The Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays will play Game 5 of the 2020 World Series on Sunday night. The two sides are tied at 2-2 in the best-of-seven series, making Game 5 a pivotal contest. The victor will be a win away from securing the championship, while the loser will need to win Games 6 and 7 in order to win the title for themselves.
While the Rays will start Tyler Glasnow on Sunday, the Dodgers will counter with Clayton Kershaw. Those two squared off in Game 1, when Kershaw outpitched Glasnow (one run in six innings) and the Dodgers sped away to victory. Whether or not Kershaw is able to pitch that well again on Sunday is to be seen. If he can deliver a second high-quality outing in a single World Series, then that should help erase the narrative concerning him and his woes in big games.
For those unfamiliar with this talking point, allow us to highlight three things to know about Kershaw and his postseason performance heading into Game 5.
1. Kershaw has dominated this October
No matter what happens on Sunday, it should be noted that the Dodgers wouldn't be in this position without Kershaw's brilliance this October.
Coming into Game 5, Kershaw has made four appearances this postseason. In those outings, he's posted a 2.88 ERA while holding the opposition to a .592 OPS. Additionally, Kershaw has recorded 28 more strikeouts than walks over 25 innings.
The Dodgers are 3-1 in those contests.
2. Has been better in the regular season
Kershaw's quality the postseason has, obviously, helped improve his career numbers in the postseason. Game 5 will be his 37th career postseason appearance. Over the first 36, he's amassed a 4.22 ERA and a 4.19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 183 innings.
Those marks are worse than the ones Kershaw has put up during the regular season. In 357 regular-season appearances, he's posted a 2.43 ERA and a 4.32 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
There are various explanations for the disparity between what Kershaw has done during the postseason and the regular season -- fatigue; being asked to do too much, be it pitching too deep into games or pitching on short rest out of the bullpen; variance; and so on -- but obviously there is a gap in those numbers, particularly the ERA, that raises eyebrows.
Here's how our Matt Snyder summed it up earlier this postseason:
I also think it would be too dismissive to try and excuse every single instance of Kershaw failing in the playoffs. He's done it enough times that discussion on this subject is merited. One of the greatest pitchers we've ever seen is nearly two runs worse in the playoffs, going by ERA. We can jump through hoops with all the mental gymnastics in the world to try and explain it away, but at the end of the day, he's been a worse pitcher in the playoffs throughout his career. There really isn't any way around that.
3. World Series record is mixed bag
Perhaps predictably, Kershaw's World Series track record features some good and some bad. Game 5 will be his seventh career appearance in Fall Classic. In the first six, he had three outings that can be classified as "good," including Game 1 starts this year and in 2017, and three that can be classified as "not so good," such as both of his starts in the 2018 World Series against the Red Sox. Overall,
Game 5, then, will represent a tiebreaker of sorts -- for Kershaw and for the Dodgers. Whatever he does, you can be certain that the narrative will be a point of discussion.