises Alou had a fan not interfered (Google it, kids). The final score was 8-3. Fortunately for Prior, Dodgers reliever Victor Gonzalez nabbed a wicked liner and turned it into an inning-ending double play to escape the jam. The final score was 8-3.
8. Sam Elliott was the most popular name on Twitter during the telecast.
When a baseball player’s name trends on Twitter, it usually means he made a great play or committed a huge gaffe. But no one was trending big during Game 1 except Sam Elliott, a character actor whose distinctive voice was heard narrating an ad for Joe Biden. Fox later showed a promo for the upcoming Fox News telecast of the presidential debate between Biden and President Donald Trump, featuring a photo of Fox conservative commentator Sean Hannity. Equal time.
9. LeBron James once again has a new favorite team.
The Akron, Ohio, native who grew up a New York Yankees fan was frequently shown during the 2016 World Series rooting for the Cleveland Indians against the Cubs. Now that he’s a Los Angeles Laker, LeBron James has adopted the Dodgers, based on his tweets during and after the game. Nothing like a front-runner, is there?
10. Strangely, Pink Floyd and baseball are a perfect mix.
While going to a commercial near the end of the game, Fox played the Pink Floyd song “Run Like Hell” from their album “The Wall.” Whether it was meant as a tribute to the Dodgers’ running game or just a coincidence, it always is a treat to hear Pink Floyd while watching baseball. More Floyd, please.