Was the Los Angeles Dodgers' loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night ideal? Absolutely not. Was it "different" from any of the team's other heartbreaking losses this season? Nope. The bullpen did it again!
Speaking of the bullpen, it's certainly been on the upswing. Fans have been encouraged by that. Fans have also been clamoring for more structure, and they've seemingly gotten it with Evan Phillips holding down save situations almost exclusively as of late. Over his last eight appearances, six have been save situations (the other was him being used in a blowout to avoid too much rest and another was a ninth-inning appearance with the Dodgers trailing by one).
This man is the Dodgers closer, right? That's what so many of you have lobbied for while the bullpen was the worst in the National League and the second-worst in MLB (only behind the A's).
So when manager Dave Roberts, who incessantly catches the ire of the fanbase for his bullpen decisions, called on Phillips to shut the door when the Dodgers were up 7-6 in the ninth, that was the correct move, right?
Apparently not! First, Roberts was blamed for the team getting pasted by the Royals (not all his fault Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urías got rocked). Now, he used Phillips in a save situation and it was a short-sighted decision.
Dodgers' Dave Roberts can't win over fanbase after Evan Phillips decision
Roberts told the media prior to Tuesday night's game that Phillips wasn't available because he had thrown 30 total pitches in back-to-back outings on July 2 and 3. Behind the scenes, Roberts spoke to Phillips, who said he felt great, and the manager made the undisclosed decision to use the right-hander only in a save situation if it came down to it.
But how many times earlier this year did Roberts say someone wasn't available, didn't use them at a crucial juncture in what felt like a game the Dodgers could easily win, and whatever cast of relievers at Roberts' disposal couldn't get the job done? Those same fans were yelling "just use him anyway!" because they knew the alternatives were far worse.
This time around, Roberts seemingly made the aggressive choice to use Phillips in an effort to give his team the best chance to win. It backfired, and it's still all his fault, even though it would've been the decision everybody else would've made behind closed doors.
If Phillips told his manager he was good to go, that's on him. The only thing Roberts can be faulted for is using Phillips in three consecutive games for the first time all year. But again, Phillips should not be walking Jack Suwinski and Nick Gonzales before allowing back-to-back hits to the Nos. 7 and 8 hitters.
Who was preferable? Brusdar Graterol, who everyone's been frustrated with? Ryan Brasier? HA! Daniel Hudson? Probably don't want to be using him in back-to-backs just yet.
The bottom line is that this was the right call. And the harsh reality is that fans will continue to use Roberts as the scapegoat whether it's warranted or not. The disdain for Roberts runs deep, and we won't argue the reasons why. That's just what's come to be.
But the fact the fans raked him over the coals for a decision even they probably supported sitting at home means Roberts will never win over those who dislike him.