Terrance Gore a game-changer? Dodgers speedster ready for his Dave Roberts moment
Dave Roberts cemented his place in sports history 16 years ago.
The Dodgers manager was a role player for the Boston Red Sox at the time. His manager, Terry Francona, didn’t need him to be much else. Boston had acquired Roberts at the July 2004 trade deadline because the team was missing a base-running specialist.
The decision to bring him into the fold paid off Oct. 17, 2004. Facing elimination by the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, Roberts replaced Kevin Millar at first base in the ninth inning. He took off for second base, slid headfirst and touched the bag before Derek Jeter could tag him. Moments later, Roberts scored to tie it up.
The steal, executed against the battery of Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, sparked an extra-innings win. It put in motion the World Series run that ended Boston’s 86-year championship drought. For years afterward, fans thanked Roberts for his role in the victory.
The Dodgers look to close out their National League wild-card playoff series against the Milwaukee Brewers with a win in Game 2 on Thursday.
Roberts, of course, didn’t approach his brief stint in Boston with his eye on becoming part of lore. Terrance Gore, who is playing a role on the Dodgers’ wild-card series roster similar to Roberts’ in the 2004 postseason, isn’t actively trying to win over legions of Dodgers followers either.
But the journeyman has spent weeks preparing for an opportunity to make postseason opponents uncomfortable.
“I talked to Doc yesterday about it and he was like, ‘You’re the faster me,’” Gore said in a videoconference before Game 2 against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Gore estimated he could run a 40-yard dash in about 4.2 seconds. Roberts said the fastest time he recorded during his playing career was 4.45 seconds.
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner’s in-game ESPN interview was widely panned and was especially unpopular with manager Dave Roberts, who laid down the law.
“I’d still take me stealing a base over [Gore],” Roberts joked, “but he’s not a bad second choice.”
Gore joined the Dodgers on a minor league contract in February. He was on the opening day roster in July. In early August he was designated for assignment and outrighted to the team’s alternate training site.
Gore, who stole four bases during the 2014 and ’15 playoffs for the Kansas City Royals, didn’t know for certain the Dodgers would include him on their postseason roster. Until they did, he worked on the skills that made him desirable. Every other intrasquad game at USC, he got on base in late innings to steal bags. He practiced his reactions and improved his agility.
More recently, Gore has worked with first base coach George Lombard on stealing bases.
Roberts admitted he might be a “little bit biased toward a player like” Gore, but he is confident the 29-year-old can rise to the occasion if needed.
“When you can supplant a guy that essentially gives you, call it a 95% success rate against a pitcher-catcher combo, that’s good,” Roberts said. “The work he and George Lombard are putting in behind the scenes is incredible. I’ve talked about it. I think the game honors you. And I think the game, if the situation presents itself, will honor him.”
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