Entering the NLDS against the San Diego Padres, the 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers were going to battle with potentially the game’s most disappointing second-half team, an apparently stuck-in-the-mud crew they’d owned all year long.
Exiting the NLDS in four games, no team has more lingering questions surrounding them than the very same Dodgers. Was this supposed super team really not good enough to easily dispatch of the Padres? Was the playoff format to blame? Did the Dodgers rust while they were supposed to be resting?
Maybe so. But the team looked plenty live in Game 1, when they battered the Padres’ Mike Clevinger early and often. Then, Dave Roberts’ group dropped three in a row, including one on their home turf. A number of factors are to blame, likely led by a boilerplate charge of “underperformance,” given to the entire offense.
There were undoubtedly a few moments in the series where momentum turned, though, thanks to Roberts and a few puzzling gaffes that unnecessarily opened the door for the Dodgers’ 89-win rivals.
Once this series got to San Diego, the powerhouse crowd took hold of any opening they got and helped propel their Padres to the finish line.
This is a difficult pill to swallow for Dodgers fans. After all, while the Padres “played” like the better team, there are 162 games worth of evidence to prove that they weren’t the better team. Without these three baffling decisions, who knows how the series would’ve ended? Especially Game 4.
3 Dave Roberts decisions that ruined NLDS vs Padres for Dodgers
3. Austin Barnes, High-Leverage Pinch-Hitter?
Coming off a Game 1 victory, the Dodgers’ penchant for creating devastating missed opportunities presented itself in earnest in Game 2, when Justin Turner and Gavin Lux came up empty with the tying run on third with no outs. Will Smith flew out the next inning with a bases-loaded opportunity and two outs, kicking the deficit down the road to the eighth, when Roberts bucked the numbers and went with his intuition instead.
It didn’t work.
With two on, two out, and a Rally Goose on the field, Roberts yanked Cody Bellinger against devastating lefty Josh Hader, shirking Chris Taylor as a pinch-hitting option in favor of backup catcher Austin Barnes.
Barnes maybe should’ve … started this game anyway? The Dodgers had a 1-0 series lead, after all, and starter Clayton Kershaw has historically been more comfortable with Barnes in the postseason. Instead of being used as a security blanket, he was called on as a cold pinch-hitter and made the final out of the inning.
Taylor was, career, 3-for-8 against Hader, walking twice more and holding a .500 OBP. Barnes? 1-for-5. Sadly, this meager RISP showing in Game 2 may have tipped the series, and though it didn’t all come down to the eighth, this maneuver didn’t help matters.