Dave Roberts' Game 5 Redemption Has Dodgers on the Edge of World Series Glory

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterOctober 26, 2020

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw, center, celebrates after their win against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 of the baseball World Series Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. Dodgers beat the Rays 4-2 to lead the series 3-2 games. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Dodgers' last World Series championship was 32 years ago. Their next one may now be just two days away.

Following the Tampa Bay Raysstunning walk-off win in Game 4 on Saturday, the Dodgers bounced back to take a 3-2 series lead with a 4-2 victory in Game 5 on Sunday. Ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw continued to exorcise his postseason demons, allowing only two runs in 5.2 innings.

Just as crucial for the Dodgers in Game 5, though, was how Dave Roberts rebounded in his own right after arguably managing his club out of a win in the previous contest.

         

Notable Players of the Game

Three for the Dodgers:

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  • SP Clayton Kershaw: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 2 R (2 ER), 6 K. He bent but didn't break and even set a new record for career postseason strikeouts along the way. With only three earned runs allowed over 11.2 innings in two starts, he'll be a candidate for World Series MVP if the Dodgers can win it.
  • LF Joc Pederson and 1B Max Muncy: 3-for-5, 2 BB, 2 HR, 2 RBI. They became the eighth (here) and ninth (here) Dodgers hitters to hit home runs in this World Series. That plus their stylish celebrations upon going yard make for appropriate cause for a two-for-one special. 
  • RHP Dustin May: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 2 K. With respect to Victor Gonzalez's clutch performance in the eighth inning, May's own performance was a crucial return to form following his issues (i.e., six runs in 4.1 innings) over his previous three outings.

      

Three for the Rays:

  • SP Tyler Glasnow: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 2 HR, 4 R (4 ER), 7 K. His two starts in this World Series have yielded 10 total runs and, not so coincidentally, two losses for the Rays. To boot, he achieved infamy in Game 5 by setting a World Series record with three wild pitches.
  • LF Manuel Margot: 2-for-3, 1 BB, 1 SB, 1 CS. Kudos to him for the two-hit day, but it's frankly hard to justify his unsuccessful attempt to steal home plate in the fourth inning. 
  • DH Randy Arozarena: 1-for-4, 1 RBI. His RBI single in the third scored the Rays' second run and also secured a new record for hits in a single postseason. Alas, he also missed a chance to deliver a clutch hit when he flew out against Gonzalez with two on in the eighth.

       

How Dave Roberts Took the Hard Path to Redeeming Himself in Game 5

It frankly feels like a miracle that the Dodgers won Sunday's game.

Though they grabbed an early 3-0 lead through two innings, the Rays cut it to 3-2 in the third inning and were poised to take the lead after they put runners on the corners with nobody out in the fourth. Indeed, the win expectancy chart actually favored Tampa Bay at that point.

And yet the Rays couldn't even tie the game. Joey Wendle popped out, Willy Adames struck out, and then came Margot's ill-advised and ill-fated impression of Jackie Robinson:

Thus did the Dodgers escape their most perilous moment of the game, though Roberts managed them into a few more that might have gone awry.

First, he lifted Kershaw with two outs in the sixth—and only 86 pitches on his line—in favor of May, whose most recent good outing was on Oct. 12 in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

Later in the eighth inning, Roberts swapped out May for Gonzalez with one out and a runner at first. The move set Gonzalez, a left-hander, up to face two right-handed hitters in the persons of pinch-hitter Mike Brosseau and Arozarena, the latter of whom set a record with his ninth homer of the playoffs in Game 4.

For the ninth inning, Roberts bypassed longtime closer Kenley Jansen in favor of Blake Treinen. Though Jansen was more or less unavailable after having thrown 36 pitches across Games 3 and 4, Treinen hadn't exactly pitched well in allowing two runs and getting only two outs in the latter contest.

Each one of these scenarios felt like deja vu all over again for Roberts. 

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

The Dodgers' fifth-year skipper was no stranger to criticism of his pitching changes even before Saturday, yet Game 4 was arguably his lowest point. He lifted talented young lefty Julio Urias after just 80 pitches only to watch his bullpen allow six runs, including four on a pair of home runs served up by Pedro Baez. For that, even Roberts had to admit that he screwed up.

And yet catastrophe did not find Roberts and the Dodgers again in Game 5 as each of his moves panned out. There's little question that good luck played a role in that, but so did the skipper's trust.

Roberts trusted the team's plan for Kershaw to face 21 batters, which he eventually did. He also trusted in May, with whom he'd had a heart-to-heart after a rough outing in Game 2. And with Gonzalez, he seemingly trusted that the lefty would live up to his .208 average against right-handers to that point.

From some angles, none of this should have worked. But it did, particularly when Gonzalez managed to escape harm in the eighth. For this, Roberts deserves a certain amount of credit.

Of course, the Dodgers haven't beaten the Rays just yet. Tampa Bay has thus far responded to each of Los Angeles' wins with a victory of its own, and it's going to have 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell on the mound for Game 6.

But between their MLB-high 349 runs in the regular season and their overall edge (29 to 21) in runs scored in this series, there's reason to believe the Dodgers offense can get to Snell. 

Failing that, they would have an automatic edge in Game 7 by virtue of ace right-hander Walker Buehler, who has a 1.80 ERA in this postseason, being able to take the mound on regular rest.

        

Where the World Series Stands

-The Dodgers lead the series 3-2. After an off day Monday, Game 6 is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Fox will have the broadcast.

-The Rays will start Snell in Game 6. The left-hander got the ball for Game 2 and allowed two earned runs with nine strikeouts but lasted only 4.2 innings.

-The Dodgers will open with right-hander Tony Gonsolin in Game 6. He got the start in Game 2 and recorded only four outs before turning things over to the bullpen. In all likelihood, Dodgers relievers are in for another long day in Game 6.

-If the Rays win Game 6, Game 7 will be Wednesday. If the Dodgers win Game 6, the series is over, and they're champions for the first time since 1988.

       

Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.