World Series 2020: Clayton Kershaw repairs his playoff legacy with Game 5 win

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Cali Kershaw, 5, a nuclear bundle of energy, jitterbugged around the room, under the table and over it, side to side, everywhere space permitted. Her little brother, Charley, 3, tried to keep up — to the point that their father, Clayton Kershaw, felt the need to offer a nudge/apology. “You guys are maniacs,” he said.

It was about 30 minutes after he won Game 5 of the 116th World Series, his second victory in it, one that pushed the Los Angeles Dodgers to the brink of their first championship in more than three decades. His hair long, his beard ever ratty, his face still cherubic, his resolve hardened, Kershaw hadn’t pitched his finest, and that was OK. Afterward, Cali told him that she was proud of him, and that was plenty.

A guy sticks around long enough, and you see him become the man he’s meant to be. Kershaw is 32 years old, past his prime, more craftsman than conqueror. Although there’s an almost irresistible instinct to measure our greatest athletes against what they once were and to nevertheless hold that as the idea of what they should be, it always felt unfair. Because for every unicorn who stares down Father Time and wins, a hundred others learn the vagaries of age, of regression, of a clock that ticks endlessly.nike jerseys nfl cheap

The acceptance phase is the hardest, and that’s where Kershaw, he of the worst October reputation this side of the house that gives out Mounds on Halloween, lives today. He isn’t what he once was, and he doesn’t need to be because what he is impelled the Dodgers to a 4-2 win against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday. The win left the Dodgers one victory shy of their first championship since 1988 and Kershaw oh so close to getting sized for the ring that has eluded none of his pitching peers.1

Here’s what Kershaw is: good enough, which is, when one is surrounded by the talent the Dodgers possess, good enough. He is capable of excellence, and he is prone to failure, and he is usually closer to the former than the latter. He is not a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde character: Kershaw and October Kershaw, transmogrifying into a fateful creature when the calendar turns. He is flawed, in need of careful handling, prone more to reliability than anything.

He is, in other words, a dad. Every October, it seems, reminds us of that because Kershaw is the sort of father who brings his kids to the podium after good days. In 2017, when he still possessed the blessed arm that flung lightning bolts, Cali first sat alongside him at a postgame news conference. In 2018, Charley joined them. Neither was anywhere to be seen in 2019 because Kershaw wouldn’t dare expose them to the frailty of baseball, which last year damn near broke him. He’d blown a lead, blown a series, and he said: “Everything people say is true right now about the postseason.”

What they said was that he wasn’t meant for October, that he was a choker, that he didn’t have what it takes. No matter what he said, Kershaw never believed that. Nobody reaches the heights he has — three National League Cy Young awards, an MVP award, a regular-season career ERA of 2.43 — without the conviction of his ways. If there was some October bugaboo, be it mental or physical, it would not be impenetrable. He was a pitcher, and pitchers find their way.

This postseason has been Kershaw’s rejoinder. Altogether, 30⅔ innings, 23 hits, 5 walks and 37 strikeouts with a 2.93 ERA and 4 wins. In Game 5 of the World Series, 5⅔ innings, 5 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks and 6 strikeouts. That’s Yeoman’s work for someone whose greatest attribute is no longer what his left arm can produce but the toil it takes to ensure that it produces at its apex.

The appreciation cascaded through Globe Life Field on Sunday, with most of the 11,437 there wearing Dodger blue and bequeathing Kershaw something in what was presumably his last outing of 2020: a standing ovation. He held the 3-0 lead the Dodgers spotted him. He worked around a rough third inning in which he yielded a pair of runs. He turned a first-and-third-with-no-outs mess in the fourth into a neat little escape act, securing the inning’s final out when he heard first baseman Max Muncy yell: “Step off!nike cheap nfl jerseys

Behind Kershaw’s back, Rays outfielder Manuel Margot had taken off at a dead sprint, the first attempted straight steal of home in a World Series game since Lonnie Smith did it in 1982. Kershaw fired the ball home, just in time for catcher Austin Barnes to swipe a tag inches before Margot’s fingers slid across the plate. In the fifth, Kershaw broke the all-time record for strikeouts in the postseason. Come the sixth, he had turned two pitches into two outs when Dodgers manager Dave Roberts ascended the dugout steps and walked toward the mound.