The Los Angeles Dodgers were surging with a 4-0 lead to tie the World Series at two games: that was until the bullpen was used and the team self-destructed.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were nine outs away with a four-run lead from pushing the World Series even at two games a side. After falling behind two games to none and winning Game 3 in 18 innings, winning Game 4 would have had huge implications for the rest of the series.
And of course, in typical Dodger fashion, that is exactly when things started to go wrong.
Let me preface the rest of what I am about to say with this. Number one: I like the bullpen and it has been the bullpen all October that has kept the team in games while the offense struggled. Number two: I do not like being a couch manager. Everything is always better in hindsight and a lot of fans use that to their advantage.
I will not be calling for Dave Roberts job or attacking him because in hindsight he made the wrong move. However, it is impossible to ignore the mistakes Roberts made that were even noticeable before the game started snowballing.
Hill walked the opening batter of the seventh inning on a 3-2 pitch. While Hill fell behind 3-0, he battled back and could not force Xander Bogaerts to swing at an inside curveball. That is fine, in the postseason you have to trust your swing and miss stuff on 3-2 against big hitters.
Up came Eduardo Nunez, who Hill disposed of rather easily. While he certainly was fatigued, it seemed like with a left-handed hitting Brock Holt on deck, Hill would stay in the game for at least one more batter. If he gets Holt out, he likely gets to finish the inning against Christian Vazquez.
After all, Roberts did not pull Hill against Nunez likely to prevent Rafael Devers from entering the game. Hill got the job done, he should have been awarded that one more batter.
He wasn’t. The Dodgers went to the pen and surrendered another southpaw in Scott Alexander, whose sole purpose was to try and get Holt to ground into the double play. If he didn’t, Ryan Madson would come into the game. It was all preplanned.
Alexander walked Holt on four pitches, Madson came in, induced a pop-up and hung a changeup to Mitch Moreland to give the Red Sox life with a three-run home run.
If that home run does not happen none of the other runs would have. This shot gave the Sox life. It gave them the momentum.
First, let’s dissect why this inning was an atrocious display of managing.
Yes, Hill did have a pitch count in the 90s and was showing obvious fatigue. However, after a game that went 18 innings, a fatigued starting pitcher probably has a little more in the gas tank than a used reliever. Not to mention that this will be Hill’s only start of the World Series, either way, the Dodgers can extend him a little further.
Using Scott Alexander in that spot was silly. With a four-run lead, you want to save the team’s best double-play inducing pitcher for a spot that might actually warrant it. If that never happens then you get Alexander on a day’s rest for Game 5; it is the perfect win-win.
The Dodgers knew they were going to go to Madson and burned Alexander anyways. If he induces a double play this conversation doesn’t happen. He didn’t and Roberts didn’t get away with the mistake.
The next mistake that inning was Ryan Madson. Dave Roberts knows the Sox have a left-handed heavy bench, that is why he kept Hill in to face Nunez. Throwing Madson allowed the Sox to go to the bench and call on the left-handed hitters. Meanwhile, Alexander would have had to face Christian Vazquez and potentially Devers.
I would rather face Vazquez and have the lefty-lefty matchup on Devers. Instead, Roberts opted to go with the guy that has allowed all inherited runs to score in the World Series; the guy who was not good in the regular season and had one good two-week stretch, to trust in the season’s most pivotal point.
More from LA Sports Hub
- Lakers: 5 Players to Target Through Trades to make another championship run
- LA Chargers: Week 8 against Denver Broncos is a must-win
- LA Rams: Jared Goff wants to keep the Los Angeles title streak going
- Lakers Rumors: Los Angeles Clippers interested in Rajon Rondo
- LA Chargers: Justin Herbert wins AFC Rookie of the Month
Then, just because Roberts wanted to make sure that if he went all-in he would really go all-in, he throws Kenley Jansen out for the eighth inning. This move is more inexcusable than the last.
Jansen is a closer. He is not designed to go six innings and when he does, he does so under certain circumstances. Game 3 was understandable as Jansen was well-rested and despite letting up a home run, looked sharp.
Game 4 was not excusable. A night after Jansen gave up a solo home run in a six-out save Roberts opts to pitch him again. Not only is six a lot to ask but Roberts asked him to work six outs in two consecutive games when there is still Game 5 on Sunday.
I cannot even begin to fathom where that logic came from. You’re only setting Jansen up to fail. And while he did not go all six, he noticeably was not putting 110 percent into his pitches as he needed to save energy for the ninth. There is a huge difference between a 94 and 92 mile per hour cutter.
Pedro Baez not being available prompted Roberts to turn to Madson in the seventh and Jansen in the eight. If Baez is not available it raises the question: WHY WOULD YOU PREMATURELY PULL RICH HILL, WHO IS MAKING HIS LAST START OF THE SEASON?
Then, despite not having any confidence in his bullpen whatsoever to pitch in the eighth inning, Roberts turns the ball over to them in the ninth.
That was the right call, Kenley could not go back out there with the Dodgers trailing. But Roberts ended up doing exactly what he didn’t want to do: he used three pitchers in a ninth inning that resulted in five runs.
And get this: if Roberts didn’t burn him in the seventh inning for literally nothing, the Dodgers could have used Scott Alexander in the eighth against Benintendi and potentially even against Steve Pearce and J.D. Martinez.
Dave Roberts knew that the Los Angeles Dodgers had a fatigued bullpen from last night and he still panicked and pulled Rich Hill far too early.
I will never call for someone’s job, especially considering that Roberts likely just takes orders from the front office. However, these string of decisions taints what has otherwise been an excellent tenure with the Los Angeles Dodgers.