Two Critical PH Decisions Crippled Dodgers’ Chances in Game 3

The Dodgers are down 2 games to 1 in the NLCS and it’s become clear they are having trouble sustaining and cashing in on any kind of rally against the Brewers pitching staff. This isn’t a surprise. The Dodgers have been through funks like this on and off again all season. Unfortunately, it’s reared its head again, and at the worst possible time.

What is also clear is the Dodgers must be very crafty in handling the few scoring opportunities that present themselves. Manager Dave Roberts has been walking a tightrope through a minefield, and there’s no reason to think that’s going to change in Game 4. That’s why last night’s decisions about when (and how) to pinch hit are magnified with the Dodgers’ struggling offense.

Pinch Hit Decision Number 1:

Bottom of fifth. Yasmani Grandal standing on second base after opening things with a ground rule double. Enrique Hernandez flied out without advancing the runner. Dave Roberts has a decision to make – and I agreed with his choice. He left Walker Buehler in to hit. There was active debate at the time about whether or not to PH for Buehler, but it was a one-run game at the halfway point, and Buehler looked like he had two more good innings remaining in the tank. Roberts let the kid bat, but here is where we part ways.

Walker Buehler should have been asked to bunt the runner over. Jhoulys Chacin had manhandled the Dodgers’ lineup up to that point. What reason was there to think Buehler was going to hit something of substance off him?  He should have bunted Grandal to third. Instead, Buehler stared at two pitches that were low enough in the strike zone to give him a very good chance at laying down an effective bunt.  Joc Pederson, a much better bet for an RBI than Buehler, was on deck.  If bunted to third, Grandal leading off would have created more things for Chacin to think about in the pitch sequence to Pederson. Instead, Buehler was allowed to swing away, and he simply stared at three very good pitches to bunt.

Pinch Hit Decision Number 2:

Bottom of the 9th. Down 4-0, the Dodgers mount their biggest rally of the night. Justin Turner singled and Manny Machado doubled. Two men were in scoring position with no out. Cody Bellinger was due up.

Bellinger hasn’t been worth a bag of peanuts in the NLCS. He hasn’t been worth a wet rag all postseason. In fact, he’s been worse than horrible – he’s hurt the Dodgers’ postseason chances this year and in the 2017 World Series. Bellinger was 1 for 20 in the NLDS and NLCS combined. His 2018 postseason slash line is .048/.200/.048/.248. At that critical moment last night, he was 0 for 3, and had so far stranded three RISP.

Cody Bellinger had absolutely NO BUSINESS approaching the plate. Roberts had Dozier and Barnes on the bench, both holding better odds at the plate than Bellinger. The skipper went with the cold bat.

First pitch, Bellinger popped up. Unproductive out. 0 for 4. Chance blown.

There are some guys who, despite being 0 for 3, that you send to the plate in a 9th inning situation like that one. Kirk Gibson would say, (I’m paraphrasing) “Even if I’m 0 for 3, you want me at the plate in the 9th, because I’m the guy who will get the big hit in that  situation.” On the 30th anniversary of Gibson’s larger than life World Series home run in 1988, Cody Bellinger showed Dave Roberts what many of us already knew: He’s no Kirk Gibson.

Oscar Martinez

Oscar Martinez

I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

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13 thoughts on “Two Critical PH Decisions Crippled Dodgers’ Chances in Game 3

  1. Oscar I was screaming at the TV for Buehler to bunt. Wasted opportunity big time. Counselust have beem thinking “thanks Doc”. Roberts was out managed by himself.

    1. For me, I think he should have hit for Buehler. I think bunting in that situation just wastes an out. You already have a runner in scoring position. It’s the fifth inning and a 1-0 game. The Dodgers are having trouble scoring runs. I think getting that run home and tying the score is more important then getting another two innings out of Buehler. IMO, best to go to the bench. Either Kemp or Freese would have been the best bet there. Then you have two chances to score the runner with a base hit instead of just one. It might have changed the momentum of the game.

  2. I’m on the fence about pinch-hitting in that situation. My fear would have been that Roberts would have ran out of position players in case we go to extra Innings.

  3. It’s beyond me how Bellinger plays everyday?
    It’s like he’s exempt from scrutiny.
    His fielding has been poor too.
    Him & Grandal have killed the Dodgers yet Dave keeps running em out there.

    Least clutch in order

    Grandal
    Bellinger
    Puig
    Kike

    Taylor couldn’t hit all season. Now he’s hot, we sit him.
    Also,
    Surely Freese needs to get as many ABs as possible?

    1. Watford, Bellinger made a tremendous catch and knocked in the winning run. Those are the reasons he plays every day. Granted, the sophomore jinx was upon him most of the season, but his stats are not that bad, in general. He’s had a tough time in the playoffs. He needs more time to develop but he will only do so with playing time. Kike and Grandal are much worse cases, but even Kike plays good D.

      Don’t agree with Roberts PHitting for Freese early in the last 2 games. The reason we got him was his ability to knock in RISP! Muncy stats may situationally be better than Freese’s, but the experience Freese brings is very valuable.

    1. Tim,

      The Dodgers will definitely try to sign Machado. You don’t just walk away from a player of his ability. Whether they are willing to pay his price will be a bigger question than his personality. He is a valuable asset and is helping the Dodgers in the playoffs perhaps as much or more than anyone else.

      1. No, they will not. They do not need him nor do they need his attitude, and last nights game just magnified that. They have Corey Seager and Seager will be the SS on this team next year, not Manny Machado for a multitude of reasons, the main one being they are not going to throw the kind of money he wants at him. Oh, they might make him an offer, but a serious one? Doubt it very seriously Besides, Seager is the cheaper, younger option.

        1. They certainly needed him to get where they are now. Without Machado, it is doubtful that they would make the playoffs.

          Don’t let your personal views color the talent that Machado brings to the game. If you want a a major talent who still has the room to grow and is generally a positive force, you make your case to retain him. While I agree that the money will be the main issue for the FO, they will definitely try to retain him simply because he is a major talent in the league, not perfect. Bonds used to bug me, but it can’t be denied he was a force. Draymond Green is another example. But Manny is not like either of these players. He wants to have fun and is not a loudmouth. He seems to be a team player and is a great infielder with blazing speed and arm. $26M? Probably not, but this is life in the present era, not the 50’s in Brooklyn.

          1. This has nothing to do with personal views or the 50’s in Brooklyn or anytime after that in LA. Machado is a talented player, of that there is no doubt and the Dodgers may or may not be where they are because he was traded for. We will never know. And the FO will no doubt kick the tires. It took Puig a long time to mature. And Machado is 2 years younger than Yasiel. They have since they took over retained 3 free agents to long term, high dollar contracts. Turner, Hill and Jansen. They have Seager, who is 2 years younger, and a lot cheaper coming back next year. Machado they can afford if they want to, because they got under the tax threshold and it re-sets. But, they also have a decision with Kershaw, if he opts out they have a lot more money to throw at guys. Which free agents do they target? What do you do with Seager if you re-sign Machado? You cannot move him to 3rd, Turner is there. 2nd? You could do that I guess because it is a weak spot in the lineup. There are a lot of questions that they will have to answer. My take is this, they will make an offer. But it is going to be no where near what some other teams are going to throw at him and he will be elsewhere next year. And the Dodgers will be fine at SS with Seager. It is about the money, not the talent with these guys. It is the way they operate. What they really need to sign are a couple of lock down back of the rotation bullpen guys. And a second baseman who can field and hit. DJ Lamahieu is a free agent, and they probably would be smart to sign a good defensive catcher or see if they can trade for JT Realmuto. Machado is a luxury they can live without.

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