In a rollercoaster game on Thursday night, the Los Angeles Dodgers fell to the Philadelphia Phillies by a score of 9-7. But some would argue this loss was completely avoidable. Looking at you, manager Dave Roberts.
After going down 7-1, the Dodgers rallied to score six runs (four in the bottom of the eighth!) to tie the game and put pressure on the streaky Phils. Joe Girardi with his back against the wall? Roberts had him right where he wanted him.
But then came the top of the ninth inning when he called upon reliever Daniel Hudson to pitch to the bottom of the order (8-9-1 hitters). He got the first batter out, then pinch-hitter Odubel Herrera reached on a bunt single. The top of the order had arrived.
An Infield single, walk, wild pitch and sacrifice fly put the Dodgers down 9-7 in short order, which left many fans scratching their heads. Hudson, who just blew the series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday, was tasked with the ninth inning? Why?
Craig Kimbrel hasn’t pitched in five days. Any reason the supposed best reliever on ample rest wasn’t utilized in a high-leverage situation against a solid group of bats? Knowing how shaky the Phillies bullpen is, all the Dodgers needed to do was escape the top of the ninth unscathed and the pressure would’ve been on with Trea Turner leading off the bottom half.
Instead, the Dodgers needed to score two runs to tie the game and it changed the entire dynamic. Again, for reasons unknown.
Why didn’t Dodgers’ Craig Kimbrel pitch against the Phillies on Thursday?
After mounting a six-run comeback, Roberts should’ve been pulling out all the stops to steal this victory immediately after dropping a series to the lowly Pirates. Hudson has now allowed a run in three of his last five outings, so maybe giving him the highest-pressure situations isn’t the best idea at the moment.
The Dodgers’ bullpen was overworked, with all of Hudson, Alex Vesia, Brusdar Graterol, Tommy Kahnle and Evan Phillips pitching on Wednesday. Kimbrel holding the fort down in the ninth, followed by Phil Bickford in the 10th (assuming the game remained tied) seemed like a logical plan.
Now, fans are sitting here wondering if something’s wrong with Kimbrel because his last outing came on May 7 against the Cubs, during which he threw only 19 pitches. He’s tossed seven straight scoreless outings.
Roberts said that he wanted to save Kimbrel for the middle of the Phillies lineup assuming this one went into extras, but all it would’ve taken was one baserunner to get aboard to upend that plan (and it happened quite quickly!). That’s a bit too chess-like for a situation as self-explanatory as this one. It wasn’t the worst of strategies, but it certainly wasn’t going for the jugular.
And it’s not like Hudson was facing slouches. Johan Camargo is famously a clutch hitter. Odubel Herrera is batting .279 on the season. Rhys Hoskins has recently caught fire. Alec Bohm is hitting .309. The Dodgers should’ve been playing to walk it off in the ninth — not anticipating extras.