Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has one manager of the year award and is a frontrunner for his second. His guidance in 2017 led the club to a near-franchise record with 104 wins. Tonight, however, in game two of the World Series, he managed his club to defeat.
As he did in game four in the National League Championship Series versus the Chicago Cubs, Roberts essentially conceded the game prior to the national anthem. In game four, he started a past-his-prime Curtis Granderson, a slumping Yasmani Grandal, a newly-healed Andre Ethier, and a 38-year old Chase Utley. In the same lineup. That happened to be the only game that all four players had started together the entire season, and was the only game the Dodgers lost in the series.
Tonight, in game two of the World Series, Roberts took the field with a decent – not ideal – lineup. With Chase Utley, with three hits in his last 37 postseason at-bats, drawing the start at second base, along with underperforming Joc Pederson, there were at least two questions in the one-through-eight spots in the lineup. That said, the rest of the club appeared stout, with Corey Seager back in the two slot, and regulars Turner, Puig, Bellinger, filling out the rest of T the lineup card.
But the lineup was not at fault in tonight’s heartbreaking 7-6 defeat. Roberts, an otherwise incredible manager, dropped the baseball and allowed the visiting Astros to steal a very crucial game.
Let’s start with the number two pitcher they signed to a three-year, $48 million contract in the offseason. His stuff is incredible, he has struck out seven batters in four innings. And Roberts pulls him. And listen, it is understandable that the Dodgers front office believes in counting outs.
But if the pitcher that starts the second game of the World Series cannot be trusted to get at least 15 outs – five innings – then what are you doing; literally, what are you doing? A manager can not always rely on his bullpen being absolutely perfect because it is just not realistic.
But fine. Kenta Maeda is there in relief. Former starter, has had two seasons of above-average starting pitching, averaging nearly six innings per start. He throws four outs and that is sufficient? Come on, Dave Roberts! The man is cut out to throw at least three innings, maybe leave him in for two in the playoffs.
I would understand if Roberts wanted to emulate the AJ Hinch game seven model of Charlie Morton/Lance McCullers, where one starter threw five innings and the other four in an amazing clinch-game win. But no; his two long-men were just burned over a combined 16 outs, leaving his remaining bullpen woefully undermanned.
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Subsequently, Roberts brings in Ross Stripling, with Brandon Morrow warming in the pen. Stripling is on this roster for one reason – as a long-reliever. And the seventh inning of game two of the World Series is not exactly long relief.
Stripling, predictably, walks the only batter he faces to be replaced by Morrow. No harm was done, as Morrow does his job – but Stripling, regrettably, is now burned and cannot be used in extra innings.
So Morrow pitches well and escapes the seventh. He starts the eighth inning, and lo and behold, Jansen is brought in after one baserunner. This is unacceptable. Morrow has allowed one extra-base hit in his last 150 batters with domination unseen since he was drafted ahead of Clayton Kershaw game five in 2006.
This is not versus the Washington Nationals in 2016. This is a deep team with a stout bullpen. Jansen is amazing, but he should not have had to shoulder this load tonight. Unfair. ‘The Greatness of Kenley Jansen is unquestionable, and he is nearly infallible, but to put him up against six outs and the greatest lineup in Major League Baseball is not exactly a position to succeed.
Lastly, the questionable usage – and roster spot addition thereof – Brandon McCarthy. The dude who spent most of 2017 dealing with The Yips was left as the long-man since Stripling was burned and Maeda was prematurely pulled. Predictably, he goes out immediately and struggles with command, throwing 21 pitches, 12 for strikes. In retrospect, this is the only reason Stripling is on the roster, and Roberts wasted him.
So in the name of Hyun-Jin Ryu, a man with a 3.77 ERA in 126 2/3 innings, why is McCarthy on the roster anyway? And why is he pitching at such a crucial point in the World Series? He threw six innings after July and allowed four earned runs, so it is a curious decision, to say the least.
Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Dave Roberts have a decent amount of explaining to do. The Astros played great – 14 hits is very impressive – but the Dodgers should have won this game. And though the fault does not lie solely with Roberts, he should definitely be second-guessed. There are simply too many questionable decisions made by a great manager to go quietly into the night.