ARLINGTON, Texas -- The theme late Saturday night and early Sunday afternoon -- in the aftermath of a heart-wrenching, stomach-churning loss -- was universal among the members of the Los Angeles Dodgers: They had to forget. They had to wipe away the memory of an improbable ninth-inning breakdown, bounce right back and win a crucial, World Series-shifting Game 5.
"We're still pretty confident we're the best team in baseball," Dodgers catcher Will Smith said, "and we're gonna win this thing."
Thanks to more early runs, a gutsy start from Clayton Kershaw and a major recovery from the bullpen, the Dodgers got a step closer with their 4-2 victory over the Rays, taking a 3-2 Series lead and moving one victory away from their first championship since 1988.
The Dodgers picked up a couple of first-inning runs off Tyler Glasnow, then got solo homers from Joc Pederson and Max Muncy. But the game shifted in the bottom of the fourth, with none out, two Rays batters on base and the Dodgers leading by only a run. Kershaw induced a shallow pop-up, recorded a strikeout, then retired Manuel Margot as he attempted to steal home.
Kershaw went on to retire the next five batters, then Dodgers manager Dave Roberts did something that he has famously failed to do before -- he removed Kershaw before it was too late, even though Justin Turner tried to convince him otherwise and a stadium hosting 11,437 fans booed the decision. From there, Dustin May, Victor Gonzalez and Blake Treinen retired 10 of the 13 batters they faced to seal a crucial victory.
"I understand that fans, players get caught up in emotion," Roberts said. "And I'm emotional -- but I still have to have clarity on making decisions, because ultimately my job is to help the Dodgers win the World Series."