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The Sports Report: Clayton Kershaw moves Dodgers one step away from World Series title

Joc Pederson crosses home plate after homering in the second inning of Game 5.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: The Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays played Game 5 of a neutral-site World Series, the first in modern history, at Globe Life Field, a gleaming new ballpark 1,400 miles from Los Angeles at quarter capacity during a pandemic Sunday. It didn’t sound that way in the sixth inning of the Dodgers’ 4-2 win.

Clayton Kershaw recorded the inning’s first two outs with two pitches. He had seemingly discovered a rhythm after a choppy beginning. But Dodgers manager Dave Roberts emerged to remove the future Hall of Famer anyway. Kershaw tried to convince Roberts to change his mind. Even third baseman Justin Turner spoke up in support of his teammate. Roberts stayed resolute and took the ball.

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The pro-Dodgers crowd of 11,437, most with their minds still on the previous night’s debacle and hunches triggered by years of heartbreak, let Roberts know what they thought. Kershaw walked off to applause after giving up two runs on five hits with six strikeouts in 52/3 innings. Roberts walked off to the first round of throaty boos he’s received in 2020.

The emotions flipped by the end of the night.

Roberts didn’t bend to the pressure. The Dodgers had a plan that he presented to Kershaw before the inning: The next two hitters would be Kershaw’s final two hitters, no matter how many pitches it took. He wanted to put Dustin May in the game, despite the rookie’s recent struggles, in that spot. He wanted to pull Kershaw before it was too late.

“He held up his part of the deal and got the two hitters,” Roberts said. “He just grinded. He willed himself to that point and I will say it wasn’t his best stuff. But he found a way to get outs and I give him all the credit.”

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May responded by striking out Manuel Margot with a 101-mph fastball. It proved to be the first of Roberts’ deft bullpen decisions. The Dodgers didn’t yield another run and pulled within a win from their first championship since 1988.

“We stuck with the plan,” Kershaw said. “Credit to Doc. D-May came into the game and threw the ball awesome.”

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Photos: Dodgers vs. Rays in World Series Game 5

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Bill Plaschke: Can you feel it? Dodgers one win from conquering 32 years of October heartbreak

Dylan Hernández: No longer an October failure, Clayton Kershaw is a win away from becoming a champion

Joc Pederson making it a ‘Joctober’ to remember for Dodgers

How Dodgers foiled Manuel Margot’s stealing home gamble

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Dodgers-Rays schedule

All times Pacific

Dodgers are home team for Game 1, 2, 6 and 7

All games at Arlington, Texas

Game 1: Dodgers 8, Tampa Bay 3

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Game 2: Tampa Bay 6, Dodgers 4

Game 3: Dodgers 6, Tampa Bay 2

Game 4: Tampa Bay 8, Dodgers 7

Game 5: Dodgers 4, Tampa Bay 2

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Game 6: Tuesday, Tampa Bay (Blake Snell**) vs. Dodgers (Tony Gonsolin), 5 p.m., Fox

Game 7*: Wednesday, Tampa Bay (Charlie Morton) vs. Dodgers (Walker Buehler), 5 p.m., Fox

*-if necessary
**-left-handed

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CHARGERS

Jeff Miller on the Chargers: Justin Herbert had another 300-yard game and three more touchdown passes and provided the winning score with his feet.

A rookie in just his fifth NFL game, he led the Chargers in nearly every conceivable way Sunday and in a way that, not long ago, would have seemed inconceivable.

Herbert was the Chargers’ leading rusher, setting a franchise record for a quarterback, playing the same position that stout-armed, cement-footed Philip
Rivers commanded for the previous 14 seasons.

A whole lot of Herbert and just enough of everything else lifted the Chargers to a 39-29 victory over Jacksonville at SoFi Stadium.

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But for all his glaring examples of brilliance, all the highlights and moments of wow, Herbert impressed his head coach for an entirely different reason.

“The skill and the physical part of this … we know that he has that,” Anthony Lynn said. “I’m excited about the way he’s growing mentally and how his team is responding to him as a young leader.”

The Chargers needed all the leadership they could find to outlast a Jaguars team that entered having lost five in a row and now sits at 1-6, tied for the second-worst record in the league.

GOLF

Sam Farmer on golf: Patrick Cantlay finished the final round of the Zozo Championship with a one-stroke lead Sunday and made a beeline for the Sherwood Country Club practice range.

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With two of the world’s top three players hot on his heels — Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas — Cantlay was convinced his narrow edge wouldn’t hold, and that he’d be back on the course in short order.

“I figured with those two guys in the group behind me, that one of them would get to at least force a playoff,” he said.

But neither Rahm nor Thomas could close the gap, and Cantlay, who was the world’s top amateur during his UCLA days, held on for his third victory on the PGA Tour — and first in his home state. He was as unwavering as his even-keeled personality, shooting 67, 65, 68 and 65 over the four days.

Thomas and Rahm tied for second, one stroke back of Cantlay, who finished 23-under par for the tournament.

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USC FOOTBALL

Ryan Kartje on USC football: Days after federal investigators first confronted USC athletes on campus, Munir McClain, the suspended Trojans wide receiver at the center of their probe, stood in front of cameras outside Galen Center, reading from a prepared statement that marked his first public comments since a September suspension from the football team escalated into a federal investigation.

As questions mounted over the nature of that suspension and the investigation that followed, McClain confirmed to a small crowd at a makeshift news conference Sunday that he did indeed apply for — and receive — Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and that he did so with the help of an employee at the California Employment Development Department.

“I believe that I did everything right,” McClain said.

Behind him, eight USC football players, including his brother, Trojans linebacker Abdul-Malik McClain, and senior wide receiver Tyler Vaughns, stood in quiet solidarity with the sophomore, wearing masks and USC athletic gear.

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None of the players, including Munir, answered questions from the media Sunday. But in just more than a week, several USC players will be compelled to answer questions under oath about what they know about McClain, unemployment benefits and an apparent plan at USC that sparked an ethics complaint alleging that students were approached to fraudulently file for EDD benefits.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific.

No games scheduled.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1907 — Jim Thorpe makes his Carlisle (Pa.) debut dazzling a crowd of 22,800 in a 26-6 defeat of No. 4 Penn at Philadelphia’s Franklin Field. Thorpe rushes, returns kicks and does all the kicking in putting on a one-man show.

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1968 — Brooks Dawson of Texas-El Paso completes 17 of 24 passes for 304 yards in the final 10:21 of the fourth quarter as the Miners beat Brigham Young 31-25.

1980 — The St. Louis Cardinals sack quarterback Baltimore quarterback Bert Jones 12 times in a 17-10 victory.

1990 — Wayne Gretzky becomes the NHL first player to reach the 2,000-point plateau when he helps set up a goal by Tomas Sandstrom at 14:32 of the first period of the Los Angeles Kings’ game at Winnipeg.

1993 — The NFL expands, adding a team in Charlotte, N.C., starting in 1995.

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2000 — The New York Yankees become the first team in more than a quarter-century to win three straight World Series championships, beating the New York Mets 4-2.

2002 — Volponi, a 43-1 long shot, finds room along the rail and blows past the fading Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner War Emblem to take the Breeders’ Cup Classic by 6 1/2 lengths ahead of Medaglia d’Oro.

2006 — Ryan Miller stops 29 shots as Buffalo beats the New York Islanders 3-0 to win its 10th straight game. The win matches the best start in NHL history, tying the 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs.

2012 — The NHL cancels all its games through the end of November because of the labor dispute between owners and players. A total of 326 regular-season games, more than 26.5% of the season, are lost.

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2013 — Octavias McKoy runs for 455 yards, setting an NCAA record for all-divisions, as Division III Western Connecticut State beats Worcester State 55-35. McKoy scores five touchdowns in the game and breaks the rushing record previously held by Dante Brown of Marietta College. Brown ran for 441 on Oct. 5, 1996 against Baldwin-Wallace.

2014 — Serena Williams wins the WTA Tour Finals for the third straight year and fifth time overall, beating Simona Halep 6-3, 6-0. Williams joins Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf as the only players to have won five titles in the season-ending championship.

2014 — Ben Roethlisberger is 40 for 49 for 522 yards and six touchdown passes in Pittsburgh’s 51-34 win over Indianapolis. Roethlisberger became the first player in NFL history with two 500-yard passing games — 503 yards vs. Green Bay on Dec. 20, 2009.

2014 — Abby Wambach scores four goals and the World Cup-bound United States beat Costa Rica 6-0 for its fifth CONCACAF Women’s Championship title.

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And finally

1981 World Series Game 6, Dodgers vs. Yankees. Dodgers win title. Watch it here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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