Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Kershaw wins pitcher’s duel in World Series opener

The Dodgers returned to the World Series Oct. 24 for the first time in 29 years, defeating the Houston Astros, 3-1, in a series opener that had a little bit of everything except scoring.

Lefthanders Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel squared off in an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel that took only 2 hours and 28 minutes to complete.

If Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to shorten baseball games, that’s the way to do it. Put great pitchers on the mound and watch them operate. Even the long commercial breaks between innings couldn’t keep this game from being finished in a hurry.

Kershaw yielded three hits and struck out 11 in seven innings of work. Third baseman Alex Bregman hit a solo home run leading off the fourth inning for the Astros’s only run. After that hit, Kershaw mowed down the next nine Astros he faced.

Keuchel was almost as good as Kershaw. He just couldn’t get Chris Taylor out.

The Dodgers center fielder led off the game by hitting Keuchel’s first pitch into the left field pavilion, 447 feet away. Then in the sixth inning, Taylor worked Keuchel for a walk. Third baseman Justin Turner followed with a two-run homer that won the game.

Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen each pitched an inning of flawless relief and the Dodgers won their eighth postseason games in nine tries.

Kershaw is finally getting rid of the image that is not a great postseason pitcher. He struck out 11 without walking anyone. The last time that was accomplished in the World Series was in 1949 when Don Newcombe did it for the Brooklyn Dodgers. And the Astros struck out less than any team in the major leagues this year.

The rest of the series figures to play out similarly. Both teams are balanced, with good starting pitching and solid hitting up and down the batting order. The Dodgers have an edge in bullpen depth.

With Morrow and Jansen to cover the eighth and ninth innings, the Astros are going to have to get more production early from their lineup if they are to have a chance.

The series moves to Houston for games three to five Oct. 27-29. The Dodgers would like to close things out there and hold a parade here next week, but the Astros will have something to say about that.

With second baseman Jose Altuve and shortstop Carlos Correa the key hitters in the middle of the batting order, the Astros had the third best record in the major leagues this year. And designated hitter Carlos Beltran gets to hit in Houston, which will add some punch to the lineup.

Beltran always has played well in the spotlight of the postseason.

The Dodgers have played like a team of destiny most of the year. They have a good blend of seasoned veterans and solid young talent and the best pitching staff from top to bottom of any team in the game.

And Kershaw showed once again that he is the best pitcher on the planet.

Manager Dave Roberts continues to push the right buttons and the Dodgers keep winning. Three wins away from their goal of 11 postseason victories, the team has played focused ball this postseason, taking things one pitch, one at bat, one inning and one game at a time.

So far, it has been highly successful.