“I take pride in stealing bases,” Betts said, “and once I get on the basepaths, I’m just trying to touch home. However I get there is how I get there, but I try to be aggressive.”
Betts homered off Kershaw in their last World Series game, the 2018 clincher at Dodger Stadium. The Red Sox won the series four games to one, and the Dodgers needed 18 innings to get their only victory. That Dodgers team did not have Betts, did not have the best versions of Kershaw and Cody Bellinger, and did not have much of a chance.
In this World Series, the Dodgers have all the star power. The Rays are not a classic underdog — they were 40-20 in the regular season, the best record in the A.L. — but they look the part by comparison. Just one Tampa Bay player, starter Charlie Morton, has made multiple All-Star teams. The Dodgers have three former M.V.P. winners in Bellinger, Betts and Kershaw, and another, Seager, who has been a finalist.
The Rays might have an edge in Game 2, with the former Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell facing the Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin, who will be backed up by Dustin May and Julio Urias. But after surviving a three-games-to-one deficit to Atlanta in the National League Championship Series, the Dodgers seem to be playing with the kind of ease and joy befitting their pedigree.
“I don’t know if looser is the right word, but we’re having fun,” said Bellinger, who finished the scoring in the N.L.C.S. with a go-ahead homer, and started the World Series with another, off Glasnow in the fourth inning. “We know how challenging it is; it’s not an easy sport. To put pressure on yourself, it’s just not the way to do it. I think we’re all just trusting in each other and understanding how good we are.”
Bellinger was a platoon player in the 2018 World Series, starting only two of five games. Kershaw was hit hard in the opening games of the N.L.C.S. in Milwaukee and the World Series in Boston, feeding a storyline he has sought for years to shake.