ARLINGTON, Tex. — For a brief moment Sunday night, as the baseball, the catcher’s mitt and the base runner’s gloved left hand all converged at home plate in a cloud of dirt and a blur of colors, all the accumulated tension and drama swirling around this World Series melted away, and Globe Life Field was overtaken with the sort of awe and wonder that could only greet what is perhaps the most audacious act in sports.

Right there, with Clayton Kershaw on the mound, in the fourth inning of Game 5 of the World Series — Manuel Margot, by God, was trying to steal home.

It was but one play amid the dozens in Sunday’s game and amid the hundreds since this back-and-forth series began, and yet in the moment, it felt as if more than a single run was riding on its outcome. In a large way, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays was tilted in their favor by home plate umpire Marvin Hudson’s emphatic call, later confirmed by replay:

Out.

After the mind had a moment to process the sheer brazenness of Margot’s ill-fated dash, the consequences were clear and would only become clearer as the innings melted away: Kershaw, the future Hall of Fame left-hander, had gotten a reprieve from what had the makings of another unceremonious October exit. The Rays, having squandered their last, best chance to take him down, would not score again.

And when it was over, the Dodgers had “flushed” (their own preferred term) their horrific, walk-off loss in Game 4 the night before — and with a 3-2 lead in the series had moved within one win of the franchise’s first World Series title since 1988. Following a day off, they can close out the Rays on Tuesday in Game 6, when they will start right-hander Tony Gonsolin against Rays lefty Blake Snell.

The setup to the fateful play helps explain its import. The Rays trailed by a run in the bottom of the fourth inning and had Kershaw on the ropes. It was the fourth straight inning they had put the leadoff man on base. The Dodgers’ self-destructive ways, so in evidence the night before in the tumultuous end to Game 4, were returning, with Margot drawing a leadoff walk, stealing second and advancing to third on an error by Dodgers second baseman Chris Taylor.

Now there were two outs, and Margot, in the Rays’ powder-blue top, was scrutinizing Kershaw’s delivery, trying to time it. On an 0-1 pitch to Kevin Kiermaier, he took off — as if he were Jackie Robinson in some grainy video from 1951. Alerted to the attempt, Kershaw calmly stepped off the rubber and threw home to catcher Austin Barnes, who moved into position to make the tag — and Margot, just barely, was out.

“It was 100 percent my decision,” said Margot, who saw Kershaw frequently as a member of the San Diego Padres but had never attempted to steal home against him. “I thought it was a good idea at the time. I thought I had a good chance of being safe. I knew they weren’t paying too much attention to me. … I thought it was really close.”

Although Margot motioned to his dugout to check the replay, it was clear he was out — if just barely — and the Rays did not challenge the call.

“I was a little surprised,” Kiermaier said. “Manny’s a great base runner who is not afraid to take risks. I didn’t have a problem with it. ... It takes a lot of guts to try that in the World Series. It’s not the reason we lost.”

Kershaw, who as a lefty works with his back to third base, said he tells every first baseman he plays with to be on the lookout for and alert him to an attempted steal of home — which, in this case, Max Muncy did.

“If they break, you’ve got to say something,” Kershaw tells them. “It’s something that doesn’t happen much, but it has happened before, and you prepare for it. ... I just know now to step off fast and throw it.”

It was the first attempted steal of home in the World Series since Brad Fullmer of the 2002 Anaheim Angels successfully pulled it off on the front end of a double steal in Game 2. The last player to be thrown out trying to steal home in the World Series was Shane Mack of the 1991 Minnesota Twins, whose caught-stealing came on a failed squeeze bunt.

Margot’s attempt will have its critics, but there was plenty of logic to it as well. There were two outs. Kiermaier against Kershaw was a tough, lefty-on-lefty matchup for the Rays. Kershaw’s back was to Margot as he peered toward the plate. Justin Turner, the third baseman, wasn’t holding Margot on, giving him a 30- to 40-foot head start when he took off.

The most effective rebuttal to that argument is to simply point out that, especially in a World Series game, outs are too precious to give one away, especially at home plate.

Asked whether the Rays encourage players to take risks such as Margot’s, Manager Kevin Cash, choosing his words carefully, said: “I think we really encourage making intelligent baseball decisions, and Manny felt like he had the opportunity to score and he was going to get in there, and we should support him … If Manny felt he had a read on it, for whatever reason, it’s tough for me to say yes or no. He may be seeing something in the moment, and he’s trying to pick up his team.”

Unless Kershaw makes a surprise bullpen appearance in Game 6 or 7, his 2020 postseason comes to an end with a 4-1 record and a 2.93 ERA, and with 37 strikeouts and just five walks across 30 ⅔ innings. It won’t completely put to rest the old narrative that he is a better pitcher in the regular season (career ERA: 2.43) than the postseason (4.19). But it will have included a pair of wins in the World Series and an eight-inning, no-run, 13-strikeout tour de force against Milwaukee in the first round. With six Sunday night, he passed Justin Verlander for the most career strikeouts in the postseason with 207.

And if Kershaw gets his ring, he won’t care a lick about any of the rest.

“It feels pretty good,” Kershaw said of surviving 5 ⅔ innings without his best stuff. “Any time you can have success in the postseason, it just means so much. … I know what the other end of that feels like, too. So I’ll definitely take it when I can get it.”

In an alternate universe, one where the Dodgers held on to win Game 4 instead of losing in excruciating and humiliating fashion, Kershaw would have been pitching to give the Dodgers the World Series title Sunday night, at a ballpark about half an hour’s drive from his suburban Dallas home. Instead, he was pitching to give them back the series lead — and restore their dignity.

The risky attempted steal of home marked a turning point in Kershaw’s night. He retired the next five Rays he faced, with none of them hitting a ball out of the infield. The decision by Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts to pull him with two outs in the sixth — following a plan Kershaw and Roberts had agreed to during the previous inning break — drew a resounding chorus of boos from the heavily pro-Dodgers crowd of 11,437, followed by a standing ovation as Kershaw walked off.

“We just felt that he was at the end,” Roberts said. “He just had enough to get two hitters. We talked about it, and he held up his end of the deal. ... He willed himself to that point. It wasn’t his best stuff, but he found a way to get outs, and I give him all the credit.”

The Dodgers’ bullpen handled it from there, though it was not without its heart-stopping moments. In the bottom of the eighth, the Dodgers somehow wound up with lefty Victor González facing Rays phenom Randy Arozarena — whose 27 hits in this postseason to that point are a record — with the tying runs on base. It was not the matchup the Dodgers wanted. But Arozarena flied out to center.

It is a guessing game these days who will appear out of the Dodgers’ bullpen to protect a ninth-inning lead, but this time it was Blake Treinen, who jogged in through the gate and closed out the Rays, working around a leadoff single by Margot.

It was only natural for people to wonder about the mental state of the Dodgers as Game 5 approached — that’s how ugly and painful their Game 4 loss, featuring a double-error walk-off, had been. Some bold types, such as the media members whose job requires it, came right out and asked them. More discreet folks kept it to themselves, but the Dodgers knew everyone was looking at them and wondering silently: Are you okay?

Such is life when you have just humiliated yourself, and quite possibly squandered a World Series title, on national television the night before.

“I understand that fans [and] players get caught up in emotion. And I’m emotional,” Roberts said. “But I still have to have clarity on things and make decisions. Because ultimately my job is to help the Dodgers win the World Series.”

It’s one thing to talk on and on about “flushing” the loss and turning the page, and it’s another to come out of the chute going left jab, right hook to the Rays, which is effectively what the Dodgers did in Sunday’s first inning against starter Tyler Glasnow. Mookie Betts led off with a double down the left field line, and Corey Seager followed with an RBI single through the shift and into right field. Cody Bellinger added another RBI single in the first, and Joc Pederson and Muncy later added solo homers, both off Glasnow.

Yes, the Dodgers were just fine, thank you. And eight innings later, they were a win away from the World Series title. Somebody, on the other hand, might want to go and check on the Rays.

Dave Sheinin reported this story from Arlington, Tex. The live updates below were reported by Roman Stubbs from Washington.

Read more from The Post:

October 25, 2020 at 11:52 PM EDT
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Dodgers close out Game 5 win over Tampa Bay to take 3-2 lead in World Series

By Roman Stubbs

With his team clinging to a two-run lead, Los Angeles pitcher Blake Treinen came on in the ninth inning and closed out a 4-2 win for the Dodgers, who took a 3-2 lead in the World Series and will try to win their first Fall Classic since 1988 in Game 6 on Tuesday night.

Treinen had not had a save opportunity during this postseason, but Los Angeles Manager Dave Roberts gave the right-hander the ball with his team up two runs in the ninth.

Treinen allowed a leadoff single to Miguel Margot, but he settled in shortly after. He struck out Austin Meadows and forced Joey Wendle to fly out to center, then closed by striking out Willy Adames.

Tampa Bay’s bullpen had kept the Rays within two runs throughout the late stages of the game, and reliever Ryan Thompson struck out Mookie Betts to close out the top of the ninth to give his team one last chance at a rally.

Clayton Kershaw earned the win for the Dodgers, improving to 4-1 during this postseason after a solid 5 2/3 innings of work.

October 25, 2020 at 11:25 PM EDT
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Dodgers cling to 4-2 lead after Rays squander scoring chance in the eighth

By Roman Stubbs

After Tampa Bay’s Kevin Keirmaier slapped a lead-off single to left field to open the eighth inning, Los Angeles Manager Dave Roberts let reliever Dustin May face one more batter — he forced pinch hitter Yoshi Tsutsugo to fly out — then turned to left-handed reliever Victor Gonzalez.

Keirmaier advanced to second on a wild pitch and Gonzalez walked pinch hitter Mike Brousseau. That set up a pivotal at-bat for Randy Arozarena, who earlier in the night had set the hits record in a single postseason. But he flied out on the first pitch, and Gonzalez followed by forcing Brandon Lowe to pop out to center as the Rays squandered one of their best chances of the night.

October 25, 2020 at 11:01 PM EDT
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With Dustin May looking solid in relief, Dodgers lead Rays 4-2 after seven innings

By Roman Stubbs

After a quick 1-2-3 inning by Tampa Bays reliever Diego Castillo, Los Angeles right-hander Dustin May returned to the mound for the seventh inning after facing one batter in the sixth — he struck out Manuel Margot with a 101 mile-per-hour fastball, the fastest of May’s season — and he didn’t missed a beat.

May retired all three batters in the seventh, aided by an impressive running catch in left field by Joc Pederson to keep the score 4-2.

In the eighth, Castillo will be replaced by left-hander Ryan Sheriff for the Rays.

October 25, 2020 at 10:39 PM EDT
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Clayton Kershaw’s night is over, and Dodgers fans boo decision

By Roman Stubbs

With the Dodgers leading 4-2, Clayton Kershaw came out for the sixth inning sitting at 83 pitches for the night — and he needed to throw just two pitches to get the first two outs of the inning.

That’s when Los Angeles Manager Dave Roberts opted to end Kershaw’s outing, bringing in right-hander Dustin May.

It appeared that Kershaw tried to argue with Roberts to stay in the game, and Roberts was met with boos from the Dodgers fans at Globe Life Field as he walked back to the dugout.

October 25, 2020 at 10:19 PM EDT
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Clayton Kershaw sets strikeouts record, Aaron Loup replaces Tyler Glasnow

By Roman Stubbs

Clayton Kershaw struck out the first two batters to end the fifth inning, passing Justin Verlander for the most strikeouts in postseason history. It was the also the first 1-2-3 inning of the night for the 32-year-old, who has thrown 83 pitches through five innings.

Aaron Loup replaces Tyler Glasnow, who finished the night allowing six hits, three walks and four earned runs in five innings.

October 25, 2020 at 10:10 PM EDT
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Max Muncy delivers a two-out home run as Dodgers take a 4-2 lead in fifth inning

By Roman Stubbs

Max Muncy belted a two-out solo home run off Tyler Glasnow to push the Dodgers lead to 4-2 in the fifth inning.

After a spotting the Dodgers an early 3-0 lead, Glasnow had settled in and retired eight straight Dodgers before Muncy’s blast.

October 25, 2020 at 10:04 PM EDT
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Manuel Margot tries to steal home but Clayton Kershaw escapes a wild fourth inning

By Roman Stubbs

A wild fourth inning ended bizarrely, with Manuel Margot getting thrown out at home plate after trying to steal. Clayton Kershaw stepped off the rubber — avoiding a balk — and his throw beat Margot to keep the score 3-2.

Margot gave the Tampa Bay Rays another spark to begin the fourth inning, drawing a leadoff walk against Kershaw, stole second base and then advanced to third on an error by Chris Taylor. The Dodgers challenged that Margot came off the bag when he was tagged by Justin Turner at third, but the umpires ruled he was safe. Kershaw then walked Hunter Renfroe.

But even with runners on the corners and no outs, Kershaw worked out of the jam. Wendle popped out, got Willy Adames to strike out after wildly chasing a curveball. With Kevin Kiermaier at the plate, that’s when Margot tried to steal home.

October 25, 2020 at 9:32 PM EDT
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Randy Arozarena’s record-setting hit helps Tampa Bay cut into L.A.'s lead

By Roman Stubbs

Tampa Bay’s offense came to life in the third inning, with Yandy Díaz ripping an RBI triple off Clayton Kershaw to cut into the Dodgers’ lead. Rookie sensation Randy Arozarena then made it 3-2 with an RBI single.

That gave Arozarena a postseason record 27 hits this October, one more than Pablo Sandoval’s record of 26 hits in the 2014 playoffs.

Díaz’s triple scored centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who opened the bottom of the third inning with his team’s third consecutive leadoff hit in Game 5. Díaz scored after Kershaw left a fastball up in the zone for Arozarena.

October 25, 2020 at 9:09 PM EDT
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Clayton Kershaw cruises through another inning as Dodgers lead 3-0

By Roman Stubbs

The Dodgers are in control after two innings, leading 3-0 after Clayton Kershaw cruised through another inning that started with a leadoff hit by Tampa Bay. After Manuel Margot reached on a bunt single, Kershaw got Hunter Renfroe to ground out, then struck out Joey Wendle for his first strikeout of the night. The inning ended with a brilliant play at third base by Justin Turner, who threw out Willy Adames after a hard-hit groundball.

October 25, 2020 at 8:56 PM EDT
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Joc Pederson goes deep in the second inning, Dodgers lead 3-0

By Roman Stubbs

Joc Pederson added to his team’s lead to open the second inning, tagging Tyler Glasnow with a 428-foot solo home run to make it 3-0 — and apparently yelling, “They don’t want that smoke!” afterward. It was Pederson’s second home run of the postseason.

October 25, 2020 at 8:49 PM EDT
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Clayton Kershaw settles in after allowing leadoff single

By Roman Stubbs

After the Dodgers jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the top half of the inning, Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw allowed a leadoff single to Yandy Díaz — but settled in and got rookie sensation Randy Arozarena to ground into a double play on the next at-bat. A pitch later, Tampa Bay second baseman Brandon Lowe hit an inning-ending pop fly.

October 25, 2020 at 8:36 PM EDT
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Corey Seager’s bat and baserunning give the Dodgers an early 2-0 lead

By Roman Stubbs

Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager stayed hot to begin Game 5, drilling an RBI single off Tampa Bay pitcher Tyler Glasnow to drive in Mookie Betts, then used some crafty baserunning to score another run to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.

Betts had led off with a double as Glasnow’s rocky World Series continued. Seager reached second base on a wild pitch, then took third after another Glasnow pitch didn’t stray far from Tampa Bay catcher Mike Zuzino. Seager later scored on an infield single by Cody Bellinger.

Seager, who had posted four hits and a home run in Game 4 and has reached base on 12 of his 19 plate appearances in the World Series, has 19 RBI this postseason — second-most all-time behind David Freese’s 21 with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011, according to Dodgers beat writer Bill Plunkett.

October 25, 2020 at 7:45 PM EDT
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All eyes on Clayton Kershaw in Game 5

By Roman Stubbs

After Saturday’s memorable finish, the Dodgers will lean on 32-year-old Clayton Kershaw on Sunday. Kershaw’s rocky postseason past has been well-documented, but the three-time Cy Young Award winner has been solid for much of this October.

Kershaw spun a gem with 13 strikeouts in a win over the Brewers in the first round — but he was pounded by the Atlanta Braves in a Game 4 loss in the National League Championship Series.

The Dodgers found a way to rally from a 3-1 series deficit against Atlanta and make it into the World Series, though, and Kershaw was terrific in the Game 1. If that Kershaw shows up Sunday night, the Dodgers will be in good shape.

October 25, 2020 at 7:31 PM EDT
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What to watch for in Game 5 of the World Series

By Roman Stubbs

The Tampa Bay Rays knotted the series up Saturday night with an improbable finish spurred by an unlikely star. Brett Phillips, a career .202 hitter before this postseason, had posted paltry playoff numbers this October: 0-for-2, with his last at-bat coming on Oct. 7. He had not recorded a hit since the final week of the regular season. His single off Kenley Jansen on Saturday led to a bizarre finish — and gave the Rays new life in this now-tied series.

On the mound in Game 5, the Rays will turn to Tyler Glasnow, who had a dismal outing in Tampa Bay’s 8-3 loss in Game 1. The lanky right-hander gave up six runs in 4 ⅓ innings, the most he has given up since September 2018. Glasnow has allowed 10 runs over 10 ⅓ innings over his last two starts. The Dodgers will counter with 32-year-old Clayton Kershaw, who has carried the weight of his rocky postseason past into this World Series.

As it was for Game 3, the roof will be closed at Globe Life Field tonight.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups for the Dodgers (with Cody Bellinger back in center field) and the Rays: