Roberts is not to Blame for the Dodgers Game Four Meltdown
The Dodgers were just eight outs away from tying the World Series and winning momentum. Rich Hill was throwing a masterpiece and the mood inside Dodger Stadium was a perfect reflection of just how close the Dodgers were to that ever important second win of the series.
Rich Hill did what needed to be done. He started the game and pitched into the seventh, gave the Dodgers a chance to win, kept runners off the bases by allowing just one hit and gave his bullpen, one that threw a combined 170 pitches in game three’s 18-inning marathon, a chance to take a breather.
But, Hill told Dave Roberts he was starting to fatigue. Hill said to monitor him “batter by batter” and when Roberts did that and made the move to the bullpen, the game came crumbling down to the ground like a card tower in wind.
The Dodgers imploded and quickly Roberts was blamed. “Fire Dave Roberts” or “Let Roberts go” were the chants that took the place of ‘Let’s go Dodgers’. Dave Roberts was in the spotlight and again, it felt like he chocked under the pressure.
But, given the circumstances, Roberts, who has not been all that great in the World Series, made the right moves and played the right players. On Saturday night, it was the players who lost this game, not Dave.
We need to take everything for what we know. There will be no more assuming, just the facts and those start with how Rich Hill was feeling and what exactly he communicated to Dave Roberts.
Roberts shared with the media after the game that Rich Hill was feeling tired heading into the seventh inning. He was not asking to be pulled he was just making Dave Roberts aware of the fact that he may not be too sharp for too much longer.
Concerned about getting a crucial win, Roberts was ready to pull the trigger on his starter’s unbelievable night. This is the first instance of Roberts getting criticism he does not deserve. Hill walked a batter to start the inning. That put a runner on base and Dave Roberts did not move from his spot on the bench, that was strategic.
Hill faced one more batter after the walk, striking out Eduardo Nunez to put an out on the scoreboard. Roberts stood up, raised his left arm to the sky and Scott Alexander entered the game.
Fans were shocked. Why pull Hill now and why on Earth bring in Scott Alexander with just one out? The answer was simple, Roberts wanted a groundball. Alexander was added to the roster over Caleb Ferguson for that exact reason. The Red Sox were the third worst team in avoiding double plays and Scott Alexander was the second best in the majors at producing them. This move was not a shot in the dark, it was a calculated attack.
Alexander failed his job. In the four pitches he threw, he walked Brock Holt and now there were two on with one out. Dave Roberts could not have predicted that nor could he control what would happen with Scott Alexander’s control.
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Roberts made his lone blunder here. He pulled Alexander, the ground ball king, and replaced him with Ryan Madson who again proved his ineffectiveness giving up a three-run home run. Boston was down one with six outs to take the lead, Roberts had to act quick.
It is at this point that we need to clarify something. A closer should not be stuck in the ninth inning. A closer is a manager’s best reliever, the stopper of momentum and the guy you want out there against the toughest the competition has to offer. Roberts picked Jansen to face Benintendi, Steve Pearce, and J.D. Martinez but just like Scott Alexander, it was Jansen that could not deliver. Pearce homered, the crowd booed and faded to silence and the game was now tied.
The game is knotted up and Dave Roberts knows he can not put Jansen back out there again. He was not on his A-game in his first inning of work and with the game tied and a shot at winning still in play, there would be no second chance for the All-Star closer.
Roberts picked Dylan Floro to replace him. Floro has been fantastic all year. In 54 games, the 27-year old righty had a 2.25 ERA, a 1.250 WHIP and a 185 ERA+ which was the average of his 155 ERA+ in Cincinnati and 241 ERA+ with the Dodgers. In other words, Roberts had no reason not to trust him.
Floro came in, gave up a hit, a walk and a three-run blast. Just like that, the Dodgers were trailing by three runs and the bullpen failed their manager.
Dave Roberts is the easy blame. Sure, for the majority of the postseason his management has been unacceptable but Roberts should be blamed only when he deserves it. He does not make the pitches for the players, he just gives them an opportunity to throw the ball where one can just pray that the result will pay off.
In game four, Roberts played the numbers and played them well. He put in the right pitchers outside of Ryan Madson and gave his team a chance to win. Let’s all think twice before blaming the skipper.