ARLINGTON -- Clayton Kershaw launches another bid to cement a Hall of Fame legacy with a World Series title when he takes the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers in game one against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.
The 32-year-old left-handed hurler will be making his fifth career World Series start, aiming to finally lay to rest the narrative that he can't come through in the post-season.
"That narrative couldn't be further from the truth," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after Kershaw was roughed up in the sixth inning of the Dodgers' game-four loss to the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series last week.
The Dodgers rallied from 3-1 down in the series to book their third World Series berth in four years and fair or not, Los Angeles ace Kershaw will be under scrutiny.
The three-time Cy Young award-winner has a losing record in the playoffs. His Earned Run Average in the regular season is 2.43 but rises sharply in the post-season -- it's 5.40 in five World Series games.
In game five of the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros, pitching with a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning he allowed four runs.
In 2018 he took the loss against the Red Sox in games one and five of the World Series.
The Dodgers didn't make it back to the World Series last year, when Kershaw entered game five of the NL Division Series against the Washington Nationals with a two-run lead and gave up home runs on two straight pitches as the Nats clinched the series with a 7-3 10-inning victory.
Frustrated Dodgers fans ran over Kershaw jerseys in the parking lot, but Roberts says Kershaw's post-season numbers don't indicate a choker, but rather the burden he's asked to carry.
He notes that Kershaw's been asked to pitch on short rest something "people nowadays just don't do that, and he's done it numerous, numerous times.
"And other relievers giving up his runs. There's just a lot of things that go into easily just pinning on Clayton that he's not a post-season pitcher.
"I just know that there's not a team that wouldn't want him taking the ball in the post-season."
Kershaw's teammates are also bullish on his abilities.
"It's Clayton Kershaw," veteran Justin Turner said simply when asked about the confidence Kershaw inspires.
"He's feeling good, feeling healthy. We know he's going to be prepared and go out and give us a chance to win a ball game."
Kershaw's meticulous preparation will be especially important against a Tampa Bay Rays team that the Dodgers haven't faced in 2020.
- 'Every year is different' -
The schedule for the pandemic-shortened season focused on cutting down teams' travel, and the Dodgers say they've barely had a chance to see the Rays play on TV.
Although Kershaw was scratched from one scheduled start in the NLCS with back spasms, he said Monday he's ready to go.
And he's not getting sucked into a saga of past post-season disappointments.
"I think every year is different," Kershaw said. "Obviously the post-season you have that experience to draw on, just trying to learn from that as best you can, but every year is different, every team is different.
"The Rays are a different team than the Astros and the Red Sox.
"I'm going to prepare like I always do and be as ready as I can be -- (I'm) excited about another opportunity to get it done."
© Agence France-Presse