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Column: Dodgers’ Game 1 dominance over Rays shows why they’ll win World Series

Dodgers baserunner Mookie Betts beats the tag of Rays catcher Mike Zunino to sore a run in the fifth inning.
Dodgers baserunner Mookie Betts beats the tag of Rays catcher Mike Zunino to score a run in the fifth inning of the Dodgers’ 8-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Can a World Series be over after one game?

This one looks like it — Clayton Kershaw whipping off the sweat and gaining ground on his ghosts.

This one feels like it — Cody Bellinger sending another fastball dancing before celebrating with a dugout ballet.

This one sounds like it —Mookie Betts screeching around the bases and shrieking across home plate before screaming down at the dirt.

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The first game of the World Series appeared to be the essential end of the World Series on Tuesday, the powerful Dodgers treating the puny Tampa Bay Rays like the junior varsity in an 8-3 win that raised but one question.

The Dodgers cannot blow this, can they?

No, they cannot. No, they will not.

“We’re having fun,” said Bellinger, and were they ever.

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Photos from Game 1 of the World Series between the Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

It was only the first game of a possible seven at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, but all the signs of a quick series were there.

The lightweight Rays hitters can’t handle the Dodgers’ pitching. A team that was batting just .209 in the postseason managed just a single and a home run in six innings against postseason-cursed Kershaw and just four more hits against the deep Dodgers bullpen.

The Rays pitchers can’t handle the Dodgers’ patient power. They allowed homers to both Bellinger and Betts while giving up 10 hits in a barrage that ended the game by the fifth inning.

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The Rays just can’t handle the Dodgers, period. This was best evidenced by that clinching fifth inning featuring four runs on three hits, two walks and three stolen bases in one inning for the first time in a World Series game in 108 years.

Two of the steals were executed by — who else? — Betts, who then scored the inning’s first run by racing home from third base on a grounder. Cue another exhilarating Betts celebration, this one featuring him crouching and hammering his fists.

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The Dodgers whaled on the Rays, and there’s no indication that Tampa can do anything more than maybe swipe one win, tops.

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Some of the dominance is certainly due to the $80-million difference in the payrolls.

The Dodgers are also clearly benefiting from appearing in their third World Series in four years while the Rays walked in with their eyes wide.

But, mostly, for the first time in their third World Series appearance in four years, the Dodgers are just the overwhelmingly better team.

“I think we’re all just trusting each other and understanding how good we are,” said Bellinger. “Just not putting pressure on ourselves, but going on to play our game, and when we do that, we’re really good.”

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Correction: really, really good.

Fittingly, Tuesday night was the 32nd anniversary of that wonderful October night in Oakland when Orel Hershiser struck out Tony Phillips and then was lifted into the air by Rick Dempsey as the Dodgers clinched the 1988 World Series championship.

“It’s the impossible dream revisited!” said Vin Scully at the time.

Soon enough, you should be visiting that dream again for the first time in those three long decades.

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The night began quietly, with the usual pandemic tinge of regret. Because the Dodgers had the better record, the game should have taken place at Dodger Stadium, and can you imagine the noise this would have created there?

But because of the coronavirus, it was held 1,400 miles away, and even with 11,388 mostly Dodgers fans spread across the seats, Globe Life Field simply could not compare.

There were no celebrities waving flags on the roof off the dugout. No Dodgers legends paraded to the pitching mound. Keith Williams Jr. did not sing the national anthem. There were no stirring lineup introductions along the third-base line.

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Highlights from the Dodgers’ 8-3 win over the Rays in Game 1 of the World Series.

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The ceremonial first pitch took place in center field between two nurses. The anthem was sung remotely, Pentatonix crooning from the video scoreboard.

This being a Dodgers “home” game, however, it did begin on a familiar tone.

“It’s time for Dodger baseball!” rang the recorded voice of Scully.

Soon enough, indeed it was.

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Start with Kershaw, who carried a 5.40 career World Series ERA into the game, far worse than his regular-season ERA of 2.43, and thus the ghosts. He didn’t quite catch them Tuesday night, but he will if the Dodgers win the championship fueled by his one-run, eight-strikeout performance over six innings. He retired 15 of the last 16 hitters, and if he’s not needed again in this series and is winning a ring by the weekend, his stumbling October narrative will be forever righted.

“It’s definitely a helpful thing to be on such a great team,” Kershaw acknowledged.

The next hero was Bellinger, who stepped to the plate with Max Muncy on first and one out in a scoreless fourth inning and drove the ball over the right-field fence for the second straight game. But there was one cute difference. As he was skipping toward the dugout, instead of engaging in the traditional bashing of forearms, he and teammates gently tapped cleats.

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After his Sunday homer in Game 7 of the NLCS, he executed such a violent flying forearm smash with teammate Kiké Hernández that Bellinger’s right shoulder popped out. That method of partying was thus halted in a hurry.

The Dodgers went from high fives to … low toes?

“I said it before the game, I said I’m not touching anybody,” Bellinger said. “Going straight foot. It was pretty funny.”

That left the rest to Betts, who is the obvious difference between this Dodgers team and the authors of October failures past. After drawing a leadoff walk in the fifth, he stole second, stole third and smartly dashed home on a Muncy grounder to steal the Rays hearts.

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Just for grins, in the next inning he crushed those hearts with a leadoff blast over the right-field fence, becoming the first player in major-league history to score two runs, steal two bases and hit a home run in a World Series game.

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“It’s really unbelievable. … He’s done about everything,” said Bellinger.

Well, not exactly everything. Betts has yet to lead the Dodger to their first World Series championship in 32 years.

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Stick around. That’s next.


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