Column: 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.”
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.
“That, to me, was his masterpiece,” Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.
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.
“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.”
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?
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.”
Justin Turner and Clayton Kershaw hug after defeating the Astros in Game 1.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jensen points to the sky after getting the final out.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clayton Kershaw is congratulated by coaches and teammates after the Dodgers beat the Astros, 3-1, in Game 1.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Justin Turner connects for a two-run homer off Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel in the sixth inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Justin Turner hits a two-run home run aginst the Astros in the 6th inning in Game 1.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Yasiel Puig congratulates Justin Turner after he hit a two-run home run aginst the Astros in the 6th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Teammates happily greet Justin Turner after he hit a two-run homer off Houston starter Dallas Keuchel.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chris Taylor, left, congratulates Justin Turner who hit a two-run home run aginst the Astros in the 6th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times )
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw touches his nose with his tongue during the seventh-inning stretch during Game 1 of the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Enrique Hernandez catches a fly ball by Astros Josh Reddick inthe 8th inning in Game 1.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel looks up at a foul ball as he strikes out against Clayton Kershaw.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw is greeted with high-fives in the dugout after a succesful third inning sacrifice bunt.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
The Astros’ George Springer strikes out against the Dodgers in Game 1.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clayton Kershaw flashes a look of disgus after giving up a solo homer to Alex Bregman in the 4th inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
The Dodgers’ Kiki Hernandez is tagged while striking out by Astros catcher Brian McCann in the 5th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Corey Seager tries to break up a fifth inning double play as Astros second baseman Jose Altuve relays a throw to first on a grounder by Logan Forsythe.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
The Dodgers’ Corey Seager hits a single against the Astros in the 5th inning in Game 1.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodger Cody Bellinger’s jersey in Game 1 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor runs towards first base after hitting a solo home run off the first pitch of the game against Houston Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor gets a hand slap from Los Angeles Dodgers first base coach George Lombard after hitting a solo home run off the first pitch of the game against Houston Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers outfielder Chris Taylor hits a solo home run in the first inning against the Houston Astros.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers outfielder Chris Taylor homers on the first pitch from Houston Astros starter Dallas Keuchel.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor hits a solo home run off the first pitch of the game against Houston Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor hits a solo home run in the first inning against the Houston Astros.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodger fans cheer as pitcher Clayton Kershaw gets a strikeout against the Astros in the 1st inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clayton Kershaw gave up one hit with 11 strikeouts in seven innings against Houston in Game 1 of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Comedian and Dodger fan George Lopez waves a flag above the home team’s dugout before game one of the World Series at Dodger Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Fans cheer opening ceremonies as Dodgers reserve Joc Pederson sits alone in the dugout before Game 1.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Police, fire and military personnel unfurl a large U.S. flag before the start of Game 1.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw warms up in the outfield before the start of the World Series.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
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.
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.”
The Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series
Video: Kenley Jansen, Cody Bellinger, Rich Hill talk about losing Game 7
Video: Analysis: Dodgers lose Game 7 and the World Series
Video: Yu Darvish talks about using his slider for Game 7
Video: Kenley Jansen and others talk about winning Game 6
Video: Analyzing the Dodgers Game 6 win
Video: Clayton Kershaw on starting Game 5 of the World Series
Video: Dave Roberts Talks Rich Hill and Kenley Jansen pitching in Game 6
Video: Dave Roberts talks preparing for Game 7
Video: Here it is, Game 7, and Bill Plaschke knows who wins
Video: Rich Hill talks about Game 6 of the World Series
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.