When Max Muncy hit the walk-off home run in the 18th inning, in the seventh hour, in game three of the World Series, Dodgers’ fans everywhere let out a long and loud sigh of relief. We were excited to watch Muncy touch home as he was the first Dodger since Gibson to hit a walk-off home run in the World Series. Excitement was not the only raw emotion we felt. The feeling of alleviation coursed over the goosebumps covered on our skin. The Dodgers could not hit but luckily neither could the Red Sox. It was a huge win. Without it, the boys in blue would have been facing a 0-3 deficit and one practically impossible to fight back from. It was a must win and Los Angeles delivered.
Going into game four, the Dodgers felt as if they had the upper hand. The Red Sox used a vast majority of their pitching staff while LA still had arms to spare. Things got off to a good start. Hill was filthy as ever, and in the sixth inning, the Dodgers exploded with four runs with the help of a three-run blast from Puig. Hill continues into the seventh and promptly walks Bogaerts. Never a good idea to walk the lead-off batter but so be it. He then strikes out Nunez the next at-bat and for some reason, Roberts comes out and pulls him for Scott Alexander. Hill had been rolling all night and gets yanked after striking out Nunez, what was Roberts thinking? Alexander comes in and walks Holt on four straight pitches. Roberts then comes back out and brings in Madson for Alexander. Madson gets Jackie Bradley Jr. to pop out then gives up a three-run shot to pinch-hitting Mitch Moreland during the next at-bat.
I began to shake my head in frustration over the idea of bringing in shaky Madson in an important shutdown inning. It’s fine I thought to myself. Dodgers are still up by one with opportunities to add some insurance.
They add no insurance and Roberts brings in Kenley Jansen for the six out save. The same Jansen who has been mediocre all year and blew a six out save the night before. Sure enough, he blows the lead a consecutive night as Pearce skies a solo shot to left center. Thinking the Dodgers could score another run at this point is being overly optimistic. The LA bats have been dead most of the series and none other than Grandal himself strikes out with a runner on first and third to end the eighth.
Roberts brings in Floro to get through the ninth without allowing a run. Not only did he allow a run, but he also let three score on him while Wood and Maeda let in another two combined. I can imagine most Dodgers’ fans shutting off their TV as I did, not being able to watch our team blow a four-run lead and go down 1-3 in the series. Although the Dodgers put up two in the ninth (could have been a walk-off if they kept the damage to one run in the top half of the inning) they ended up losing and looking for Kershaw to work magic tomorrow evening hoping to extend the series back to Boston.
Personally, I am irritated and annoyed at the way the game was managed and how the Dodger bats have fallen asleep. Hill should have never been taken out of the game. The same thing happened last World Series when Hill was pulled in both of his starts before five innings while allowing only one run in each appearance. Hill is arguably the most consistent pitcher the Dodgers have had in the past postseasons and the fact they are starting Ryu over him makes little sense. Hill should not have been removed from the game. Even though it is easy to say in hindsight, it should have been an obvious decision to leave him in at the moment. He looked great all night and I see no validating reason to take out a hot-handed Hill to put in shaky relievers, especially Madson of all people. Madson has looked awful throughout this series and why Roberts is using him in pressure situations is befuddling.
Do not even get me started on the choice to bring in Jansen for another six out save. It makes no sense. Jansen had arguably the worst season of his career, constantly allowing runs in the innings he pitches. They should make his heart problem more of an issue than it is, considering he has the most pressure of any player during the game and yet they are still using a man with a heart condition for save opportunities. The most frustrating part though is that Pedro Baez has turned things around big time and Jansen blew a six out save on a solo shot in the eighth the night before. When Pearce hit the homer off of Jansen, I lost all faith in Roberts to manage the team effectively. Prior knowledge should have convinced Roberts to go to Baez to set up Jansen for the save. Unfortunately, common sense was ignored.
Analytics in Los Angeles has gone too far. Friedman and Zaidi are geniuses in the front office, but they are taking baseball too far away from its purest form. Numbers are everywhere in baseball now and those smart enough are using every little statistical meaning to their advantage. The only problem is that baseball, and all sports, cannot be based on numbers alone. Sometimes the manager has to make gut decisions or go with the hot hand. Babying pitchers has been Roberts’ mantra and it backfired against him tonight. Analytics is not the be all end all of baseball and the Dodgers are learning that the hard way.
Not to say Roberts is the only issue. The all-or-nothing mindset is becoming increasingly invigorating to watch. Watching Bellinger, Muncy and the rest of the team strike out on enormous hacks is becoming ridiculous. Turner Ward, and the rest of the MLB, needs to teach two-strike approaches and small ball once again.
The Dodgers blew game four when everything was in their favor. The hopes of Kershaw pitching an excellent game in a heavy pressure postseason game is becoming harder and harder to believe happen. Perhaps the revolutionary way of thinking is going back to the roots of baseball and bringing back the basics. For now, all Dodgers’ fans can do is hope to pull off an incredible comeback and not face the harsh reality of losing back-to-back World Series.