LOS ANGELES (AP) — The hottest World Series game on record drew some pretty cool customers to Dodger Stadium.
George Lopez shook off the 103-degree heat to wave a huge Dodger flag from on top of the home team’s dugout. Fellow comedian Jerry Seinfeld was there to watch, as was Lady Gaga.
Dodger royalty was well represented by a pair of nonagenarians in Tommy Lasorda and Don Newcombe, and one soon to be in Vin Scully. Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
And then there was Clayton Kershaw, the coolest of them all.
On a night 29 years in the making, the highest-paid player on the highest-paid team delivered his weight in gold in Game 1 for the Dodgers. Kershaw not only won his first World Series game but was linked to the great Sandy Koufax one more time by becoming the first Dodger pitcher to strike out 10 or more in a World Series game since Koufax did it to win Game 7 in 1965.
Koufax was there to take it all in, and it must have seemed awfully familiar.
Seven innings of dominance, with one minor hiccup. No wonder Scully was smiling, finally free to be a Dodger fan after all those years of being the team’s voice.
A lot of other people were smiling, too, and they weren’t all celebrities. Some 54,253 fans packed their way into sweaty Dodger Stadium for the first World Series here since Kirk Gibson hit the legendary home run in 1988, and were immediately rewarded when Chris Taylor hit the first pitch by Dallas Keuchel into the left field pavilion.
Yes, they bounced beach balls around because this is Dodger Stadium and that’s what they do. But they came with an energy born of three decades worth of frustration, and they came ready to be loud.
“This place was the most electric I’ve ever seen it,” said Justin Turner, who gave the crowd plenty to cheer for with his sixth inning home run that proved the deciding margin.
They gave Scully a standing ovation when he was shown on the video board between innings. They chanted “MVP, MVP” when Turner came up in the eighth inning after hitting the go ahead home run in his previous at bat.
And, unlike Game 1 of 1988, there were no tail lights seen from the cars of fans leaving before the game was over. They stayed until the end, singing along with Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” when it was over.
This was not a game the Dodgers could afford to lose. Not at home, and certainly not with their ace on the mound.
It wouldn’t have seemed proper to lose it with Koufax in attendance, either.
“He’s in our corner. He’s rooting for us,” Kershaw said. “I’ve said it a million times, but he’s a special guy. Not too many guys can have that pedigree and be the kind of man he is. And thankful that I’ve gotten to hang out with him for a little while.”
With a little help from Taylor and Turner, Kershaw made sure a loss wasn’t going to happen on his watch. He gave up only three hits, one of them a home run by Alex Bregman that made it a 1-1 game until Turner’s sixth inning homer.
It took just 2 hours and 28 minutes, the fastest World Series game in 25 years. Kershaw and Keuchel both pitched like they were trying to get out of the heat, with only the Turner home run separating the two.
“They had two big swings, we had one,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. “It’s 3-1, we get to Game 2. It’s no more complicated than that.”
Nothing seems too complicated for the Dodgers this year. They’ve been as dominant in the playoffs (they’re now 8-1) as they were in most of the regular season, and they’re playing with a swagger that will make them a difficult team to beat.
The starting pitching is impeccable, and the bullpen is lights out. Anyone in the lineup can hit a home run at any given time, and Turner might be the most underrated superstar you’ll ever see.
The Dodgers are on such a roll they even used the weather to their advantage. Turner said he wasn’t sure his game winner would go out, but somehow it did.
“If it’s 10 degrees cooler that’s probably an easy fly ball to left field,” Turner said.
A hot team on a hot night proved to be an unbeatable combination.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg