ARLINGTON, Texas — This is a neutral-site World Series, the first in modern history, played at Globe Life Field, a gleaming new ballpark 1,400 miles from Los Angeles at quarter capacity during a global pandemic. It didn't sound that way in the sixth inning of the Dodgers' 4-2 win in Game 5 on Sunday.
Clayton Kershaw recorded the inning's first two outs with two pitches. He had seemingly discovered a rhythm after a choppy start. But Dodgers manager Dave Roberts emerged to take the ball from the future Hall of Famer anyway. Kershaw tried to persuade Roberts to change his mind. Even third baseman Justin Turner spoke up in support of his teammate. Roberts stayed resolute and took the ball.
The pro-Dodgers crowd of 11,437, most with their minds still on the previous night's debacle and years of heartbreak, let Roberts know what they thought. They loudly booed him as Kershaw, peeved, walked off the field after allowing two runs. And they loudly booed him again when he returned to the dugout.
Roberts didn't bend to the pressure. He wanted to put Dustin May in the game and so he did. It was the first of Roberts' deft decisions.
May responded by striking out Manuel Margot with a 101-mph fastball and retiring the side in order in the seventh.
Roberts replaced May with left-hander Victor Gonzalez with one out after Ji-man Choi, a left-handed hitter, was announced as a pinch-hitter. In response, Rays manager Kevin Cash, whose 28-man roster features 15 position players, opted to pinch-hit Mike Brosseau, a right-handed hitter, for Choi, burning another player to maximize the matchup.
Brosseau walked, bringing up Randy Arozarena, the Rays' best player who earlier collected his 27th hit of the playoffs to set the record for the most in a single postseason. Arozarena lined out on the first pitch. Next, Brandon Lowe flied out to center field to squash the threat.
Roberts made his final bullpen decision before the start of the ninth. Blake Treinen had pitched the previous two days, accumulating 30 pitches in the two outings, but Roberts trusted him to record his first career postseason save.
Margot greeted Treinen with a leadoff single, but the right-hander recovered. He struck out Austin Meadows swinging through a 98-mph four-seam fastball. Joey Wendle flied out. And, for the 27th out, he blew a 98-mph sinker by Willy Adames to pull the Dodgers within a win of their first championship in 32 years.
The Dodgers arrived at Globe Life Field having moved on from Saturday's ninth-inning collapse. At least that's what a few of them said on pregame videoconference calls with reporters. Corey Seager maintained the game was flushed from his mind once he went back to the hotel. Will Smith, a central figure in the collapse's final act, called it "heartbreaking," but emphasized a thought the Dodgers have repeated for weeks.