Austin Barnes appeared in a Clayton Kershaw postseason start on Wednesday, and while it weakens the Dodgers’ lineup overall, it’s the price the team has long had to pay to keep their ace comfortable on the mound.
Oh, sorry. I’m just … I’m sorry. It turns out Barnes actually wasn’t behind the plate to catch Kershaw, as has become customary. And it turns out Dave Roberts placed him into the lineup well after Kershaw exited for the benefit of his bat alone.
With two men on in the eighth and two outs, following numerous squandered opportunities with runners packing the base paths, Roberts had one last chance to push a button and irritate volatile closer Josh Hader. Cody Bellinger was due up, a dreadful matchup standing in front of him — a big-league pitcher!
Just kidding. Though Bellinger struggles against most hurlers these days, Hader and his whip-quick lefty arm is a unique mismatch for the lefty slugger. A move was necessary. But … whom?
Roberts had postseason hero Chris Taylor available, as well as hotshot rookie Miguel Vargas, who forced himself onto the playoff roster somewhat surprisingly. Instead, he went with Barnes, his backup catcher who’d been bypassed in favor of Will Smith in the starting lineup, presumably for an offensive boost. And now he’s the offensive boost! Barnes flew out.
Sadly, it seemed to be an indicator that Taylor would be a hood ornament in this series, carried on the roster ceremonially, but not with any intention of participating. Wrong again! Roberts saw enough on Wednesday to declare Taylor the Game 3 starter over Bellinger against left-hander Blake Snell.
But he didn’t see enough to use Taylor in a big spot in Game 2?
If Chris Taylor’s healthy for Game 3, why didn’t Dodgers choose him vs Josh Hader?
Taylor’s battled a foot fracture this season, as well as neck soreness that kept him out of the lineup and out of rhythm towards the end of the season. Staying away from him made sense only if that neck issue lingered enough to turn any at-bat against Hader into a formality.
And yet, minutes later, Roberts chose to tell the assembled media that, after an off day, Taylor will be more than alright enough to take his hacks against Snell.
Maybe the Dodgers’ manager was just trying to satiate the mob, and will walk back his Taylor claims in 48 hours, revealing that the issue has persisted? In that case, the satiating didn’t work; it just created more questions.
Add in Taylor’s documented ability to get on base against Hader — and his somewhat mythical “boost” of previous postseason success — and you’ve got a whopper of a time to hope against hope that Austin Barnes can run into one instead.
The Dodgers could’ve eliminated Roberts’ chance to mess up in the eighth before it ever arrived simply by turning runners on the corners with no outs in the sixth into a single run, then getting a game-breaking single from either Trea Turner or Freddie Freeman with runners on second and third with one out in the seventh.
Alas, this game somehow came down to the eighth, and it somehow came down to Barnes, who put his stamp on the contest without even getting a chance to calm Kershaw and prevent his three jittery earned runs from scoring.
CT3 will see Game 3. It can’t come soon enough.