The thought flickered through Dave Roberts’ mind when his vision was still clear and his hearing still sharp, before the smoke from in-stadium pyrotechnics clouded the diamond and the blare of the train whistle at Minute Maid Park embedded in his memory.
He stared from the dugout at his fading ace on the mound in the fifth inning of Game 5 of the 2017 World Series. With a three-run lead, two outs and Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman at the plate, Roberts pondered his most audacious act as manager of the Dodgers, executed on the sport’s grandest stage: He would take the baseball away from Clayton Kershaw in the middle of an at-bat.
“I’m going to take him out, right now,” Roberts thought as Kershaw snuck a curveball over the plate for a second strike against Bregman. One strike separated the Dodgers from escaping the inning and stepping closer toward the championship that had eluded them since 1988. Roberts believed the best option to collect the strike was warming up in the bullpen, in the person of Kenta Maeda.