It was a classic, even though it doesn’t feel that way for Dodger loyalists this morning. In what will go down as one of the great World Series games ever, the Dodgers lost an 11-inning thriller to the Houston Astros in Game 2 of the series and missed a golden chance to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.
The many twists and turns of this 4-hour and 19 minute game is a second guesser’s dream and certainly there are plenty of moves made by Dave Roberts that can be called into question.
Roberts antagonists are out in full force after a bullpen implosion that feels like the outlier and not the norm. After throwing 28 straight scoreless innings during this post-season, the Dodger pen went from other-worldly to pedestrian. From 8th to the 11th innings the Dodger bullpen gave up 9 hits 6 runs and 4 home runs in collapse we haven’t seen around these parts since the 2013-16 post-season
The criticism coming Roberts way is from those that weren’t happy with Doc pulling Rich Hill after 4 innings. The argument is that by pulling your starter so quickly you depleted your bullpen earlier than you should have and ultimately it led to having use Josh Fields and Brandon McCarthy in leveraged situations.
While I agree that I don’t want to see Fields and McCarthy in these spots, I felt Doc was correct in pulling Hill after four innings. While the lefty had struck out seven, his command was not very good. He had walked three (one intentional), had allowed the lead-off man to reach in three of the first four innings. He was missing BADLY with his fastball and his curveball was as inconsistent as we’ve seen all post-season. With a day off in the series, and only trailing Justin Verlander 1-0 in the 5th, I had no problem with going to the pen early.
Roberts got 4 outs from Kenta Maeda who has suddenly turned into money in the pen. Tony Watson induced an inning ending double play in the 6th. The only move I question from Roberts is starting the 7th inning with Ross Stripling. I believe he was caught off guard when Corey Seager hit a 2-run bomb with two outs in the bottom of the 6th giving the Dodgers a 3-1 lead. If the score was tied, he would have gone Stripling, but when the Dodgers took the lead, now its time to go to your big guns for those final nine outs. Brandon Morrow would have been the better choice with a lead to start the inning. The problem was that they grabbed the lead so fast, Morrow didn’t have time to get loose. Stripling walked the lead-off man and then Morrow came in. If Stripling does his job, the point is moot, but he didn’t.
And, while the Dodgers didn’t cough up any runs in that 7th inning it changed how the rest of the game would have to be managed. Morrow went back out for the 8th, gave up a lead-off double to Alex Bregman, a ball that was just out of the reach of Yasiel Puig, and that necessitated the move to bring in Kenley Jansen for a 6-out save. Again, I don’t have a problem with this move either, and think how the game might be different if Puig makes the incredible diving catch ? Oh, what might have been. Why does Jansen come in then ? Well, at this point you have to bring in Jansen for the final six outs. You don’t want to lose the game with your second best reliever when you have Kenley looming. It just didn’t work out.
As much blame as Roberts is garnering, how about that 0-2 pitch from Jansen to Marwin Gonzalez in the 9th. The cutter didn’t cut, the ball didn’t move and with an 0-2 count it was a HUGE mistake. I know we all love Kenley. There is no one I want out there more than him and I feel supremely confident with him on the bump. But, that 0-2 miss was awful. Bury it in, run it away, bounce it. But, for the love of everything holy don’t miss on a hitter’s plane where it can be barreled.
It’s my contention you don’t change the philosophical way you manage your ball club when you play in October. June and October are different, but the philosophy of using your pen a certain way doesn’t really change and the opponent dictates a lot of the moves you make. This management group, Friedman, Zaidi and Roberts believe in a certain way and they don’t deviate. We may not love it or even like it, but it’s gotten us to this point. And, it’s been highly effective.
You may not like how Roberts used his pitchers, you probably don’t like the result, but it’s how the Dodgers operated all year. They aren’t going to change now. As much as you and Rich Hill think he should have gone longer, he shouldn’t have. He didn’t have it and the Dodgers had a near perfect bullpen waiting in the wings. Quite simply, they just had a rough night against the best offensive team in baseball. You make mistakes and they will eat you alive. The Dodgers pen made mistakes and in some cases didn’t, but the Astros just kept hitting and hitting and hitting.
Two things became crystal clear on Wednesday night. The Dodgers bullpen is not invincible and must locate, locate and locate to be effective. Second, the Astros bullpen is exactly what we thought they were coming into the series. Ken Giles is suspect and the rest of that pen has been beaten and battered to the point where their best reliever is a starter coming out of the pen on short rest. Still advantage Dodgers, despite last night.
The pain of the game will sear into our souls until about 5:08pm on Friday, then it’s time to suck it up buttercup, strap it on and get after the Stros’ at the ole Juice Box Park
Bleeding Dodger Blue Always