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.