I would like to take a few moments to discuss the Dodger’s game 2 loss to the Nationals in the NLDS on Friday night at Dodger Stadium that tied the series at one game each. The Dodgers lost 4-2 on Friday evening to the Washington Nationals and now face two games in the nation’s capital and you could say that both are must win situations with Stephen Strasburg looming in a potential game 5. I’ll get to him in a minute. The loss makes me feel uneasy. I would put the Dodger’s chances of advancing to the NLCS at 50-50 right now. I don’t like this feeling.
Most people are placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of Clayton Kershaw. This is common for a lot of fans to do this. Fans are frustrated by the loss so their minds turn to finding blame in order to make themselves feel better. I get it. I do the same thing myself. However I don’t believe all of the blame should be placed at the feet of Kershaw. Some of the other blogs agree with this.
Certainly he wasn’t great. Kershaw allowed three earned runs over six innings and struck out four. He walked one and hit two batters. One could say that was a mediocre start, and believe me I wasn’t impressed either. However after the rough first two innings, Kershaw settled in and turned in a quality start. He kept the Dodgers in the game. My problem with Kershaw is the timing of those runs. Giving up the runs in the first two frames essentially doomed the Dodgers to a loss right away. They weren’t going to score three runs against Strasburg that night, they’re lucky to have scored one. The problem is when your starter, whoever that is gives up runs immediately and puts your team behind right away then it changes the complexion of the game.
That’s what Kershaw has been doing all season. Don’t get me wrong, Kershaw had a good, but not great season. He finished 16-5 with an ERA of 3.03. He struck out 189 against just 41 walks while posing a 9.8 K/9 rate. But his first inning ERA was 5.79. First batters of the game are hitting .310 against him. For whatever reason he can’t get the first hitter of the game out, and can’t get through the first inning without giving up runs. To be fair that grounder to third should have been an out. I still can’t believe Justin Turner missed that ball.
Yet Kershaw still kept the Dodgers in the game. That was pretty amazing considering how un-hittable Stephen Strasburg was. I don’t think anything could have been done differently to change the Dodger’s fortunes. Strasburg was a beast through his six innings of excellent pitching. It was scary. He barely allowed anything other than that lone run. He struck out Bellinger. He struck out Muncy. Then he struck out Seager. He struck out everyone. There was no hitting him last night. He’s been filthy in the postseason. Which brings me to my next point…..
The game was brilliantly managed by Washington skipper Dave Martinez. I have to tip my cap. I know Oscar felt like Roberts could have managed differently, but Martinez was fantastic. He pulled all the right moves, knowing well that it was a must win game for them. He brought in Max Scherzer to pitch the eighth inning in relief after the Dodgers closed the deficit to one run in the seventh thanks to that Muncy moonshot. Scherzer struck out the side in that inning. Then Martinez intentionally walked Muncy in the bottom of the ninth when the Dodgers were trying to get together some sort of rally. Going after Seager was very smart, considering that he is one of several non-performers in the postseason for the Dodgers.
That’s another thing. If the Dodgers are going to win this series then Cody Bellinger, A.J. Pollock, and Corey Seager are going to have to start hitting. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that proven postseason performers like Chris Taylor, Joc Pederson, Muncy, and maybe even Enrique Hernandez get playing time.
I know some people believe that Friday’s loss was Kershaw’s fault. Or that it was Dave Robert’s fault. I do believe that Kershaw has to get better in the postseason, there is no denying that. Of course Roberts possibly could have done something differently. Although I believe he was fine except for leaving in Dustin May a little too long. The Dodgers just got beat. They got beat by a very good pitcher and a manager who correctly understood the situation of the series and managed the game like it was a must-win. Their season rests in the hands of Hyun-jin Ryu who will take the mound in game 3. But if Bellinger, Pollock, Seager, Turner, and the rest of the guys don’t hit then it won’t make a difference.