Whew, that was close. It came down to the bottom of the ninth inning and the difference was a Chris Taylor walk-off two run homer, but this really could’ve bounced in favor of the St. Louis Cardinals, especially after some questionable decision making from Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
Fans love to use Roberts as a scapegoat because of his ability to railroad games and insert himself into key situations based on whatever script the team has laid out for the evening (for example, removing Max Scherzer after 4.1 innings on Wednesday night, even though it worked out), but Wednesday night’s went mostly according to plan.
Had the offense made life a little easier, perhaps we’re not even discussing this, but it’s fair to acknowledge that some of Roberts’ (or the Dodgers front office’s) decisions nearly cost the team in the narrow 3-1 victory that was secured at the last possible moment.
Some were obvious. Some were a bit under the radar. Some were omitted because of how things transpired, rendering whatever complaint we had useless.
But it’s safe to say there’s at least minimal head-scratching in regard to whatever fueled these choices.
These three Dave Roberts decisions nearly cost the Dodgers in the NLWC Game.
3. Not Starting Albert Pujols
When Wednesday’s lineup card was turned in, you were admittedly bummed Albert Pujols was not getting the start against his former team despite homering in his first at-bat against them at Busch Stadium a few weeks ago.
The veteran first baseman, in limited reps, of course, was having his best campaign since 2016 when it comes to average and OPS. And his numbers remained relatively consistent from month to month.
Perhaps the Dodgers wanted a bit of defensive advantage with the younger Beaty out there — and we know how important reliable defense is in a one-game playoff — but this team also needed offense. They had just lost Max Muncy, their best power hitter. And replacing him with Beaty, who had one hit in September before coming alive against the Brewers in the final series in October, just didn’t feel like the move.
Putting Pujols in this lineup would’ve served as a superior mental edge, and it showed when he came up to pinch-hit in the ninth. He tattooed one out to center field and it was caught near the warning track. His patience, power and veteran presence could’ve helped LA on the offensive side of things much more than Beaty, who went 0-for-3.
And is Beaty’s defense that much better? He’s played 69 career games at first base and has 11 postseason at-bats (eight of which came in 2019). Pujols felt like the no-brainer here, which would’ve helped avoid using Steven Souza and Billy McKinney later in this one.