Dodger’s manager Dave Roberts is a great manager; actually he’s one of the best in baseball. But even the best have bad games or make poor calls from time to time. Nobody is exempt from making mistakes, and nobody is perfect. The thing is it is ok to point out some lame decisions from the skipper once in a while. On Monday night he made a couple of puzzlers.
If you stayed up late enough to watch the Dodgers lose to the Dbacks in 15 innings deep into Monday evening then you probably went to bed angry. The Dodgers had a 6-3 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning when elite closer Kenley Jansen was brought into the match to record the final three outs. He couldn’t, walking two and serving up a game-tying three run home run to Chris Owings. The game went into extra innings and here’s where the skipper’s calls had the biggest impact.
The bats did their jobs scoring seven runs on 19 hits. Wilmer Font pitched his heart out despite giving up the walk-off hit to Jeff Mathis in the bottom of the fifteenth frame. You can’t pin the loss on them because it shouldn’t have come to that. This was a winnable game if the skipper had made different decisions.
The first problem was the usage of the relievers. I know it’s a catch-22 because you want to go for the jugular when you have the lead. Being aggressive is a good thing most of the time but at rare times it can bite you in the behind. There are moments in games when a conservative approach is called for.
If you burn through all of your relievers before the ninth inning and the game goes into extras then you’ll run into big problems. That was made obvious when the Dodgers had used almost every reliever before the ninth inning (except for Kenley, Ross Stripling and Font) and then when the game went into extras had to rely on the last pitcher in the bullpen, which is Wilmer Font.
Yes I know if Kenley does his job and gets that last out in the ninth inning then Font never has to pitch. But why not err on the side of caution and save a reliever or two for later in the game just in case. If you don’t waste relievers to get one or two outs then you can lengthen the game, and if it goes into extra innings like the one of Monday evening did then you have an extra reliever or two to fall back on.
Even the wasteful use of J.T. Chargois and Tony Cingrani affected the outcome of the game. If one of those guys hadn’t been wasted (Chargois was brought in for one out in the seventh inning for no reason) the end result may have been different. Stripling was pinch-hit for after just one inning, but I’ll get to that in a second. This is a prime example of the Dodger’s philosophy of using a lot of relievers for short stints was probably not the best of decisions. The Dodgers needed length later in the game and didn’t have the pitchers available for that. There are times when games do go extra innings and you have to be able to look at that possibility. Preparation is key.
The worst call came in the top of the eleventh inning. With the score still tied Cody Bellinger had led off the inning with a single. With nobody out and the pitcher’s spot due up, the Dodgers used their last available hitter off the bench Kyle Farmer to bat for Ross Stripling. Farmer came to the plate with a chance to put the Dodgers ahead, and if he had been given the option of swinging the bat perhaps he would have and the Dodgers probably win.
Yet Roberts called for Farmer to sacrifice Bellinger to second base for some odd reason. Here’s the kicker, the count was 3-1. Even if you don’t believe that Stripling could have done the job, why waste a potential hit, (your last available hitter) especially when the count was 3-1. Of course Farmer bunted out changing the entire inning. If Farmer walks then the Dodgers have two on with none out. Why take the bat out of Farmer’s hands with the potential to take the lead? Maybe Farmer gets a hit, or even homers? He never got that chance and the Dodgers didn’t score in that frame.
Again this is just observations from a writer and armchair manager. I’m not the one in the dugout having to make those choices under fire. The game moves quickly, I understand this. There is no question that Dave Roberts knows more about baseball than me. A lot more. However there is no reason not to point out other paths that could have led to the Dodgers winning. Hindsight is always 20/20 but less wasteful pitching changes and not bunting can lead to success.