A year removed from guiding the Dodgers to a historic season, manager Dave Roberts and his players made good on their promise to return to the World Series by edging the Milwaukee Brewers in a thrilling seven-game series last week.
“It was a hard-fought series, and first and foremost I want to really congratulate Craig [Counsell, Brewers manager] and the Milwaukee Brewers on a tremendous season,” Roberts told reporters after the game. “ … It was a tremendous series, a great fan base. It was just kind of our [bullpen] that was very good this series. We got big hits when we needed them. I thought we played good defense, but then again, this series could have went either way. They gave us all we could handle.”
Roberts, who purchased a home in La Cañada Flintridge last year, advanced to his second consecutive World Series as manager despite an up-and-down season. The Dodgers were 10 games under .500 on May 16 with a 16-26 record, 8½ games behind the National League West leader.
The team was without third baseman Justin Turner early in the year, and shortstop Corey Seager’s season ended in April after he sustained an injury that led to elbow surgery. The squad didn’t get back to a .500 record until June 7 and eventually went on to defeat the Colorado Rockies in a one-game tiebreaker to claim the NL West Division crown for a sixth consecutive year.
“I’m just so proud of our guys for enduring this roller coaster of a season,” Roberts said in a press conference after winning the NLCS. “A lot of people had their hand in this. For us to just continue to lean on each other, depend on one another and stay the course, it says a lot about the focus and toughness of this team. Coaches, training staff, baseball ops, scouts and so many people got us to this point. So I’m just really proud of this entire organization and look forward to giving ourselves a chance to bring a championship back to Los Angeles.”
Roberts’ goal for the team was always to win the World Series. Standing in the Dodgers’ way this year are the Boston Red Sox, whose fan base fondly remembers the Los Angeles manager for one specific play in 2004.
Roberts, who was traded from L.A. to Boston in July 2004, entered the ninth inning of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series as a pinch runner on first base with no outs. The Red Sox were on the brink of elimination, trailing the New York Yankees 4-3 in the game and 3-0 in the series. With legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera on the mound, Roberts stole second base and then scored the game-tying run on a single by Bill Mueller. David Ortiz hit a walk-off two-run home run in the 12th inning as Boston avoided elimination. The Red Sox ended up making a historic comeback, becoming the first MLB team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a seven-game series. Boston then swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series for their first championship since 1918.
“I’m looking forward to going back to Fenway,” Roberts said. “Obviously, for me personally, I have a lot of fond memories of the Red Sox and Fenway Park. To be wearing another uniform and to go in there playing for a World Series championship is going to be special for me. It’s great for baseball. Two storied franchises going head to head. It’s going to be a great series.”
Another storyline for Roberts is facing his former Dodgers teammate Alex Cora, who was drafted by the Dodgers in 1996 and won a World Series title as a player for the Red Sox in 2007. The two played in Los Angeles from 2002-2004, becoming the first former teammates to square off in the World Series as managers since Mike Scioscia and Dusty Baker in 2002.
“Alex and I were former teammates and very good friends and competing with each other, against each other,” Roberts told reporters on Monday. “To kind of see our different paths and where we’ve come, it’s really exceeded all of our dreams. This is a dream job for me, and I know speaking for him this is his dream job. For us to play for a [World Series] championship, West Coast, East Coast, Dodgers, Red Sox, I can’t see it getting any better.”
Cora got the upper hand over his former teammate on Tuesday, guiding the Red Sox to an 8-4 victory over the Dodgers at Fenway Park. Game 2 was played on Wednesday and the teams will travel to Los Angeles today and prepare for the third game of the World Series scheduled on Friday, Oct. 26, at 5:09 p.m.