SAN DIEGO – A goose in the field, a drone above it, a rainy night in Southern California, the largest post-seasonal upheaval in 116 years. Oddity has dominated in this series of National League divisions between the Fathers And Dodgers. But what might be strangest of all is how the Padres thoroughly exposed every flaw in a 111-win Dodgers squad. It didn’t even sound like an upset.
San Diego ended the series on Saturday and moved up to his first NLCS since 1998 by winning his third straight game, each time with his starting pitcher staying longer than the Los Angeles starter. The Dodgers are always in a hurry to take their starting pitcher out of the game, and he burned them in Game 4 when coach Dave Roberts didn’t have enough good arms in his bullpen to make sense of throwing an effective Tyler Anderson after five innings (none run, two hits, 86 throws).
The Dodgers found themselves in a bad spot where their season was in the hands of Tommy Kahnle and Alex Vesia. That’s not good, especially not with a $ 264 million paycheck. In an inning, a 3–0 lead became a 5–3 deficit and an eventual defeat at that score.
In Game 2, Clayton Kershaw gave the Dodgers just five innings with a 4–3 loss. In Race 3, a rusty Tony Gonsolin had nothing and was gone after only getting four outs. In Game 5, Roberts voluntarily shortened Anderson’s night because Juan Soto and Manny Machado were slated to be sixth for San Diego.
“There was some thought,” Roberts said of letting Anderson start sixth, “but I thought about where he was with his shot count, which was coming in, I felt we had enough arms to get through that.
“With a 2-0 lead, Soto, Machado on the way again, I felt it was going to be in the 90s at that point. I felt we had enough coverage. “
This from a man who let Anderson throw 124 pitches when he had a no-hitter in play.
In all honesty, don’t blame Roberts. He is inundated with information and “guidelines” on how to run a game from his front office. Before Game 4, Roberts was 45 minutes late for his scheduled multimedia sessions because he was locked up in meetings with his front office clerks. They write the game. Roberts is the one who has to enter the media room and respond when he goes to the side.
I say this every post-season: many more games are lost by eliminating a starter too early rather than too late. Kyle Hendricks in 2020 is the only starting pitcher in the last five post-seasons who has been allowed to lose a late game.
It’s a strategy that looks good on paper and is okay if you have a deep, platoon neutral bullpen like the 2021 Braves, who have used relievers for more innings than the starters to run the playoffs towards the title.
The Dodgers don’t have that kind of bullpen. They have three 17th– round picks in their bullpen. They are based on matchups with pitcher stuff and breaking his pitches against the swing arc of the batters. They believe in relievers throwing their best pitch again and again. There are many data points to rely on and you can make yourself believe in the odds. But NLCS Game 4 was an example of what happens when the human element gets in the way of those plans.
To tell the anatomy of this defeat, at the end of the historic season of the Dodgers, begins with the decision to withdraw Anderson. It was done because Roberts (front office code) wanted a new hand on Soto and Machado for the third time. That arm was Chris Martin, who threw about two shots. The Dodgers passed another run at the top of the seventh.
Now Roberts had a three-run lead with nine outs to bring the series back to Dodger Stadium for Game 5. He planned to save his best reliever, Evan Phillips, for ninth. This would leave six outs to overcome. He chose to remove Martin for Kahnle, almost entirely because he believed that Kahnle’s change could neutralize Trent Grisham, the Padres right fielder and .184 hitter in the regular season who became a new Mr. October.
Kahnle only pitched 12 innings and 2/3 during the season due to injuries. It is certainly not a reliable winning piece. She wasn’t a good choice. She starts with this: She walked the hitter ahead with a 3-0 lead. Then Grisham blew up the strategy further by lining up a single, on a first throw change that he knew came from Kahnle. Then Austin Nola chose the single, on another change.
Now Roberts was in trouble. He had Yency Almonte, not Phillips, pitched before the inning began, knowing that Kahnle would not last past the required minimum of three batters. But he didn’t want to use Almonte for three outs and had lost faith in Vesia’s stuff. With no Phillips to troubleshoot, Roberts was troubled by Kahnle who didn’t come up with a single one.
“Well, to start the inning, I don’t expect Yency to take down the fourth hitter in the inning,” Roberts said.
Ha-Seong Kim bluffed bunt on Almonte’s first shot, which brought third baseman Max Muncy to the grass, after which Kim landed a double RBI behind him. Soto snatched a single that scored a run to equalize the match.
Almonte somehow got the next two outs, taking Jake Cronenworth, a lefty, to the pot. Roberts signaled Almonte to take a pick-off shot to buy more time for Vesia’s warm-up. The Dodgers couldn’t miss even that simple play. Almonte, Roberts said, missed the mark and threw Cronenworth a ball.
Now Roberts has emerged to lead Vesia with a 1-0 tally.
“He was ready,” said Roberts of Vesia. “I just wanted to buy a little more time. And this was the thought. I’m not going to put a pitcher in there that doesn’t say “I’m ready to go”. He was ready, I just hoped it was 0-0 just to make sure we felt good. “
Vesia threw his best pitch, his fastball, twice: one called strike, another foul. With two strikes and two outs, Soto took off – slowly – for second base, knowing the Dodgers insides wouldn’t cover second base and open a hole for Cronenworth. The field, another fastball, was a ball. Soto moved up to second place. Now two runners were in scoring position.
With a tally of 2 to 2, Vesia decided to throw a slider. It was bad. Cronenworth tied it to the center of the field. His single with two outs, two strikes and two runs in one serve against two pitchers will become the Padres legend in years time. It was the dagger that, to borrow from the main owner of Padres Peter Seidler, killed “the dragon on the highway”.
Give the Padres a world of credit. Like the Phillies, their NLCS opponent, the Padres are an energetic and extremely confident collection of young veterans and newbies alike. San Diego manager Bob Melvin managed a brilliant streak. He let Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove launch the mighty top of the Los Angeles lineup for the third time – Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, and Freddie Freeman – and won each of those games by not spinning the bullpen carousel in advance. He didn’t use a script.
The Padres showed the “Rally Goose” on the stadium’s video card. When a drone hovered over the field, Cronenworth grabbed a baseball and was ready to throw it before he buzzed away. The rain caused only the second use of the tarp at Petco Park throughout the year, and it fell violently again after the winning rally, as if to bless the proceedings.
All strange, but not as much as the Padres who unmask every flaw of the Dodgers, not just the bullpen. Muncy and Justin Turner had trouble getting fast balls to square, leaving the Los Angeles squad looking heavy. Turner has a $ 16 million option for next season that is likely not being exercised.
Cody Bellinger looked so bad that Roberts benched him against Musgrove, leaving Bellinger upset and probably staring at being not tender. Turner looked skittish at the shortstop and probably went as a free agent. Trace Thompson has been lightning in a bottle for a while, but a post-season, piss-off diet has neutralized him. Chris Taylor, due to two weeks of rust from a neck injury, was useless. The last of the San Diego lineup has far surpassed the last of the Los Angeles lineup.
The Dodgers’ biggest problem when it came to pulling 111 wins was that they had nothing left to do and were rushing to get pitchers out of the way. Without Craig Kimbrel (ineffective), Daniel Hudson (injured) and Blake Treinen (pitched once and proved he’s still not right after an arm injury), Los Angeles was short of expert arms of the caliber of the playoffs, especially for bring out lefties like Soto, Cronenworth and Grisham. Brusdar Graterol has fallen out of favor because he doesn’t get enough strikeouts for analysts’ tastes.
Before the game, one of the Los Angeles front office executives expressed concern that the team may have appeared flat due to a month of games lacking intensity with so little at stake. The Dodgers had blocked the division months ago. There was some truth, the quality of the Padres’ bats was far superior, but the real concern for the Dodgers was going to the bullpen too early, too often.
“Things could have gone either way today to affect the outcome of the game,” said Roberts. “It didn’t happen. We were beaten in a series ”.
He later added when he dealt with the disappointment of 111 flush wins: “But you have to give credit to the Padres. They beat us in this series. “
As strange as it may seem based on the huge gap in regular season records, the best team won.
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