I’ve been toying with the idea of shutting this site down and officially retiring from Dodger writing for a while now. Nobody comes over here and I don’t have much time to write anymore these days. But games like tonight are the reason why I keep going. Infuriating losses like tonight’s debacle against the Giants is the main reason I keep this site alive. Because when I see the Dodgers making bizarre mistakes and making the same tired mistakes over and over and over again, I have to comment on it. This site gives me a voice to get my thoughts out to the world. My home base and sounding board if you will. Here are my takes on the Dodger’s 7-5 loss to the Giants in 11 innings and the 2023 season.
The Dodgers made the right decision by calling up rookie Emmet Sheehan to make his Dodger debut. But they didn’t want to do it. Originally the plan was to have a bullpen game, which as we know would have been another unmitigated disaster. They couldn’t do it because the night before they had used that entire dreadful pen in their extra innings win over the White Sox. Sheehan rewarded us by tossing six no-hit shutout innings on Friday evening. He was spectacular. Even though he only struck out 3, he didn’t hang any pitches and allowed mostly soft contact.
What made Sheehan’s outing so impressive to me was that he gave the Giants hitters different looks every time they came to the plate. He mixes his arsenal well. Pitching isn’t just about velocity and movement, it’s also about keeping hitters off balance and working both sides of the plate. This kid did that and did it well. There were a few too many balls hit in the air for my taste, but only a couple were hit hard. Tremendous performance. Such a shame that he was not rewarded with the win because his teammates let him down. I look forward to watching his next start.
They were terrible again. Brusdar Graterol one of the most overrated relievers in the league immediately gave up a single and a two-run home run to Wilmer Flores in the seventh. What made that at-bat so absurd was that Flores had just fouled a pitch off of his leg and looked like he was going to be removed in mid-bat. Victor Gonzalez was brought into pitch the eighth and he gave up three earned runs on two hits and a walk. He retired just one batter. Alex Vesia continued his demise by giving up the go-ahead runs in the top of the eleventh. Only Nick Robertson and Caleb Ferguson pitched scoreless innings and only Ferguson had a 1-2-3 inning. I don’t know how the Dodgers keep going with these guys night after night, loss after loss, blown lead after blown lead. Anyone can do better. It’s not going to get better anytime soon. Maybe 1 or 2 make slight improvements, but as a whole they are not going to just magically turn back into Major League pitchers overnight.
Pitching and bullpen management, the bane of Dodger baseball these days. I’ve said so many times here at this site, I’m becoming a broken record. When your starting pitchers do not go deep into games, you put a huge strain and workload on the bullpen. It’s beginning to show. Innings count. Sheehan probably could have made another 20-25 pitches without risk of injury. He’s young, and has a fresh arm. Jerry Hairston Jr. was talking about this on the postgame show on Sportsnetla. You never want to overwork a young arm, but an extra 20 pitches is not likely to cause any harm. Now an extra 45-50? Sure. I think I speak for many fans when I say that I would rather watch a young pitcher like Sheehan go deep into the game, then a parade of below average middle relievers immediately enter the game and cough up the lead. If the Dodgers had allowed Sheehan to at least pitch into the seventh or later, their chances of winning would have increased by a lot. Instead of the bullpen having to get 9 outs, if Sheehan pitches another inning then they only have to get 6 outs. The path to victory is clearer.
The Dodgers in general played a sloppy game, but the game management was horrible. I’ve usually defended Dave Roberts over the years because he’s not the one who builds the rosters. If the Dodgers have 7 relievers and 6 of them are terrible then it doesn’t matter how Roberts uses them. But there are times when I do understand some of the disdain that is thrown at him. There were several highly questionable calls and tonight I was hoping that for once Roberts would stop going with the same old game scripts and actually manage the team to a win. For a team that scripts entire games around matchups, the one time during the game that screamed matchup they didn’t use it.
That and he leaves relievers in way too long. For example, in the eighth inning it was clear that Victor Gonzalez did not have it. That’s the thing about relief pitching, it doesn’t take long to figure out if a reliever has it or not. You can tell after one or two at-bats. That’s why you have to get them out quickly or they’re going to just die on the vine, give up a bunch of runs. Gonzalez was all over the plate. He couldn’t find the strike zone if you gave him directions. You have to get him out immediately and always have at least one reliever warming just in case. I would have removed Gonzalez after two hitters and brought in Evan Phillips. With the Dodgers up two runs in the eighth, he could have pitched the rest of the game. If you can’t pitch on consecutive days and you can’t pitch multiple innings then you don’t belong in the majors in my opinion. Getting back to that matchup, in that inning The Giants had right handed hitter Austin Slater up with a runner on. Slater is hitting .484 against lefties this year. That was the time to hook Gonzalez and bring in Phillips if you want to win the game. But Roberts left Gonzalez in and Slater singled. Then Joc Pederson singled, and finally Taylor Scott (an equally horrible pitcher in 23 the season of the awful pitching) was called into relieve Gonzalez. It was too late by then, and the game was already lost.
Other mistakes included two costly base-running blunders by Mookie Betts. I appreciate the aggressiveness but the attempted steal of third was too risky. The second boner in the last inning was unacceptable. The worst error of the game came in the bottom of the tenth. With the game tied, the Dodgers had runners at first and third. A base hit wins the game. With Jason Heyward due up against lefty Taylor Rogers, Roberts had .111 hitting backup catcher Austin Barnes come up and pinch-hit. There were two reasons for this and both as asinine as the other. One was due to that there was nobody else on the bench to pinch-hit after several Dodgers (David Peralta, Chris Taylor, Max Muncy) either got hurt, or were already hurt. The second reason was because the Dodgers believe that Heyward can’t hit left handers. The third reason is because there was a lefty on the mound and they wanted to play a matchup. The common sense thing to do is just to let Heyward hit and keep him in the game. Barnes is one of the worst hitters in baseball and the odds of him getting a hit there were about the same as me winning the lottery. Roberts has done this several times this year, using Barnes as a pinch-hitter. The potential matchup is negated when you have a guy at the plate who couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. The Giants must have been laughing all the way back to the dugout. What do you think the outcome was? Barnes struck out on a called third strike.
That’s another issue. The Dodgers are predictable. They deploy the same strategies again and again and again expecting different results. Sometimes you just have to let the game unfold and react accordingly, instead of scripting pitching matchups the entire game. If the Dodgers want to win the World Series this year they are going to have to start doing things differently. The pitching and game management has to change.