On Opening Day, the best starting pitcher in the game, Clayton Kershaw, gave up one big hit to the San Francisco Giants – a home run. He lost the game 1-0. In Game 2 of the season, the best closer in the game, Kenley Jansen, gave up one big hit. He lost 1-0 as well.
The Boys in Blue are starting the 2018 campaign exactly the way they ended the World Series last season. They look lost at the plate, can’t recognize a pitch right down the pipe, and aren’t getting much help from their skipper, Dave Roberts. Granted, it’s only been two games so far, but Roberts still looks gun shy when the circumstances of the game call for a bold move to spark the club.
Game 1: The seventh inning stretch was over, and the Dodgers were losing 1-0, with 9 outs to go. Matt Kemp lined out and was followed by a Yasmani Grandal single. With eight outs remaining, Logan Forsythe (0 for 2 at this point) was due up. The bold move called for a pinch hitter. Roberts could have batted for Logan, used Hernandez or Taylor at third base, and still PH for the pitcher with two more bats remaining on the bench.
The gamble was perhaps too bold for the seventh inning, so Forsythe was allowed to bat. He flied out without advancing the runner. Roberts then PH Chase Utley for the pitcher, and Utley rapped out a single. Chris Taylor struck out to end the inning. All wasn’t lost, and Roberts would be put in the same situation very soon.
The Dodgers accomplished nothing in the eighth. Three strike outs were punctuated by an Enrique Hernandez walk (his second of the night).
In the bottom of the ninth, with three precious outs remaining, and the Dodgers still down 1-0, Roberts was put to the same test he faced the seventh. This time Kemp singled and Grandal struck out. Once again, Forsythe (now 0 for 3) was up, followed by the pitcher’s spot. This time the situation didn’t call for a bold move, it demanded a smart one. With Kyle Farmer, Austin Barnes and Joc Pederson at the ready, Roberts once again left the Dodgers’ fate in the empty bat of Forsythe.
What could go wrong? Forsythe’s weak pop up to third base left the Dodgers down to their final out. Roberts then went all in on the least effective Spring Training bat of the three players remaining on the bench, Joc Pederson. After Joc’s soft grounder to short, the Dodgers were left with a one-run loss to open the season.
Game 2: This was a pitchers duel. Alex Wood was brilliant. He kept the Giants scoreless through eight innings, despite the Dodgers’ sloppy infield defense that handed him three errors from Logan Forsythe and one from Corey Seager. That was the good news.
Unfortunately, the Dodgers didn’t do anything at the plate once again. Despite Enrique Hernandez earning walks while the rest of the lineup struck out all around him the previous night, Roberts sat Kike and went with the stale Utley platoon. This resulted in Utley and Forsythe hitting back to back in the lineup. Of course it was a disaster. They combined to go 0 for 6 for the night.
In the top of the ninth, with the score 0-0, Roberts went to Kenley Jansen. He inserted the best closer in the game into a non-closing situation. The result? Joe Panik, who homered off Clayton Kershaw the night before, hit the second pitch he saw out of the park to give the Giants a 1-0 lead. It turned out Panik caught a break because Jansen has mysteriously lost velocity on his fastball, dropping from 93 to 89 mph. Break or not, Roberts had other options in the pen, but he instead chose the best defensive player available. Yet he baffles because he consistently, inexplicably, ignores his best options on offense.
In the bottom of the ninth, already at a combined 0 for 4, and with perfectly good batters available on the bench, Roberts gave the non-hitting duo of Utley/Forsythe another opportunity to continue their suckage. What could go wrong? Chase and Logan both proceeded to be called out on strikes. *Sigh*
The saying in baseball is “It ain’t over till it’s over”. The Dodgers had one more out, and thus, one last chance to rise up from the peanut shells on the floor to tie the game.
Life has a saying as well. “The definition of insanity (or stupidity) is to repeat the same actions over and over and expect a different result”. Roberts again left good hitters on the bench and went all in on the bat of Joc Pederson. On the first pitch he saw, Pederson popped out to the catcher, and the Dodgers settled deeper in the NL West cellar – where it’s very, very stale.