Joc Pederson took a deep breath, exhaled, and then swung like his life depended on it.
The baseball landed 430-feet away, bouncing off the back wall of the Tampa Bay bullpen. After Pederson touched home plate and jogged back to the dugout, he took his helmet off. Ordinarily, you would expect a look of jubilation or glee upon his face. Instead appeared a look of anger and focus. The next five words out of his mouth, a rallying cry for a team that had looked defeated less than 24 hours prior.
"They don't want that smoke!" Pederson yelled at his teammates.
The translation was simple: The Rays want no part of the Dodgers vaunted offense, and if they play like they did over the past three months before Saturday, they were unbeatable.
And with that, the Dodgers flushed out the painful memories from the most devastating loss in World Series history, and responded the way they needed to in Game 5.
Pederson and Max Muncy both homered, as the Dodgers defeated the Rays, 4-2, in Game 5, to take a 3-2 lead in the World Series.
"Past success or failures bleed into a players psyche and a team's psyche," admitted Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts about his team's ability to turn the page on Saturday's calamitous loss. "Now when you can drown out all that stuff, it does make it easier to focus on winning that night's ballgame. Tonight there was 28 players collectively focused on winning and we got it done."
It didn't matter they lost three different leads the night before. It didn't matter that Dave Roberts took Julio Urias out too early, or left Pedro Baez in too late. It didn't matter that Kenley Jansen blew his third World Series save, or that Chris Taylor and Will Smith committed two little league errors on the final play of the game.
None of that mattered because they are now one win away from winning the World Series.
"I'm very excited, but at the same time we have to win one more game," said Clayton Kershaw.
The Dodgers players said all the right things when they arrived at Globe Life Field before Game 5. They said they forgot about the nightmarish ending to Game 4 the second they left the locker room and boarded the team bus back to the bubble.
They proved it the minute the first pitch was thrown.
Mookie Betts led off the game with a double, and scored seconds later on an RBI single by Corey Seager. Just like that the Dodgers led 1-0, and responded perfectly to any ill effects psychologically that may have clouded their minds from the night prior.
By the time the first inning had come to an end, the Dodgers had scratched two runs across and staked Clayton Kershaw to a 2-0 lead.
"It was huge," said Muncy of the Dodgers getting out to an early lead after last night's loss. "None of us were thinking about last night. It was like last night never happened to us. We were worried about today. We worried about the first pitch. We were worried about what we were going to do against Glasnow and we went out and executed the plan like we were supposed to."
Kershaw threw two scoreless innings before Pederson's power stroke gave Los Angeles a 3-0 lead.
"It's been a little bit of a rollercoaster," admitted Pederson of the last 24 hours and the year as a whole. "He [Tyler Glasnow] throws the ball really hard. He got me with that pitch [fastball up] in Game 1, so it was nice to be able to return the favor."
The Rays responded with two runs in the bottom of the third after Betts misplayed a groundball down the right field line off the bat of Yandy Diaz.
Betts underran the ball, allowing it to roll to the wall, Kevin Kiermaier scored and Diaz ended up on third. He would score a few pitches later on Randy Arozarena's MLB-record 27th hit of the postseason, ironically his first with a runner in scoring position.
"He's pretty special," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. "He wanted the ball after that hit. Congrats to Randy."
An inning later it appeared that Tampa Bay had Kershaw on the ropes when they put the tying run on third base with no outs. With visions of Jackie Robinson in the 1955 World Series dancing in his head, Rays' outfielder Manuel Margot attempted to steal home and tie the game.
Alertly, Kershaw stepped of the rubber and threw home. Margot was called out on a close play at the plate and the Dodgers remained in the lead. Kershaw had escaped another potentially disastrous inning.
"I wasn't really anticipating it, but Muncy yelled at me 'step off, step, off,' so instinctually I did it and it was a big out for us right there," said Kershaw of the play.
"Thankfully I was fortunate enough in the past to see one or two guys attempt that on him," said Muncy. "I ran yelling at him telling him 'guy going home' and he didn't panic and did what he was supposed to."
Immediately following the attempted steal of home, Muncy smacked a full-count fastball that landed deep into the seats in right field for a moon shot that put the Dodgers ahead 4-2.
"I was angry I didn't hit it far enough," said Muncy who stood and stared at his majestic homer. "I wanted to hit that ball out of the stadium. When you connect on 100 miles per hour, there's probably not a better feeling than that. I didn't even feel it hit the bat and I was pumped up."
Tyler Glasnow surrendered four runs over five frames and took the loss for the second time in the series.
"Obviously this game didn't go as planned," said Glasnow. "I think this will make me stronger. It's definitely not a position I want to be in, but I think it makes me hungry to want to improve.
"I was impressed he was able to get through five innings. I don't think any of us thought that was a possibility after what happened in the first few innings," said Kash of Glasnow. "He held them close enough to keep us within striking distance and now we're going to have to bounce back in Game 6."
Kershaw retired the next seven batters he faced after Margot's gutsy steal of home, and surpassed Justin Verlander for the most strikeouts in postseason history with 207.
"It just means I've gone to the postseason a lot," Kershaw said of the record. "Obviously it's a special opportunity to be a part of a team like this and be a part of some of those names."
With two outs in the sixth inning, Roberts walked to the mound to remove Kershaw from the game. The 11,437 fans in attendance greeted Roberts with a chorus of boos as he went to take the ball from the three-time Cy Young Award winner, and then gave Kershaw a long standing ovation as he returned to the dugout.
"I understand that fans get caught up in emotion, and I'm emotional, but I have to have clarity," said Roberts who admitted the boos didn't feel good. "I can't get caught up in fans reaction to things, because my job is to help us win a World Series."
Despite their disappointment with the decision to take Kershaw out of the game, it turned out to be the right move.
Dustin May, Victor Gonzalez, and Blake Treinen combined to pitch three scoreless innings of relief, giving the Dodgers the redemption they so desperately needed.
"That was an unbelievable job by those guys tonight," said Kershaw. "That was huge."
"It's about believing in those guys," said Roberts of his decision to use those relievers in high-leverage situations. "I have confidence and belief in them and they made me look good tonight.
Less than 24 hours after it appeared their title chances had dwindled, the Dodgers responded like they were the best team in baseball and made it abundantly clear they weren't going to roll over after a horrific loss. Instead they came out swinging and pushed the Rays to the brink of elimination.
Game 6 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at 5:08 PM PT.