Phillies

World Series: Dodgers sizzle in steamy L.A. for Game 1 win over Astros

ap-dodgers-team-celebrate.jpg
AP Images

World Series: Dodgers sizzle in steamy L.A. for Game 1 win over Astros

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- No sweat, Clayton Kershaw.

Changing jerseys to beat the 103-degree heat, the Dodgers ace with a checkered playoff history delivered a signature performance, pitching Los Angeles past the Houston Astros 3-1 Tuesday night in the World Series opener.

Boosted by Justin Turner's tiebreaking, two-run homer in the sixth inning off Dallas Keuchel, Kershaw was in complete control against the highest-scoring team in the majors this season.

"Definitely feels good to say it was the World Series, and it feels good to say we're 1-0," Kershaw said.

The left-hander had waited his whole career for this moment. And once he took the mound in his Series debut, he lived up every bit to the legacy of Sandy Koufax, Orel Hershiser and the greatest of Dodgers hurlers.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner struck out 11 , gave up just three hits and walked none over seven innings, featuring a sharp breaking ball that often left Houston batters taking awkward swings. His lone blemish was a home run by Alex Bregman in the fourth that made it 1-all.

No matter, with Koufax in the house, Kershaw did his pal proud.

"He was as good as advertised," Keuchel said.

A sweltering, pulsating crowd at Dodger Stadium dotted with Hollywood A-listers was filled with Kershaw jerseys, and he drew loud cheers all evening.

Kershaw got one more ovation when he walked through a corridor to a postgame interview. There, fans applauded a final time.

"I felt good. It's a tough lineup over there," Kershaw said. "The way Keuchel was throwing it was up and down a lot, which was good. It got us into a rhythm a little bit. I think for me personally, it helped out a lot."

Brandon Morrow worked a perfect eighth and Kenley Jansen breezed through the Astros in the ninth for a save in a combined three-hitter. The Dodgers' dominant relievers have tossed 25 straight scoreless innings this postseason.

With both aces throwing well, the opener zipped by in 2 hours, 28 minutes -- fastest in the World Series since Game 4 in 1992 between Toronto and Atlanta. Jimmy Key and the Blue Jays won that one 2-1 in 2:21.

It certainly was unusual for this postseason, when nine-inning games had been averaging 3 hours, 32 minutes -- up 18 minutes from two years ago.

Chris Taylor gave the Dodgers an immediate jolt in their first Series game since 1988 when he hit a no-doubt home run on Keuchel's very first pitch. Taylor was co-MVP of the NL Championship Series with Turner, and they both kept swinging away against the Astros.

"Just getting that momentum early is huge," Kershaw said. "And let the crowd kind of feed off that. It was definitely as good a start as we could have hoped for."

The loss left the Astros still without a single World Series win in their 56-season history. In their only other Series appearance, they were swept by the White Sox in 2005.

Game 2 is Wednesday evening, with AL Championship Series MVP Justin Verlander starting against Dodgers lefty Rich Hill.

Kershaw has almost every imaginable individual accolade on his resume -- five ERA titles, an MVP trophy, a no-hitter and seven All-Star selections -- but also was dogged by a shaky October past.

He began this outing in the twilight with a 6-7 career playoff record and an unsightly 4.40 ERA. He improved to 3-0 in four starts this postseason.

"I don't know if you can decipher between a postseason start and a World Series start. The adrenaline, I feel like every game is so much more magnified," Kershaw said.

A Series opener that served as a showcase for several of the game's best young hitters -- Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Cody Bellinger and more -- instead was dominated by Kershaw.

"Couldn't be happier for him," Turner said.

Facing a team that had the fewest strikeouts in the majors this year, Kershaw fanned more Houston hitters than any starter this season. And he helped the Dodgers, who led the majors with 104 wins and a $240 million payroll, improve to 8-1 this postseason.

"Tonight is about Kershaw," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.

It was 1-all when Taylor drew a two-out walk in the sixth. Turner followed with his drive off the bearded Keuchel .

"Keuchel was really good tonight. He was just a pitch or two less than Kershaw," Hinch said.

While it was sticky, the conditions didn't seem to affect either side.

Kershaw, as always, wore his bright blue Dodgers jacket walking to the bullpen to get ready.

"It was hot warming up. But once the game started, the sun went down, it didn't feel that hot," Kershaw said.

There is no reliable record for the hottest temperature at a World Series game. But weather data indicates this might've been the steamiest ever.

Notorious for late arrivals, Dodger fans showed up early and the seats in the shaded sections filled up fast. Keeping with the theme, the stadium organist played 1960s hits "Heat Wave" and "Summer in the City" as Houston warmed up.

When Vin Scully's familiar recorded call of "It's Time for Dodger Baseball" boomed over the PA system, the crowd really let loose, with the entire ballpark standing and chanting for the pregame introductions.

Scully drew a huge ovation when he was later shown on the video board, sitting in a box. Several players clapped along for the Hall of Fame broadcaster, who's nearly 90 and spent 67 seasons calling Dodgers games.

Dustin Hoffman, Jerry Seinfeld and Lady Gaga were among the many celebs in the crowd of 54,253, along with Dodgers great Tom Lasorda and part-owner Magic Johnson.

Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta goes to school on Justin Verlander

ap-usa-nick-pivetta-justin-verlander.jpg
AP Images/USA Today Images

Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta goes to school on Justin Verlander

BOX SCORE

DUNEDIN, Fla. — For a gazillion years, pitchers have been told to keep the ball down. That is still valuable advice, but with more and more hitters looking to launch the ball with an upward swing path these days, power pitchers are striking back with a high fastball above the bat head.

Nick Pivetta has a power fastball and he’s working on this technique. He consciously threw some fastballs above the belt in his two-inning spring debut Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

“We're telling all of our pitchers, we're asking them to do some new things,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “And there's going to be some times in spring training games when you get hit a little bit.”

That’s OK. The new-school Phillies want their players to be open to new ideas. Pivetta, who struck out 9.5 batters per nine innings in 26 starts last season, is open learning to ride a high fastball by a hitter looking to launch. He watched on television as Justin Verlander did that for Houston in the postseason last year and he’s watched more video of Verlander and interacted with Phillies coaches about the strategy this spring.

“A key point that they brought to me was how Verlander pitched in the playoffs,” Pivetta said. “I think that’s something I can learn from a lot of the time, how he did it when he came over to Houston.

“It’s part of pitching. You’ve got to be able to command the zone, both the top and bottom. It’s not to say we’re going to only throw up. It’s just something else to work on.”

Pivetta pitched two innings and struck out three in the 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays. He allowed three hits, a walk and two runs in the first inning. One of the hits was a solo homer by Curtis Granderson on a hanging breaking ball.

Kapler was pleased with Pivetta’s performace and his reponse to trying new things.

“He executed his game plan today,” Kapler said. “He executed some pretty nasty sliders at the bottom of the zone. He executed some fastballs at the top of the zone. He missed some bats, which is really encouraging.

“One of the things we’re working on with him is elevating a little bit. He has velocity and strong pitch characteristics to pitch up in the zone. But he also has the ability to pitch down in the zone with his slider and his curveball.

“He kicked ass today. He did everything we asked him to do.”

The Phillies host the Orioles on Saturday. Zach Eflin will be the starting pitcher.

Lost and found — K-Rod enjoys solid debut with Phillies

usa-francisco-rodriguez.jpg
USA Today Images

Lost and found — K-Rod enjoys solid debut with Phillies

BOX SCORE

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Francisco Rodriguez navigated the narrow streets of this friendly, little, old-school spring training burg looking for a place to park his Mercedes late Friday morning.

Finally, after asking several people for directions, he found a spot near the grounds crew shed at Dunedin Stadium.

The episode was a bit of a metaphor for Rodriguez’s workday with the Phillies. Back on the mound in a game situation for the first time since last summer, Rodriguez allowed a walk to the first batter he faced and later a single, but stayed composed and left two runners on base in notching a scoreless inning in his first action of the spring in a 2-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

“I felt kind of lost the first couple of batters,” Rodriguez said. “But once I got a ground ball, I started locating. It had been a while since I was on the mound in a game.”

Rodriguez, 36, is the most decorated player in Phillies camp. He is a six-time All-Star and baseball’s active leader in saves (437) and appearances (948). Released twice last season, he is trying to win a spot in the Phillies’ bullpen as a non-roster invite to camp.

He opened last season as Detroit’s closer, but was released in June after recording a 7.82 ERA in 28 games. The Nationals took a peek at him in the minors a few weeks later and also let him go.

Rodriguez said he was not healthy last season. He said he had issues with his groin and hamstring.

“I couldn’t be 100 percent,” he said. “But that’s not an excuse. I should have found a way to get the job done in Detroit and I couldn’t. That’s one of the reasons that I’m in this situation now.”

Rodriguez ranks fourth all time in saves behind Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith. He does not have the power fastball that once earned him the nickname K-Rod — he topped out at 89 mph Friday — but location, a good changeup and old-fashioned savvy are still strengths. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz was influential in bringing in Rodriguez for a look. The two were together in Milwaukee, where Rodriguez was an All-Star in 2014 and 2015.

“He’s a great reliever,” Kranitz said.

Does he have anything left?

“I believe so, yes,” Kranitz said.

Kranitz went on to say that Rodriguez was a high-character guy who would help the Phillies’ young pitchers.

Rodriguez was asked what pushed him to continue his career and come to camp essentially on a tryout.

“I love the game,” he said. “I don’t think I have to prove anything. I don’t think I went to Walmart and bought 900 appearances and 437 saves. I did that with a lot of pride and hard work. This is the only thing I know how to do, play baseball. God gave me the opportunity to throw a baseball and I’m going to continue to do it.”

The Phillies may go with an eight-man bullpen. That could help Rodriguez’s chances of sticking. But he will have to pitch well.

“I’m looking forward to having a great spring,” he said.