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Dodgers are red hot and rolling through postseason with blistering Game 1 win

Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke previews the pitching matchup in Game 2 of the World Series.

Well, wow, that was hot.

In their first World Series game in 29 years Tuesday night, the Dodgers put the Houston Astros through various stages of blistering in a 3-1 victory at overheated Dodger Stadium.

In the beginning, it was simply hot, the hottest game in World Series history, 103 degrees at first pitch, fans baking, jerseys darkening, Dodgers smiling.

"It's like July or August out here," said the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger, rubbing his sweaty forehead. "Just the way we like it."

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Then it became heater hot, Clayton Kershaw winging it with arguably the best game of his storied Dodger career, striking out 11 while twisting the vaunted Astros hitters into Texas-sized knots.

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“That, to me, was his masterpiece,” Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

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Then, finally, it was literally red hot, with Justin Turner doing it again, the Dodgers’ auburn-maned muppet hitting a two-run, tiebreaking homer in the sixth inning. It was his second game-deciding blast in consecutive home playoff games, and the memories of Kirk Gibson grow with each flourish.

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“The home runs, all those hits, it’s hard to explain,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “But he’s that guy that you want in big spots, and he doesn’t scare off.”

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In the end, Kenley Jansen closed, Chavez Ravine shook, "I Love L.A." sent the Dodgers home with a scorching 8-1 postseason record, and if you're tired of the heat metaphors, do you have a better idea?

It seems little can stop these guys, whose one stumble came by one run in Chicago, and who seem intent on ending the nearly three decades of frustration in a matter of days. "Right now this is a laser-focus group," said Roberts, and are they ever.

In Game 2 on Wednesday here, against the Dodgers’ Rich Hill, the Astros will try to stop the sudden bleeding with former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander. But they tried something like that Tuesday, and former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel gave up a home run into the left-field pavilion by leadoff-hitting Chris Taylor on his first pitch of the game.

It was so sudden, so suffocating, the quiet Taylor actually flipped his bat, and then, of course, quickly sort of both denied it and apologized for it.

"I wasn't trying to do a bat flip or anything, just kind of almost like a fist pump-bat flip," he said.

The standing and screaming crowd that had gamely fought traffic to fill the 54,253 seats by the start of the 5:11 p.m. game need not explain all the ensuing fist pumps. It was the start of a night that felt like the beginning of a coronation rather than the start of a World Series.

"This place was the most electric I've ever seen it," Turner said. "Our fans are fired up. They're pumped. The buzz around the city is crazy."

After the Astros had matched Taylor's homer with a fourth-inning shot from Alex Bregman, Turner's two-run blast off Keuchel after Taylor's walk in the sixth inning provided the deciding margin. Yet all of that mattered only because of seven of the most beautiful innings of Kershaw's career.

"Tonight is about Kershaw," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch.

When the Dodgers' 10-year veteran took the field to warm up for his first career World Series appearance, he was wearing a heavy jacket in that baking heat. The Astros must have thought he was crazy. Soon they were swinging at his dipping, diving, blasting pitches like they were crazy.

Said the Astros’ George Springer, who struck out four times: “Video doesn’t do it any justice. Until you get in the box and you see what the ball does, the depth, the angle of it, the video can only take you so far.”

McCarthy put it another way, saying, "He was strike after strike after strike after strike."

In joining legendary Don Newcombe in becoming the only pitcher in World Series history to record 11 strikeouts without a walk, Kershaw allowed just three hits and one run. And in case you're wondering, he even overcame his postseason seventh-inning jinx — he had a 25.50 ERA in that inning — by surviving Corey Seager's bobbled grounder to walk off the mound intact.

"It was definitely as good a start as we could have hoped for," said the understated Kershaw.

It was just as good for the Dodgers organization, who handled the first World Series game at Dodger Stadium in nearly three decades with the appropriate mix of class and kookiness.

The evening began with real sentiment, the first pitch being delivered by Rachel Robinson on the 45th anniversary of the death of her late husband, the legendary Jackie Robinson.

The “It’s time for Dodger baseball” cry was then issued by Champ Pederson, who was born with Down syndrome and is the big brother of Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson.

Then, with Hollywood still trying to figure out this World Series thing, it got a little nutty, with the Dodgers enlisting four celebrity fans to run across the top of the dugouts waving Dodgers flags. Just as you might have predicted, they were ... George Lopez, Mario Lopez, Rob Lowe and Ken Jeong?

"Postseason is definitely a lot more fun," said a smiling Turner, and how do you think he celebrated fun that includes a Dodgers postseason record 14 RBIs?

What else would everyone's favorite plush toy do? He went home to play with his dog.

"I'll have a real excited puppy waiting for me when I get home," Turner said. "I'll probably go out back and play with her awhile, throw the tennis ball around, then go to bed."

It was a sweet ending to a serious script, which the Dodgers scribbled out before the game in green marker on a whiteboard in their clubhouse.

"Everybody's got plans ... till they get hit in the mouth," read the mandate. "Hit these boys in their ... mouths and don't look back."

Done.

Get more of Bill Plaschke's work and follow him on Twitter @BillPlaschke

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