On Tuesday night the Dbacks played spoiler and dealt the Dodgers a major blow to their playoff hopes by knocking them off in a crushing 4-3 loss that evened up their three game series. The Dodger’s NL West lead is now down to just a half game over Colorado after the Rockies beat down the Phillies again. With the two teams tied in the loss column means they’re essentially tied for first place with just five days remaining in the regular season. The Dodgers have four games left and the Rockies have five. Remember losses can’t be made up but wins can. It’s very likely that the Dodgers could find themselves in second place when they fly to San Francisco after Wednesday’s game.
I’m obviously frustrated, like many of you are. Since I’m infuriated by the outcome of what was a must win game for the Dodgers on Tuesday evening, I’m going to do the one thing I can do to alleviate my frustrations. I’m taking to the internet to talk about it. I would like to take a few minutes to discuss the Dodger’s game management because I’m shocked at how poor it was on Tuesday night.
Look I know the bats didn’t deliver much. They did score three runs, but the inability of the offense to hit with runners in scoring position and move runners over is probably what really lost them the game. That’s a discussion for another day since I’m not going to talk about that. Instead I’m going to talk about the strategies that cost the Dodgers the game because I don’t believe management put the team in a position to win on Tuesday.
I like Dave Roberts and I generally support him. Normally I can defend most of the moves he makes in games, but last night I just can’t. So let’s talk about a couple of things that sunk the Dodgers and could possibly cost them a division title this season.
The first move that I hated was the decision to pinch-run for Yasmani Grandal in the top of the seventh. The Dodgers pulled Grandal after he had just tripled inserting pinch-runner Tim Locastro at third base. Let me explain why I don’t like this. First of all, the decision to remove Grandal from the game means you seriously downgrade that spot in the lineup. With Grandal out you have to go to Austin Barnes for the rest of the game and Barnes is one of the worst hitters in baseball. What if the game goes extra innings? You’re going to need Grandal’s bat, and Barnes is such a huge downgrade there. Secondly the marginal upgrade on the bases with Locastro is null and void. With Grandal at third, he’s going to score on a base hit anyways. So why even bother? It’s not like Locastro is Rickey Henderson. So why make the move?
I’ll tell you why. Roberts did it in case Enrique Hernandez hit a sacrifice fly, or there was a wild pitch. Yes in those scenarios Locastro scores easier than Grandal does. The problem is that those are low percentage odds. It’s unlikely there is going to be a wild pitch or sacrifice fly. Hernandez ended up singling and Grandal would have trotted home anyways. You lost Grandal and then later had to pinch-hit for Barnes. That ended up with career minor leaguer Rocky Gale behind the plate in the bottom of the ninth. A certain recipe for failure.
My second gripe is the bullpen management. The Dodgers are a club that constantly relies on matchups. They’re constantly playing matchups late in games. That’s really their only strategy. I have always had a big problem with that. I know most other teams do the same thing but that doesn’t make the strategy any less brainless. It’s guess work.
If you look at the situation and how a pitcher is pitching you can make the right call. Or at least make a more educated guess. For instance when Scott Alexander got the first out of the bottom of the seventh, there was no reason to take him out. I don’t care about lefty/righty stats. Why bring in Dylan Floro to begin with when there is one out and the bases empty? Even if you do bring in Floro or anyone else, at least don’t leave him in to keep giving up hits when he’s not getting anyone out in a crucial game. The result was Floro giving up three hits in the frame and the Dodgers eventually losing in excruciating fashion.
Matchups, guesswork and pulling hot bats out of the game is a sure fire way to lose the game. Don’t get me wrong. I know the onus is on the players. And I’m just an armchair manager who doesn’t work in baseball and has never played the game. I get it and those are all valid points. The point is to stop doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Stop yanking Grandal out of the game for a marginal upgrade on the bases. Stop playing matchups without looking at the situation or how the current pitcher on the mound is pitching. Baseball is baseball but common sense goes a long way towards better game management.