ARLINGTON, Texas — There are baseball stories. There are Hollywood stories. This is both.
When Clayton Kershaw took the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night at Globe Life Field, he had a chance to author an unbelievable redemption story.
With a victory, Kershaw — the greatest regular-season pitcher of his generation — would set up the Dodgers to win their first World Series since 1988.
Better yet, in the process, the lefty would also finally exorcise those postseason demons that have plagued his shoo-in Hall of Fame career.
And the Hollywood part?
This epic chance, after so many disappointing playoff moments, would also happen just miles from where he grew up in Dallas. His family, friends and community could all watch up close and personal his transformation from just regular-season great to great period.
Yes, the best screenwriters couldn’t have even penned one like this.
Reeling from that debacle loss in Game 4 on Saturday night, the Dodgers needed Kershaw to pitch ace-like. And he didn’t disappoint.
In the Dodgers’ 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, Kershaw pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits. He struck out six and got the win.
The Dodgers now have a 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven series and Kershaw has won two of those three games.
The Dodgers can capture the 2020 World Series with a win in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
And if it does happen — or in Game 7 on Wednesday night — no one can say that Kershaw didn’t do his job, his part, to finally make the Dodgers winners again.
Kershaw, 32, had every reason to be proud of seizing the moment. “It feels pretty good,” he said. “Anytime you can have success in the postseason it means so much, that is what you work for, that is what you play for this month.I know what the other end of that feels like, too. I will definitely take it when I can get it.”
Kershaw was on the mound for the Dodgers in Game 1 and pitched impressive ball. Some thought that victory should have put the postseason choke talk about him to rest.
But they were wrong. That was just the start. Kershaw needed to finish the job, seal the deal. This World Series is about his reputation, about how we view this man and his career going forward.
Yes, Kershaw, whose career playoff ERA is almost a full two runs higher than his regular-season one, has let the Dodgers down over and over in big spots.
In Game 6 of the 2013 NCLS, the lefty gave up seven runs in four-plus innings. It sealed the Dodgers’ fate that year. In 2016, Game 6 of the NLCS, Kershaw gave up five runs in only five innings in a series elimination game against the Cubs.
In 2017, Kershaw gave up not one, but two leads of three runs or more in the World Series against the Houston Astros.
It’s not that Kershaw had to be perfect this postseason, win every game he pitched in October. But he nearly was. In five starts, he was 4-1 with a 2.93 ERA.
There was a crucial moment in the fourth inning on Sunday night when it looked like everything was about to come undone. The Rays, trailing 3-2, put runners and first and third with no one out. Instead of a meltdown, Kershaw clamped down. He stopped the pesky Rays in their tracks with the game hanging in the balance. Infield pop out. The first out.
Strikeout. The second out.
Then Kershaw throws out Manuel Margot trying to steal home. The third out.
From here, other pitchers will probably determine if Kershaw will be a champion or still ringless.
“Kersh, a lot of credit goes to him for what we’ve been able to do in this World Series,” said Blake Treinen, who closed the game for the Dodgers. “There’s a tough narrative on him.
“He’s a phenomenal pitcher on the biggest stage.”
And this time, the Dodgers needed him more than ever. He delivered what for sure would truly be classified as a Hollywood ending.