Last Night’s Dodgers’ Win Actually a MONUMENTAL Loss

The box score may read LA Dodgers 3, Arizona Diamondbacks 1, but the losers of that game were not the now and forever insidious and moribund Diamondbacks, who should have been locking up title to last place in the NL West by now, but rather the Dodgers, whose manager Dave Roberts had to resort to late-September pennant-race tactics to win


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what should have been an all-too-easy laugher against a far inferior team.

And the reason for all this was the same reason the then high-flying Dodgers crashed and burned in San Francisco, and will continue to lose games that should be easy wins.

In today’s interpretation of the game of baseball as it is played in the major leagues, each team has a “Closer”, a pitching specialist whose job it is to
pitch a single, solitary inning, the final inning of the game, when, and only when his team has a lead of only a run, or two, or maybe three. Enter the game under any other circumstances? Well, never, almost. If the team is behind, even if the game is tied, and if the team has a better lead, say four, five, six runs, then the closer sits, somnambulant, at the end of the dugout or in a corner of the bullpen, lost in thoughts of a nice dinner, or tomorrow’s game. Ok, in an extra inning game when the rest of the staff has been depleted, then perhaps he may enter the game under other circumstances. Otherwise, the only other scenario comes late, late in the season, with the team in a pennant race, fighting to play in the post season. Then, in that occasional key spot, with an important game on the line, Mr. Closer may be brought in an inning early, in the eighth, to stop a rally and protect his team’s lead by actually pitching MORE than a single inning, but NEVER, EVER more than two.

But now the Dodgers and Roberts have seen fit to the break that time-honored mold, and approach things differently. The fact of the matter is that obvious fact that the Dodgers entered into the 2016 season with an absolutely horrible bullpen, save for closer Kenley Jansen. The question on the tip of every fan’s tongue was “How to bridge the gab between


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a well pitched start and the ninth inning?” So far this season, there has been no acceptable answer. Reliever after reliever, from Pedro Baez to Chris Hatcher to J.P. Howell to Louis Coleman and all the rest have been horrid, and last night, in a basically meaningless, early season game against a non-contender, faced with the obvious likelihood of losing yet again, this time with a two-run lead in the eighth inning, Roberts made a decisive choice.

Starter Alex Wood pitched very well for seven
innings, but the eighth began with a base hit, and the spent Wood had to be replaced. In came Baez, and the first batter to face him lined an out to center. That was followed with a walk, and the tying runs were now on base. Roberts knew he had to get Baez out of the game, but to be replaced by whom? Not by Hatcher, who began the season as the eighth inning set-up guy but who now sported an ERA of 5.40 and who had allowed eight of the 16 batters he had faced this season to get on base? Not by Howell, with his ERA of, yes, this is correct, 54.00? Not by Yimi Garcia at 4.91 or Louis Coleman at 5.79 both of whom were properly and quickly dismissed as possibilities, as was the last set-up/long relief guy, Joe Blanton, whose history as one of the worst pitchers in the long history of the game I have well documented. Blanton’s 2016 stats do not appear to be too bad, but if you have seen him pitch, you’ll realize he’s done it so far with smoke and mirrors and that another outing or two will see his 3.00 ERA triple, very quickly.

Alas, what is a rookie manager to do? Mr. Closer,… uh, Mr. Janson, are you warmed up? Yep, in order to preserve a basically meaningless April win against this horrid team, Roberts literally was forced to use his closer in the eighth inning for a five-out save. In September, possibly, in a post season game, absolutely, but NOW? The sad part is he really


had little if any choice.

The question is where do the Dodgers and Roberts go from here? Ross Stripling starts tonight, coming off his brilliant major league debut in a game that was lost by the bullpen. There is no chance that Stripling could go all nine tonight - his debut game in which he pitched 7-1/3 was the first time he had gone more than five innings in two years since his elbow surgery of 2014.

It’s unlikely Jansen would pitch at all tonight, let alone come into the game before the ninth inning. So, who will pitch after Stripling?

Volunteers?

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