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Clayton Kershaw reflects on NLDS loss, ‘shocked’ by Astros allegations

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LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw was uncommonly vulnerable on the night of Oct. 9, in the aftermath of an National League Division Series elimination by the Washington Nationals.

Kershaw entered Game 5 with two outs and a two-run lead in the seventh inning. He struck out Adam Eaton, came back out for the eighth and surrendered back-to-back, game-tying home runs to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. Later, after watching the Nats take the lead for good with a four-run 10th inning, Kershaw sounded particularly defeated. He talked, somberly, about disappointing his teammates and stated that “everything people say is true right now about the postseason,” a nod to his infamous October struggles.

Nine weeks later, while attending a holiday party for about 300 children at Dodger Stadium on Friday, Kershaw was appreciably more upbeat. He had trimmed his beard, had seemingly lost some weight, and had acquired a fresh perspective.

“You have two options: You can either just kind of crawl into a hole, or you can move on and try to get better for the next year,” he said. “I don’t want to crawl into a hole yet, so I’m going to try to get better for the next year.”

Kershaw, noticeably in decline but still considerably effective, is still a central figure for a Dodgers franchise that has won seven consecutive division titles but is now more than three decades removed from a World Series title. The NLDS elimination in 2019 followed consecutive World Series defeats in 2017 and 2018. The first of those was to the Houston Astros, who have been accused by former players — including Mike Fiers, who spoke publicly about it — of using technology to steal opponents’ signs and relay them to hitters.

Kershaw, who blew two leads of three or more runs in Game 5 from Minute Maid Park, said he was “a little shocked” by the revelations.

“When the team and the players are doing what they can on the field to get the signs, that’s obviously part of the game,” Kershaw said. “But when technology comes into play, if that is really true, it sucks. Unless we get to win the World Series, I don’t really care what the punishment is. But it does suck, no matter what.”

Kershaw hadn’t been keeping tabs on the offseason activity throughout Major League Baseball until the winter meetings took place and major moves were made earlier this week. The Dodgers were aggressive in their pursuit of former Astros ace Gerrit Cole but watched him sign a nine-year, $324 million contract with the New York Yankees. The Dodgers reportedly offered an eight-year, $300 million deal and believed Cole’s decision ultimately came down to him wanting to play for the Yankees, the team for which he grew up rooting.

Kershaw never called to recruit him.

“We would’ve loved to have him here,” Kershaw said, “but that deal was pretty impressive for him.”

The Dodgers were active throughout the winter meetings, but came away with only Blake Treinen, a hard-throwing reliever who constitutes a reclamation project. They have been linked to longtime San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, whom Kershaw said he is quite fond of, and could also re-sign free agent Hyun-Jin Ryu to give them another arm for the top of their rotation. The Dodgers have uncommon depth at almost every position, but would like to add the type of elite-level players who tend to make an even greater impact during short postseason series.

After losing to the Boston Red Sox in the 2018 World Series, Kershaw said the Dodgers’ shortcomings weren’t indicative of any holes on their roster; they simply needed to perform better in October.

Now?

“It’s such a hard question for me to answer just because, bluntly, in the postseason, if I pitch better, we probably are better,” Kershaw said. “It’s not an easy question for me to answer. But we’re in a great spot again. We have a great team.”

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Gerrit Cole fails to win 20th regular-season game in row as Yankees, Rays split doubleheader

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Austin Meadows hit a two-run single, and the Tampa Bay Rays held off the New York Yankees 5-3 for a split of seven-inning games in a doubleheader Saturday.

The Yankees won the opener 8-4 as ace Gerrit Cole came within one strike of earning his 20th straight regular-season win.

Cole, who had won his first three starts since signing a $324 million, nine-year contract in the offseason, took a 5-0 lead into the fifth inning but gave up three runs with two outs and was pulled because of a high pitch count.

In the nightcap, the Rays used six pitchers during a bullpen game. Aaron Judge, who hit his eighth home run of the season in the opener, flied out with a runner on base to end it.

“We’re still not rolling but this was encouraging,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “We had some pretty good at-bats against Gerrit.”

Lefty-swinging Mike Ford hit for Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton against lefty Jalen Beeks in the sixth inning of Game 2 with two on and no outs. Stanton, who also homered in the first game, exited with tightness in his left hamstring.

DJ LeMahieu got the Yankees within 5-3 on a two-run single in the seventh off Beeks. Nick Anderson relieved and retired Judge on the long fly for his second save.

“Crossed my fingers that it wasn’t going out,” Anderson said.

Pete Fairbanks (2-1) pitched the fourth to get the win.

Meadows’ hit off Luis Avilan put Tampa Bay up 3-1 in the fourth inning. Avilan replaced spot starter Michael King (0-1), who allowed three runs on one hit and five walks in 3 2/3 innings.

Plate umpire Vic Carapazza warned the Yankees dugout during the top of the fifth in the nightcap about too much chirping and, after the half-inning ended, ejected hitting coach Marcus Thames. Aaron Boone ran out of the dugout to argue and was also thrown out by Carapazza.

“He misinterpreted what Marcus said,” Boone said. “He should not have been thrown out of the game and that’s that.”

Cole was in control going into the fifth. With two outs and a runner on, Cole had a 1-2 count on Ji-Man Choi, who came back to hit an RBI double.

Jose Martinez followed with a two-run homer on the 107th pitch from a clearly tiring Cole. The right-hander stared in disbelief and went into a squat as Martinez’s drive left the ballpark.

“Obviously pitch count got up there,” Cole said. “I wasn’t able to finish the outing the way we wanted to. They just ran the count.”

Soon after Boone took a slow walk to mound to replace Cole with Chad Green (2-0), who got the win after allowing one run over 1 1/3 innings.

“He was really good,” Boone said of Cole. “Credit to them, they made him work. A couple mistakes there at the end cost him.”

Cole was bidding to tie Roger Clemens, Jake Arrieta and Rube Marquard for the third-longest streak ever. Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell leads the list with 24 in a row, followed by Roy Face with 22.

Cole struck out 10, walked one and gave up six hits. His only loss since May 2019 came in Game 1 of the World Series last October, pitching for Houston against Washington.

Ford also connected for the Yankees in Game 1, and Gio Urshela had three RBIs.

Rays starter Tyler Glasnow lasted just 2 2/3 innings, giving up four runs, five hits and three walks during a 71-pitch outing.

“It obviously didn’t go as planned. I left too many good pitches over the plate and didn’t get ahead of anybody,” Glasnow said.

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Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton to have MRI on injured hamstring

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New York Yankees star Giancarlo Stanton will get an MRI on his hamstring and could land on the injured list, manager Aaron Boone said Saturday.

In the second game of a doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays, Stanton walked in the fourth inning and advanced to second base after a wild pitch.

“When he moved up on the wild pitch, that’s where it tightened up on him,” Boone said after the 5-3 loss. “We’re going to get an MRI, but it does look like it’s an IL situation.”

Stanton later scored in the fourth inning, but Mike Ford pinch hit for him in the sixth inning.

In 14 games this season, Stanton is batting .293 with three home runs and seven RBIs.

“Yeah it’s tough, a guy that’s starting out with MVP numbers, driving the ball, coming up in big situations for us. It’s going to be a tough loss, however long he’s out,” teammate Aaron Judge said.

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Gerrit Cole strikes out 10 in Yankees’ victory over Rays, but ace fails to win 20th regular-season game in row

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Gerrit Cole came within one strike of earning his 20th straight regular-season win before getting pulled, and the New York Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays 8-4 Saturday in the opener of a seven-inning doubleheader.

Cole, who had won his first three starts since signing a $324 million, nine-year contract in the offseason, took a 5-0 lead into the fifth. With two outs and a runner on, Cole had a 1-2 count on Ji-Man Choi, who came back to hit an RBI double.

Jose Martinez followed with a two-run homer on the 107th pitch from a clearly tiring Cole. The ace stared in disbelief and went into a squat as Martinez’s drive left the ballpark.

“Obviously pitch count got up there,” Cole said. “I wasn’t able to finish the outing the way we wanted to. They just ran the count.”

Soon after Yankees manager Aaron Boone took a slow walk to the mound to replace Cole with Chad Green (2-0), who got the win after allowing one run over 1 1/3 innings.

“He was really good,” Boone said of Cole. “Credit to them, they made him work. A couple mistakes there at the end cost him.”

Cole was bidding to tie Roger Clemens, Jake Arrieta and Rube Marquard for the third-longest streak ever. Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell leads the list with 24 in a row, followed by Roy Face with 22.

Cole struck out 10, walked one and gave up six hits. His only loss since May 2019 came in Game 1 of the World Series last October, pitching for Houston against Washington.

Aaron Judge hit his eighth home run of the season for the Yankees. Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Ford also connected for New York.

After Ford homered, a two-run double by Gio Urshela put the Yankees up 4-0 and chased Rays starter Tyler Glasnow (0-1) with two outs in the third.

Stanton made it 5-0 on a fifth-inning shot off Sean Gilmartin before Judge hit a two-run drive off an overhanging catwalk in the sixth that put New York up 7-3.

Urshela got his third RBI on a sacrifice fly in the seventh. He also made a nifty waist grab near the third-base dugout after a long run on pinch-hitter Austin Meadows‘ foul in the sixth.

Glasnow gave up four runs, five hits, three walks and struck out five during a 71-pitch outing.

“It obviously didn’t go as planned. I left too many good pitches over the plate and didn’t get ahead of anybody,” Glasnow said. “When I can’t throw a curveball for a strike, I have one option, or one-and-a-half options basically, just a little bit of a changeup. When I start 2-0, everyone in the building knows what’s coming.”

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