Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly has lead the talented Dodgers squad with an even temper that more parts survival strategy for a 162 game regular season with a wild crew of talented ballplayers than a managerial strategy. He’s had a phenomenal season. But after the Dodgers heartbreaking Game 1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in extra innings, the Dodgers manager turned up the heat on himself.
In a 2-2 game in the top of the 8th, Don Mattingly decided to go for broke. Zack Greinke was pitching like an ace, and the impatient Dodgers offense sputtered after the 3rd inning. He took his chance by pinch running Dee Gordon when Adrian Gonzalez reached first base safely. Mattingly saw his slim opening, and slid in head first. After another 5 innings of instant replay to determine for certain if this was a managerial gaffe our thoughts were confirmed. You’re Out! Carlos Beltran singled in the winning run, and Don Mattingly turned up the scrutiny on his managerial decisions.
Michael Young came in to replace Gonzalez, and failed to come up with the necessary hits when Hanley Ramirez was twice intentionally walked to face Young.
Mattingly had been riding a hot hand, like a poker player who continues to hit draw after draw, or in golf going for the green while tucked behind a tree in the gallery. Starting Clayton Kershaw on 3 days rest was a gamble, and it paid off. Mattingly was feeling his oats. If this decision worked out like Dave Roberts in 2004 for the Red Sox, the level of confidence of the Dodgers in their manager is through the roof. Ultimately the D0dgers are staring their early Game 2 start in the mirror, and it doesn’t look like it got much sleep.
Mattingly lost leverage in his future contract negotiations with the Dodgers. He knowingly turned up the heat on himself. But he also took the heat off his player who were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position. Making Don Mattingly the object of frustration and criticism when his team failed to get the job done seems ridiculous. But the assumption is that Adrian Gonzalez, or Hanley Ramirez had he the opportunity, would have come through like they had all year. Don Mattingly took the bat out of his best two hitters hands.
If you’re down in a series, there isn’t anyone else you’d like to see pitching but Clayton Kershaw. But 2-0 going home is much different than 1-1.