Dodgers: Minimizing the Heart of the Astros Lineup is Easier Said than Done

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 29: George Springer
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 29: George Springer /

The Dodgers find themselves in unfamiliar territory tonight facing elimination at home after dropping two out of three in Houston. There’s no room for error, and the team needs to show the resiliency they’ve shown all season.

As I pointed out last night, history oddly favors the Dodgers in this exact scenario. It’s never ideal to be facing elimination. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the Dodgers get the final two games in LA. The task is going to be nothing short of monumental as they face Justin Verlander who has a 0.46 ERA in elimination close out games.

This World Series is the greatest World Series I’ve ever witnessed. The teams are evenly matched and have combined to score 58 runs scored on 22 home runs. In a championship series that features plenty of big-name starting pitchers, the offense has been the deciding factor of the series.

The Dodgers have scored more runs in the series than the Astros 30-28; but the Astros have hit more home runs than the Dodgers, 13-9. As we know, the Astros lead, 3-2. Perhaps the most disappointing part is the production of our core players.

Chris Taylor, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, and Cody Bellinger are a combined 16-78. It’s surprising because their at-bats don’t indicate they are struggling. They are hitting a combined .205. The core-four does have 12 RBI and 4 home runs; but when we compare that to the Astros core-four, we can see why the Dodgers are trailing.

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Don’t get me wrong, the Dodgers are a few breaks going their way from being up 3-2; but the Astros heart of the lineup is living up to the hype. The core of Springer, Bregman, Altuve, and Correa are killing the Dodgers. They all combine for 26 – 88, .295 batting average with 18 RBI and 9 home runs. It’s easier said than done limiting this top of the lineup.

When looking at how Dave Roberts has managed against them, it’s tough to ask for more from Roberts. Through 5 games this series, Roberts has limited the amount of at-bats this core has faced against the starting pitcher. Later in the games, Roberts continues to use his best relievers, Morrow or Jansen, to face this core. So Dave Roberts is sending out his best against the Astros best. But clearly, that hasn’t worked.

Roberts has gassed out Morrow and Jansen this postseason. For the first time in his career, Morrow pitched on three consecutive days in Houston and got touched up pretty bad his last outing. Jansen has given up a run in his last three appearances and blew his first save since July 23rd. I don’t question Roberts for sending out these two to face the heart of the Astros lineup, but hitters only get better the more they see a pitcher.

Something I asked on Sunday is – why are Josh Fields and Brandon McCarthy on the roster if they are not going to pitch in games? Yes, they have allowed 3 home runs in their lone inning, but Roberts already knew they were the weakest link in the bullpen. If he doesn’t have the confidence to pitch them, why even roster them? Why not roster Hyun-Jin Ryu to come out in relief?

Roberts wanted more righties in the bullpen. I get Roberts’ reasoning why these two pitchers are on the roster, but I don’t get why he doesn’t use them. Morrow has pitched in all but one game this postseason. Jansen has pitched in all but two, including four multi-inning appearances and isn’t fooling any of the hitters with his cutter.

The Dodgers are in a win or go home state of mind. They can’t afford to not use their best guys in the bullpen so it’s best for Roberts to stick with his plan. Hopefully, yesterday’s day off was good for Morrow and Jansen and they’re able to recapture their dominance for two more games.

Next: Game 6 Preview and Prediction

So what’s the plan for today? Everyone except Darvish and Kershaw is available. The Dodgers gotta hope for a strong outing by Hill to get their bullpen extended rest. Does Dave Roberts go to Morrow in a 2-run game again? Roberts doesn’t really have much of a choice.