ARLINGTON, Texas — The Los Angeles Dodgers can smell it in the air.
They can feel that long-coveted championship trophy without touching it.
The Dodgers, after 32 years, are on the verge of becoming World Series champions.
They are just one victory away from going where no Dodger team has gone since the heroics of Kirk Gibson, winning Sunday night to take a 3-2 lead in the World Series.
The Dodgers toppled the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-2, with Dallas-area native Clayton Kershaw pitching a gem, Max Muncy and Joc Pederson hitting homers, and Corey Seager continuing his postseason assault.
“We’re in pretty good position to finish this thing out,’’ said Muncy, who became the ninth different Dodger to homer with his blast in the fifth inning, setting a World Series record. “But we can’t look ahead.’’
Still, the Dodgers can’t help but love their chances, knowing that even though they don’t have a natural starter for Game 6 after Monday’s off-day, they’ll have rested ace Walker Buehler for a potential Game 7.
Certainly, the Dodgers showed no psychological scars from their catastrophic 8-7 loss in Game 4, insisting before the game that they washed away the nightmare. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts even said he slept like a baby, and didn’t bother to watch a single replay of the collapse.
They proved their point immediately by jumping on Rays starter Tyler Glasnow for an early 3-0 lead, including two runs in the first inning.
Still, those pesky Rays refused to go away, constantly threatening, even attempting to steal home for the first time in 18 years in a World Series game, but kept falling short.
Yandy Diaz, who had 45 plate appearances without an extra-base or RBI, opened the Rays’ attack by hitting a one-out triple into the right-field corner that rolled past Mookie Betts, scoring Kevin Kiermaier. One batter later, it was Randy Arozarena time.
Arozarena shot a single into left field, scoring Diaz, for his 27th hit of the postseason. Arozarena immediately called for the ball, realizing he had just set the all-time record for hits in a postseason.
The Rays, in their most daring inning of the postseason, had Manuel Margot lead off the fourth with a walk. He stole second base and advanced to third on second baseman Chris Taylor’s second error in a span of five innings. Kershaw fell into further trouble when he walked Hunter Renfroe, with the Dodgers entire infield coming to the mound, and trying to figure how to escape the jam.
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Kershaw took matters into his own hands. He induced an infield pop-up from Joey Wendle. He struck out Willy Adames. And then, with Kershaw’s back to him, Margot took off, trying to steal home. He got a great jump, but Kershaw stepped off the rubber, and quickly threw to catcher Austin Barnes. Margot was out by inches.
Kershaw, exhaling into the Texas night, where he grew up just 30 minutes from Globe Life Field in Highland Park, kept cruising. He retired seven batters in a row, with no one hitting the ball out of the infield, when Roberts came to the mound to remove Kershaw after just 85 pitches. Dodgers fans let their feelings known by heavily booing Roberts. They began cheering Kershaw when he headed to the dugout, and the moment Roberts handed the ball to Dustin May and walked back, they booed him again.
Just like that, Kershaw’s postseason may be over, exorcising those October ghosts of seasons’ past, going 4-1 with a 2.93 ERA, striking out 37 batters with five walks in 30 ⅔ innings.
One more victory, and Kershaw will have a World Series championship to go with those three Cy Young awards.
Roberts says he never had any doubts that Kershaw would come up big, or that his team would show any ill-effects from their Game 4 defeat.
Simply, they have too much talent, too much resilience, and too much experience.
“Absolutely,’’ Roberts said, “I think that comes with experience. We already experienced some tough losses, some tough games.’’
In the words of Seager, “it’s already flushed. Everybody has moved on.’’
Seager has reached base in 13 of his last 23 plate appearances, to go along with his five homers and 12 RBI.
“Those things are nice,’’ he said, “but all I want is one thing.’’
Yep, one more victory.
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