In a contest that easily could have been considered a must-win affair for Los Angeles, the Dodgers did just enough to outlast the Rays 4-2 in Game 5, setting the stage for a potential series clincher in Game 6 on Tuesday.
Sticking with their current trend of scoring early, the Dodgers got on the board in the first when Mookie Betts doubled and subsequently scored on a Corey Seager single to right. Seager advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches and later crossed the plate after Cody Bellinger beat out an infield single.
In the top of the second, the Dodgers struck again when Joc Pederson delivered a 428-foot solo shot over the center field wall, extending the Los Angeles lead to 3-0.
Starter Clayton Kershaw certainly was not as brilliant as he was in the series opener, but he did just enough to mostly hold the Tampa Bay offense at bay.
After three, the Dodgers were up, 3-2.
The Rays posed a significant threat in the bottom of the fourth when they had runners on first and third with nobody out. Kershaw, though, was able to crank it up a notch by inducing a Joey Wendle popout and striking out Willy Adames. The big play of the inning came when Kershaw kept his composure, stepped off the rubber, and threw out Manuel Margot trying to steal home.
With two out in the top of the fifth—go figure—Max Muncy hit a rocket to right center, lengthening the Los Angeles lead to 4-2.
In a somewhat surprising move, skipper Dave Roberts yanked Kershaw with two out in the sixth inning in favor of young righty Dustin May. Once the dust settled on Kershaw’s night, he threw 85 pitches, allowing two earned runs on five hits and two walks while striking out six. Again, Kershaw was not anywhere near his sharpest, but he did just enough to keep the Dodgers in control of the game.
May threw 1-2/3 innings, allowing just one baserunner—a Kiermaier single to left before being replaced by southpaw Victor Gonzalez, who finished the eighth after surrendering a walk.
After giving up a leadoff single to Margot, Blake Treinen recorded the final three outs to register the first postseason save of his career.
In what could have been a disastrous series of decisions for Roberts, this time each of his moves proved to be both carefully calculated and effective.
Kershaw was credited with the victory, his second of the series and fourth of the postseason.
Tampa starter Tyler Glasnow, who went an even five innings, was tabbed with the loss. Glasnow was charged with all four Los Angeles runs.
With a 3-2 series lead, the home team role will shift back to the Dodgers in Game 6 on Tuesday after a day off on Monday. Tampa Bay is expected to start lefty Blake Snell, while the Dodgers will likely employ a bullpen game. With a victory, Los Angeles will have secured its first World Series Championship since 1988.
First pitch for Game 6 is slated for 8:08 p.m. Eastern time.