ARLINGTON, Texas – Clayton Kershaw stood in the Los Angeles bullpen in right-center field, watching Austin Barnes glove the final pitch, the one from Julio Urías that gave the Dodgers their first World Series title since 1988.
Kershaw had finally become a champion, just like Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser before him. The mission took 13 years in the majors, 15 since the Dodgers made him the seventh pick in the 2006 amateur draft.
The left-hander raised both arms and pointed fingers toward the sky, a huge smile across his face. His blue Dodgers sweatshirt still on, the 32-year-old ace ran through the bullpen door and on to the infield to join his jumping teammates.
“I was trying to take it all in, as best I could,” Kershaw said. “You never really script what you’re going to do or how you’re going to feel. It was just a content feeling — just like, the job is done. We won. We did it. We won our race and it’s over. And we completed our mission. Just a feeling of contentment, joy. And then to get to see the guys and how happy everybody was.”
Kershaw cut through the critics at last, just like one of his curveballs through the strike zone.
One of the most accomplished pitchers in baseball history attained the achievement he had sought most when the Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
“When people talk about him, it's World Series champion first, then future Hall of Famer,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Speaking as graciously as he pitched elegantly, Kershaw spread thank yous as wide as his famous 12-to-6 curveball. After posing on the the pitcher's mound with his family, he thanked “my wife, my kiddos, my family, my friends and all those people that have seen the discipline.”