CHICAGO — The Internet was abuzz Tuesday afternoon, when the Red Sox used their official Twitter account to recall the night Dave Roberts carved his name into baseball history, and the Yankees responded with a social media takedown.
“Today’s basically a holiday,” the Red Sox tweeted, along with a 1-minute, 29-second video of Roberts swiping second base exactly 13 years ago, a play that famously changed the complexion of the 2004 American League Championship Series.
“Ah, work day for us,” the Yankees tweeted as a reply. “Game time is 5:08 pm, if you’re not busy.”
The response that was retweeted 14,000 times, an indication of how the play still inspires a passionate response.
But for Roberts, the author of it all, the anniversary of his dash into the history books barely made a mark. Of course, the reigning National League Manager of the Year had more pressing issues, with his Dodgers entering play Tuesday night just two wins away from the franchise’s first World Series appearance since 1988.
“I don’t bring it up ever,” Roberts said before Game 3 of the NLCS against the Cubs.
Not that he doesn’t have it brought up to him. The most recent example came from a player who wasn’t even on the continent when the Red Sox stormed back from a 3-0 series deficit to knock off the Yankees — buoyed by Roberts’ steal.
“Yu Darvish, about two weeks ago I guess, was surfing the Internet, and there was an aha moment,” Roberts said. “He ran across the stolen base and kind of put two and two together and didn’t realize that was his manager. So he proceeded to kind of awkwardly approach me about it and talked about my goatee and how I could steal a base. He just couldn’t believe that was my manager. So that was kind of funny.”
Roberts long ago moved on to the next phase of his baseball life. He sent Darvish to the mound Tuesday against the Cubs, who in Theo Epstein share the same architect as that curse-breaking Red Sox team of 2004.
In Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, with the Red Sox down 3-0 and trailing by a run in the ninth, Roberts never swung a bat. Nor did he take the field. Instead, he ran for Kevin Millar, swiped second with Mariano Rivera on the mound, then scored the tying run on Bill Mueller’s hit. In the 12th, David Ortiz walked off the Yankees, beginning the greatest comeback in the history of baseball.
It all began with Roberts embracing his role, a principle he has instilled in the Dodgers. Consider his bullpen, which has excelled during the postseason partly because of a willingness to accept different roles. Kenta Maeda, a starter, has morphed into a dangerous weapon. Closer Kenley Jansen hasn’t missed a beat when asked to pitch beyond one inning. The bullpen advantage has shaped the series.
The Cubs’ bullpen has a 7.03 ERA, which has negated the stellar work by a rotation that posted a 1.98 ERA in seven playoff games. The Dodgers have asked their bullpen arms for 19 2/3 innings. They have a 1.37 ERA, easily the best among all playoff teams.
Every time the bullpen door has swung open, the Dodgers have been ready, just as Roberts was 13 years ago Tuesday.
“I think a message that I do bring up is in the sense of just being prepared for a particular moment,” Roberts said. “And I was in 2004. Each guy on our ballclub, I think, can relate to that.”