The least attended World Series in modern times welcomed Brad Fullmer on Sunday night.
Fullmer was the big-boned right-handed designated hitter for the Angels in 2002. He was on third base and Scott Spiezio was on first base in the first inning of Game 2. Those two weren’t exactly Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, but Manager Mike Scioscia made the call, and Spiezio broke for second and drew a throw, and Fullmer came home to put the Angels ahead of the San Francisco Giants, 5-0.
That paled a bit as the baseballs kept carrying that night, and the Angels wound up winning, 11-10, on Tim Salmon’s home run.
But for 18 years Fullmer has stood as the final man to steal home, technically, in a World Series game.
Thanks to Clayton Kershaw, Fullmer still does.
If Game 5 of this World Series had followed any other game besides Game 4, it would have had its own identity in the scrapbook. Instead, it will be known as a normal, tactical, gastrointestinally-challenging 4-2 victory for the Dodgers, who now have their first 3-2 lead in a World Series since 1981 when they won Game 6 at Yankee Stadium.
Manager Dave Roberts made some unconventional calls that worked, thanks to relief pitchers Dustin May, Victor Gonzalez and Blake Treinen, who handled the ninth. The Dodgers got three runs before Tyler Glasnow, the Tampa Bay starter and the Hart High alum, got himself situated.
But they were only up 3-2 after four innings, and Kershaw was having difficulty converting his 0-and-2 situations into outs. After the “Stranger Things” episode that capped Game 4, who knew what was next?
Manny Margot, the former Padre who had bunted his way on base in the second, drew a walk. Then he stole second and got to third after Austin Barnes chucked the throw into the outfield.
Kershaw walked Hunter Renfroe, but got a pop-up from Joey Wendle and struck out the struggling Willy Adames.
With third and first and nobody out, the Rays could have squeezed their way into a 3-3 tie if Manager Kevin Cash only had one run in mind. He didn’t, so Kevin Kiermaier was up with two out.
Kershaw got a strike, then picked up a sign from Barnes. Then he heard first baseman Max Muncy, in an urgent tone: “Step off, step off.”
He did, and he saw Margot chugging down the third base line, trying to imitate Jackie Robinson and pull off a play that has gone dormant in today’s baseball.
Kershaw indeed stepped off and fired to Barnes, who tagged Margot just short of the plate.
The Dodgers rarely forgive such mistakes. Muncy smashed a home run off Glasnow with two outs in the fifth for the 4-2 lead. The Dodgers didn’t get another hit, but the Rays didn’t get another baserunner past second base. It reeked of desperation, but it didn’t come from Cash.
“It was my decision, 100 percent,” Margot said. “I thought it was a good idea at the time. From the first pitch to KK (Kiermaier), I knew they weren’t paying attention to me.
“I thought I had a pretty good chance of being safe. I was just trying to score the run, but it didn’t work out that way. I thought it was really close and I don’t know where they tagged me. But we didn’t challenge it.”
Kershaw, of course, has been around to vaguely remember such a combination of 95 percent audacity and five percent hope.
“I heard Max, but it was just kind of instinct to step off,” he said.
“I was a little surprised, yeah,” Roberts said. “It’s left on left, with Kiermaier, and the play was in front of him. Kersh has his back to Margot at the time. So I could see it.”
Cash’s words were careful afterward. He acknowledged that Kershaw has a “slow move because he brings his hands behind his head” and that the Rays believe in “letting our athletic players be athletic. If Manny felt like he saw something one way or the other, it’s hard to say yes or no, whether it was the right move.”
This is when you cue up the legendary 1964 Phillies, who blew a 6½-game lead with 12 games left.
It all started when Cincinnati’s Chico Ruiz tried to steal home with the great Frank Robinson, batting right-handed at the plate. Nothing could have been more wrongheaded. Coach Reggie Otero yelled “No, no, no,” but Ruiz said later he heard, “Go, go, go.” It worked and the Reds won, 1-0.
The Dodgers, who already think one World Series has been stolen from them, have only one more lock to turn.
Margot just tried to steal home and is called OUT!
Do you agree? pic.twitter.com/IaXyQLIWRA
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 26, 2020