Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports | By Larry Brown | Last updated 10/21/20
Clayton Kershaw defied his reputation as a postseason choker with an impressive start for the Los Angeles Dodgers in their 8-3 Game 1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas on Tuesday night.
Kershaw pitched six innings and allowed just one run, two hits, a walk and had eight strikeouts. About his only mistake was a solo home run to Kevin Kiermaier in the fifth inning.
Kershaw entered the game 11-12 with a 4.31 ERA in the postseason. He had a career 1-2 record and 5.40 ERA in the World Series over 26.2 innings. To see him come out and dominate for six innings in such a big game was a surprise.
But Kershaw actually has a record number of starts in the postseason of at least six innings with no more than one earned run and one walk.
The Los Angeles Dodgers won Game 7 of the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday to move on to the World Series for the third time in four seasons.
L.A.’s previous two trips to the World Series resulted in disappointing losses to the Houston Astros, who cheated their way to a title in 2017, and the Boston Red Sox, who won the 2018 championship in Alex Cora’s first year as the team’s manager.
If the Dodgers don’t bring home a title this year, fans will begin to speculate whether or not Roberts is the man for the job. During the on-field ceremony at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, after his Dodgers beat the Braves 4-3, Roberts made a pretty bold declaration heading into the Fall Classic.
The early part of the MLB offseason has already brought with it some blockbuster moves, as well as some under-the-radar signings that could have a big impact in 2020. Here’s a look at the best moves of the early offseason, as of Dec. 20.
1 of 20
Angels hire Joe Maddon
The Angels last made the playoffs in 2014, and their one year with Brad Ausmus at the helm didn’t go well. The organization continues to waste Mike Trout’s talent, but Maddon is as capable as any manager to get L.A. back to the postseason. He started to wear thin with the Cubs recently but should be able to give the Angels a jolt of energy and new-age thinking.
2 of 20
Angels acquire Dylan Bundy
Seemingly over the injury issues that plagued him early in his career, Bundy was a massive disappointment in Baltimore over the last two years and fetched only a group of middling prospects from Anaheim. Much of his issues have been directly related to the long ball, and getting out of Baltimore’s hitter-friendly confines can only help. The Angels desperately needed to beef up their rotation this offseason, and Bundy is a nice start.
3 of 20
Braves sign Will Smith
Smith was a dominant closer for the Giants last season, and he’s been one of the league’s best left-handed relievers since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2018. A three-year contract for any reliever is a risk, but Smith is still only 30 and has seen nothing but success in the majors since converting to the pen in 2013. He can serve well in any bullpen role for a Braves team with World Series aspirations.
4 of 20
Brewers sign Josh Lindblom
Lindblom has a history of MLB experience and some success, which is important to remember after three terrific seasons as a starter in Korea. He returns to the majors on a three-year, $9.125 million contract with Milwaukee, which seems like a minimal risk for a pitcher with excellent control and the ability to pitch in multiple roles. For the cost, there’s nothing but upside.
5 of 20
Brewers acquire Omar Narvaez for Adam Hill and draft pick
Milwaukee remedied the loss of Yasmani Grandal by acquiring Narvaez. The catcher is in no way comparable to Grandal, but he did prove to be one of the league’s best offensive catchers in Seattle last year by hitting .278-22-55. Poor defense is a concern, but the price was right for the Brewers. 6 of 20
Brewers acquire Eric Lauer and Luis Urias for Zach Davies and Trent Grisham
Milwaukee is always in search of undervalued assets and stuck with that mindset in this deal. Lauer is a former first-round pick who is unproven at the major league level, but he has a good minor league track record and has been serviceable in two seasons with the Padres. Urias was considered a top prospect just one year ago and gives the Brewers insurance at shortstop with Orlando Arcia continuing to struggle. Davies would seem like a big cost with a career 3.91 ERA in 111 starts, but he doesn’t miss bats and became strictly a five-inning starter late last season. Grisham is a former first-round pick who didn’t hit in the minors until last year, so the jury is still out on him.
7 of 20
Cardinals sign Kwang-Hyun Kim
The Cardinals seem to be going for values more than splashes this offseason, a product of spending big money on the extensions of Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt. Signing Kim to a two-year, $8 million contract brings with it minimal risk with plenty of upside, after the lefty posted a 2.51 ERA in 190.1 innings in Korea last season. He has an MLB-quality slider and could contribute in a variety of roles. 8 of 20
Diamondbacks sign Stephen Vogt
The pending expansion to a 26-man roster will enable many teams to carry three catchers, a strategy that the Diamondbacks have already liked to employ. Vogt gives the team a veteran backup for Carson Kelly, and he was able to reestablish his health last year as Buster Posey’s backup in San Francisco by posting a career-high .804 OPS. Not only could Vogt be used as a backup catcher, but he also is a strong pinch-hitter for only $3 million. 9 of 20
Dodgers sign Blake Treinen
It’s no mystery that the bullpen was L.A.’s biggest weakness last year, and Treinen gives the team a big boost. He fought shoulder issues in Oakland last season but was one of MLB’s best relievers in 2018, with an 0.78 ERA and 38 saves in 68 appearances. An extreme groundball pitcher, he gives the A’s another setup option and potentially a closer alternative if Kenley Jansen struggles again.
10 of 20
Giants sign Kevin Gausman
Gausman clearly isn’t the pitcher he was when he was first promoted by the Orioles, and he is coming off the worst season of his career. The silver lining is that he was terrific as a reliever for the Reds late last year and posted a career-high 10.0 K/9. San Francisco clearly saw that upside when it signed Gausman, and the move to a larger park will help the home run-prone right-hander. There’s no such thing as a bad one-year contract, and this is one of the highest upside one-year deals so far this offseason.
11 of 20
Giants acquire Zack Cozart and Will Wilson
San Francisco took Cozart’s contract off the Angels hands to bring on Wilson, the 15th overall pick in the 2019 draft. The Giants are effectively paying $12.7 million for Wilson, a middle infielder out of NC State. That’s a hefty price for a prospect, but the Giants have some spare change now that they’re in rebuilding mode. If Wilson turns into an MLB regular, the trade is easily a win for San Francisco.
12 of 20
Marlins claim Jesus Aguilar off waivers
Aguilar was one of the league’s top offensive first basemen in 2018, hitting .274-35-108, but he fell flat last year. After continuing to struggle late in the season with Tampa Bay, Aguilar was waived and claimed by the nearby neighbors in Miami. As the Marlins continue to rebuild, they have at-bats to provide players like Aguilar who are looking to revitalize their careers as the former minor league veteran tries to prove his 2018 season wasn’t a fluke.
13 of 20
Marlins select Sterling Sharp in Rule 5 draft
There aren’t many treasures to be had in the Rule 5 draft these days, but Sharp could be one. The former Nats prospect missed much of last season with a back injury, though he has a career 3.71 ERA in the minors and is coming off a great showing at the Arizona Fall League. An extreme groundball pitcher, Sharp has a chance to not only make the Marlins out of spring training but also to serve in their starting rotation.
14 of 20
Rangers sign Kyle Gibson
Gibson has regained the former talent he showed as a top prospect with the Twins recently, posting a 3.62 ERA in 32 starts during 2018. He struggled late last season after stomach issues but has shown an uptick in velocity lately to go along with an excellent slider. He also had a career-best 2.86 K/BB ratio last year, showing enough upside to be worthy of the three-year, $28 million contract he signed with Texas. The contract is strikingly similar to the one Lance Lynn signed with the Rangers last offseason, and there’s similarly interesting upside.
15 of 20
Rangers acquire Corey Kluber for Emmanuel Clase and Delino DeShields Jr.
It’s rare that a two-time Cy Young winner can be had for what’s effectively a salary dump, but the Rangers were able to pull it off. In fairness, Clase looks like an outstanding bullpen arm and DeShields can really track the ball in center field, but neither player is a true impact performer in the short term. Kluber missed most of last season with a fractured elbow and struggled before the injury, but he’s entering only his age 34 season and was an elite pitcher as recently as 2018. The Rangers rotation looks terrific with Kluber added to Lance Lynn, Mike Minor and Kyle Gibson. 16 of 20
Rays acquire Hunter Renfroe and Xavier Edwards for Tommy Pham
Tampa Bay got a great 2019 season out of Pham but might have sold high on the soon-to-be 32-year-old by acquiring Renfroe and Edwards. Renfroe struggles defensively, but he hit 33 home runs in only 494 plate appearances last season and is just entering his prime. Edwards is the kicker in the deal, a first-round pick from 2018 who hit .322 between Low-A and High-A last season at age 19. He very well could be the Rays’ second baseman of the future next to top shortstop prospect Wander Franco. 17 of 20
Red Sox sign Jose Peraza
Cincinnati’s shortstop of the future just one year ago, Peraza was non-tendered after an awful 2019 season. Boston signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract, and he will effectively replace Eduardo Nunez on the roster. He brings the upside of a young Nunez, as shown by his 2018 season in which he hit .288 with 14 home runs, 23 stolen bases and appearances at multiple positions. The Red Sox can use some defensive versatility as they figure out the futures of Michael Chavis and Mookie Betts. 18 of 20
Twins re-sign Michael Pineda
Pineda’s market was hurt by the 60-game PEDs suspension that he will continue to serve at the start of 2020, but he looks like a bargain on a two-year, $20 million contract. No team knows him better than Minnesota after employing the big right-hander last year, and the Twins were able to get a lot out of him after a slow start to the season. With great control and a 5.00 K/BB ratio last year, Pineda shows huge potential.
19 of 20
White Sox sign Yasmani Grandal
Chicago didn’t waste much time in the offseason, signing Grandal to a four-year deal in November. He’s been one of the leagues best and most consistent catchers in recent seasons, providing plus-plus ability both offensively and defensively. He should still have some life left as he enters his age 31 season, and he gives the team a nice middle of the order hitter to add to its young talent.
20 of 20
Yankees sign Gerrit Cole
Cole signed a record-breaking nine-year deal with a Yankees organization that has been surprisingly patient and restrained in recent seasons. Clearly an elite starting pitcher, he gives the Yankees the one missing piece that could put them over the top, and he is potentially capable of offsetting the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium dimensions after posting a 13.8 K/9 and 6.79 K/BB ratio last season.
Clayton Kershaw was already back to work less than 24 hours after helping the Los Angeles Dodgers clinch a World Series berth.
Kershaw pitched the 9th inning of the Dodgers’ Game 7 5-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday night at Miller Park. A day later, he was spotted working out in the bullpen at Fenway Park in Boston. Kershaw appeared to be doing visualization and mechanics repetition in the pen.
A lot went down prior to Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline. More deals could be coming in August, but for now, let’s rank July’s trades by how much impact the moves will have on each team’s roster:
The Atlanta Braves traded outfielder Matt Kemp to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Charlie Culberson, the teams announced Saturday.
The Braves, who also received cash considerations in the deal, immediately designated Gonzalez for assignment after the veteran waived his no-trade clause since Atlanta already is set at first base with Freddie Freeman.
“This allows him the opportunity to go and find some playing time,” new Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said of Gonzalez.
There also is the question of whether Kemp, who is owed about $43 million over the next two seasons, will even play for the Dodgers. He could again be traded as Los Angeles tries to further lower payroll after moving quickly to dump nearly $50 million in salary committed to Gonzalez, Kazmir and McCarthy for 2018.
“I was very open and honest with him about what the future might hold,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told reporters in a conference call Saturday. “It’s just too difficult to say, definitively, at this point.”
With the deal, Los Angeles, which had baseball’s highest payroll last season at $240 million, has gotten below the luxury tax threshold of $197 million. After five seasons on the wrong side of the threshold, the Dodgers were penalized 50 percent on every dollar spent above the luxury tax figure last season.
“This deal is a little more subtle than most,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said in a conference call Saturday. “Obviously, one of the main considerations in this deal was economic. But they’re part of the bigger picture, the longer-term plan. It’s a necessary, strategic part of moves yet to come.”
he 2017 season ended with Charlie Morton throwing a 96 mph fastball to Corey Seager, Seager hitting a ground ball to Jose Altuve, Altuve throwing the ball to Yuli Gurriel and then all the Houston Astros charging in from the bullpen and the dugout, their orange jerseys swarming the field at Dodger Stadium. It was a beautiful thing to see — a baseball celebration.
The story of Game 7 and the Astros’ 5-1 clinching victory, however, begins in the top of the first inning and with the first batter. George Springer walked up to the plate, said a few words to Austin Barnes as he put a hand on the catcher’s shoulder — words about good luck and admiration for what had been an exhilarating first six games — and then dug in to face Yu Darvish, the hired arm acquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers to help them win the World Series.
Eight pitches later, it was a 2-0 game. Springer doubled into the left-field corner on a 1-1 slider and scored when first baseman Cody Bellinger threw away Alex Bregman’s little bouncer. Bregman would steal third and score on another grounder.
When Springer stepped in again in the top of the second, it was 3-0 and Darvish was on the ropes. There were two outs, a runner on, Brandon Morrow warming up in the bullpen. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts let Darvish face Springer.
Springer got ahead in the count with two balls … or Darvish fell behind in the count: I guess the wording depends on how you want this story to read. Springer took a fastball for a strike, a curveball inside and missed at a slider.
The next pitch was Darvish’s 47th of the game — his 96th of the World Series — and almost certainly the last one he’ll throw as a Dodger. It was a 96 mph fastball, low in the zone and middle of the plate. Springer absolutely unloaded, belting a 438-foot laser out to left-center, his record-tying fifth home run of the World Series.
“I remember swinging and hearing the sound of the bat. I knew it was a good sound,” Springer said. “Then I saw the flight of the ball. And I got to first base and I rounded third, and got home and that’s a crazy feeling. It’s a very surreal feeling because this is Game 7.”
The pitching matchup for the first-ever World Series Game 7 at Dodger Stadium will pit a brash 24-year-old son of a major leaguer versus a veteran trade acquisition who has spent just three months in a Dodgers uniform.
Lance McCullers Jr. will take the mound for the Houston Astros, while the Dodgers will go with Yu Darvish. Both are hoping to rebound from rocky performances earlier in the World Series.
Darvish quickly exited the clubhouse after the Dodgers’ 3-1 win in Game 6 on Tuesday night, before the rest of his teammates had even finished showering; but McCullers went out to right field and played catch, going through his pitches as fans were still exiting the ballpark.
“I was in the bullpen toward the end; that’s why I had to throw on the field postgame,” McCullers said. “Just because I hadn’t thrown yet, because I was hot and ready to go, if the situation came up where they needed me.”
McCullers started Game 3 of the World Series, but he struggled with his command, walking four batters and giving up three runs in 5⅓ innings, before eventually getting credit for the win in Houston’s 5-3 win. He said that experience would help in Game 7.
“I learned I wasn’t very sharp,” he said after Game 6. “I knew that early, though. So I knew it was going to be a grind for me pretty much the whole outing, which it was. This is a very good hitting team. They’re patient, but they’ll make you pay for mistakes. So I have to go out there and just execute my game plan. And I need to execute a little better in certain spots.”
The Astros’ plan is to have everyone available behind McCullers, which means Game 6 starter Justin Verlander could pitch and Game 5 starter Dallas Keuchel will definitely be ready to go in the bullpen.
“I think all of our guys will have the adrenaline on their side,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “They are all going to be ready.”
Verlander will be a game-time decision as to whether he can give the Astros a batter or, maybe in the extreme, an inning. He threw 93 pitches in Game 6 and said he will play catch before Game 7 to evaluate how his right arm feels.
“I think it depends on when I get to the ballpark,” Verlander said. “I’ll throw the ball and see if I’m available or not.”
We settled in at 7:21 p.m. local time, expecting a tense, classic World Series pitchers’ duel between Dallas Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw.
We ended five hours and 17 minutes later after witnessing a game that was simultaneously an exhilarating baseball adventure and something Caligula invented. If you had a rooting interest in this game, you’re not even reading this column because you’re probably out of energy.
The Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-12 in a 10-inning slugfest of epic proportions, during which the Astros hit five home runs. They became just the fifth team in World Series history to rally from three separate deficits and just the second to rally from two three-run deficits — and after all that, they still had to score the winning run off the best closer in baseball.
“Just when I thought I could describe Game 2 as my favorite game of all time, I think Game 5 exceeded that and more,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said after the game. “It’s hard to put into words all the twists and turns in that game, the emotion, doing it at home, in front of our home crowd. Just exactly what you expect to come to the park with Keuchel and Kershaw pitching.”
Did it really happen? Sweet mother of all that’s pure and good, this insanity most definitely did happen, as the 43,000-something fans in attendance at Minute Maid Park will tell their kids and their grandkids and their neighbors and the woman in line at the grocery store and the co-worker at the office they haven’t talked to in two years. Games like this bring us together. The entire city of Houston will be talking baseball on Monday morning.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, ‘This is the craziest game of my life,'” winning pitcher Joe Musgrove said about this postseason. “This was the craziest game of my life.”
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