Dodgers: This isn’t the time to experiment with Will Smith at first base
The Los Angeles Dodgers dropped Friday night’s series-opener against the Giants in gut-wrenching fashion, as San Francisco won on a walk-off error from shortstop Trea Turner in the bottom of the 11th inning.
It’s not the way anyone drew it up, but the loss was just a microcosm of the uphill climb the Dodgers have had to surpass the Giants in the NL West standings.
Before we get into a highly questionable decision from Dave Roberts, let’s start by saying that Los Angeles’ offense was largely to blame for Friday’s defeat.
Going 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position just isn’t going to cut it against a team as good as the Giants. Eight hits was enough to win, but the Dodgers kept bailing SFG out by failing to capitalize with ducks on the pond.
With that out of the way, now we can ask our question: why was Will Smith playing first base in the most important inning of the season?
Will Smith has never played first base. The Dodgers should probably not play him there in high-leverage situations.
You know how baseball works, folks. When a player is playing a position he isn’t familiar with, the ball is going to find him. More often than not, it’s going to be a difficult play, and that’s unfortunately what happened to Smith (and manager Dave Roberts) in the 11th inning on Friday night.
After both clubs scored in the 10th, the Giants loaded the bases against Evan Phillips, who was the Dodgers’ 11th pitcher of the game, by the way.
With two outs, Buster Posey hit a ground ball to Turner, who had plenty of time to record the out, but his throw pulled Smith off the bag. An experienced first basemen likely would’ve been able to straddle the bag or make the grab and recover in time to record the out. Smith did neither, as replay confirmed Posey was safe. Game over.
We know Roberts’ options were limited, but having Smith, an everyday catcher who had NEVER played first in college at Louisville or as a pro before the 10th inning, play first in that moment was just asking for trouble.
Did Turner put too much zip on the throw? Sure, but any regular first basemen would’ve come down with it in fairly casual fashion. Smith stabbed at it and his momentum took him off the bag, giving the 34-year-old Posey that split-second he needed to make up those last couple of steps.
We know the Dodgers’ offense didn’t come to play, but playing Smith at first simply can’t happen again…at least not in a game of this magnitude. It’d be a different story if he had experience at the position, but again, we’re talking about a player who had never played first base before in his college or pro career.
Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen again, please.