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Kershaw superb in winning 1st Series start

MLB.com @castrovince

LOS ANGELES -- On the field, and in the dugout and bullpen, the Dodgers knew it early Tuesday night: Clayton Kershaw had the good stuff in Game 1 of the World Series presented by YouTube TV.

They saw it with the first slider he broke out to Astros leadoff man George Springer -- the one Springer swung through for the first of Kershaw's 11 strikeouts. And for seven magnificent innings, that stuff never relented as Kershaw pitched the Dodgers to a 3-1 home victory in their first Fall Classic game in 29 years.

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LOS ANGELES -- On the field, and in the dugout and bullpen, the Dodgers knew it early Tuesday night: Clayton Kershaw had the good stuff in Game 1 of the World Series presented by YouTube TV.

They saw it with the first slider he broke out to Astros leadoff man George Springer -- the one Springer swung through for the first of Kershaw's 11 strikeouts. And for seven magnificent innings, that stuff never relented as Kershaw pitched the Dodgers to a 3-1 home victory in their first Fall Classic game in 29 years.

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"That, to me, is his masterpiece," teammate Brandon McCarthy said of Kershaw's outing, in which the ace left-hander allowed just a run on three hits with zero walks. "I know he has the no-hitter [in 2014]. But considering the stage, considering fatigue where you're at in the season, facing a team that good on that stage, to pitch that way, that's as good as it gets, really."

DYK: Kershaw, LA set home postseason record

For the better part of Kershaw's 10-year Major League career, he has been as good as it gets, putting himself on an almost certain Cooperstown path. But his 6-7 record and 4.40 ERA in 21 previous postseason appearances (17 starts) has been the subject of great scrutiny and curiosity. Kershaw entered this important assignment with an opportunity to crush that narrative. He seized it, and he also built off his plan to change the conversation in these parts about the glorification of the 1988 team by creating some more modern-day magic.

How's this for updating the Dodgers' digest? Kershaw became the first pitcher in club history to notch double-digit strikeouts in a World Series game since Sandy Koufax, who was in attendance Tuesday, struck out 10 in Game 7 in 1965. Kershaw also tied Don Newcombe (1949 Brooklyn Dodgers, Game 1) for the most strikeouts without a walk by any MLB pitcher in a World Series start.

• Photo of the Night: Kershaw chats with Koufax after dominant win

"This team is a really good hitting team," Kershaw said of the Astros. "They hit a lot of homers and don't strike out. There's little room for error. So it's important for me to establish pitches, be able to throw multiple things for strikes, and thankfully I was able to do that tonight."

Video: WS2017 Gm1: Kershaw discusses his dominant start

Kershaw made but one mistake. At the start of the fourth inning, he hung a four-seamer to Alex Bregman, whose leadoff shot into the left-field seats answered the 1-0 lead Los Angeles had obtained on Chris Taylor's leadoff homer in the first. That continued a trend in which all of Kershaw's runs allowed this postseason have come on the long ball. He's given up eight runs on seven homers, including six solo shots. Facing a Houston team that finished second in homers (238) in the regular season, perhaps that was an unsurprising way for the Astros to get to Kershaw.

Video: WS2017 Gm1: Springer on challenges of facing Kershaw

What was more surprising was Kershaw's ability to rack up six looking and five swinging strikeouts against a Houston club that was statistically the hardest team in baseball to strike out this season. In fact, this was the most strikeouts for any pitcher against the Astros in 2017.

"When he's on, you can tell," first baseman Cody Bellinger said. "There's a lot of awkward swings and awkward takes."

Video: WS2017 Gm1: Kershaw freezes Gonzalez on curveball

From the beginning, it was evident that Kershaw's curveball and slider were in full effect in the 103-degree heat. He said it didn't take him long to get loose in those conditions, and that was quite clear from the sharpness of his stuff.

"He made quality pitches since the first inning," Jose Altuve said. "It was really tough to hit him. ... Clayton Kershaw, man. He's been like that since he got to the big leagues."

Video: WS2017 Gm1: Roberts on Kershaw's tremendous outing

Kershaw wound up throwing 83 pitches, 57 of which were for strikes, more than holding his own in an old-fashioned pitchers' duel with Houston ace Dallas Keuchel, who buckled by giving up a two-run homer to Justin Turner in the sixth. Kershaw's effort was the first double-digit strikeout performance by any World Series pitcher since the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright struck out 10 in Game 5 of 2013, and it was the most in a World Series Game 1 since Bob Gibson's 17-strikeout gem in 1968.

Video: WS2017 Gm1: Kershaw on making his World Series debut

Having waited so long to advance to this stage, Kershaw did not disappoint. Forget any concern about the postseason profile or the back that sidelined him for more than a month and had some wondering about the overall quality of his signature stuff. This was Kershaw at his absolute best.

"He's one of the most competitive people I've ever been around in my life," Turner said. "To see him out there tonight doing what he did to one of the best offense in baseball .. it was incredible."

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw