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Dodgers: Dave Roberts Reflects on Using Max Scherzer in Relief in NLDS Game 5



And so another season has come and gone for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This early exit doesn’t have the same sting as 2019 did — that was a great baseball club. Surely winning a title in 2020 helps ease the three-decades-long stress of failures. Still, this was a club — even with all the injuries — that was built to win.

Despite missing key contributors, the Dodgers won 106 games this season. They did it with mostly inconsistent offense during the regular season but with exceptional pitching all year long. 

Then things changed in the postseason.

The offense becoming more inconsistent in October adds up. After all, these are the best teams in baseball running out their best pitchers for the first two or three games of a series. But what became puzzling for baseball experts and fans alike was the immediate change to how the pitching staff was used by Dave Roberts and the front office.

People have pointed to Roberts using starting pitcher Max Scherzer in relief to close out game 5 of the NLDS against the Giants. The right-hander spent 13 pitches to record his first career save and then partied hardy in the post-game celebration.

But that wasn’t even the first head scratcher of the postseason for Doc and the Dodgers.

That game opened with the team opting to utilize an opener (Corey Knebel) over Julio Urias who came in later to toss 4 innings in relief. While that game was won and the NLDS was secured by LA, the cost was felt greatly in the NLCS. 

Even if Dave Roberts won’t fully admit it.

The manager talked around that a bit after Saturday’s game 6 loss to the Braves.

In retrospect… and if you could guarantee that we can win game 5 with someone else, I would have used someone else different. I just think, in the moment, talking to coaches, staff and in particular Max and having done that — and a veteran player that I trust there’s a point that you just got to trust the player and I trusted Max, so it just didn’t work out.

But yeah, we were kind of behind it and fighting an uphill battle this entire series.

Ultimately, the series with Atlanta was not lost by Dodger pitching, however stressed it may have been. The series was lost because the team struggled to score against a very good team that had just enough pitching and the series of a lifetime by a hitter LA pitching just couldn’t get out in Eddie Rosario.

Maybe things turn out differently if the Dodgers opted to keep Scherzer fresh for a game 1 and instead got a bridge inning from an Alex Vesia or Phil Bickford type. Or a Brusdar Graterol or Joe Kelly type. Or maybe letting Blake Treinen toss one more inning after mowing down the Giants batters in order in the 7th inning. Perhaps Julio Urias starts that game and tosses 5 or 6 innings of 1 or 2 run ball. Then maybe Max takes the ball in game 1 and Walker Buehler follows him with a gem in game 2 of the NLCS in Atlanta.

Maybe we would never be having this conversation if Dave used someone else in the 9th and LaMonte Wade connects on a walk-off home run to send San Francisco to the NLCS.

We get a whole offseason to think about all this.

NEXT: LA Features Long List of Free Agents, Seager, Jansen, Kershaw and More

Written by Clint Pasillas

Clint is the lead editor of Dodgers Nation, and a host and analyst on Dodgers Nation's own Blue Heaven podcast live stream.

He's been writing, blogging, and podcasting Dodgers since about 2008. He was there for Nomar, Greg Maddux, and Blake DeWitt, and he'll be there for Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo, Dustin May, and any Dodgers of the future.

He's also a sandwich enthusiast, a consummate athlete, and a friend.

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  1. I think the difference in the series was the Dodgers not having home field advantage despite winning 18 more games. You can’t tell that at least one of those two Atlanta walk-offs to start the series wouldn’t have had a different result in a different stadium. Still, the Dodgers continuing hit or miss offense was the big reason. Wait till next year.

    • good call. Dodgers win the NLCS with home field. they were too tired and 2 cross country trips did them in after a month+ of playoff baseball, wild card, and NLDS against the gnats.

    • I agree there too. 106w and no home field is an absolute joke! What’s the point of 162 if you reward a team for playing in a crappy division?

    • Dodgers actually gave away both games 1&2! Even being on the road. But true, if Dodgers had home field no way they lose the NLCS.

  2. Dodgers had a great year and no one need blame Roberts , Lux or anyone for not getting back to the series. Muncy getting hurt. Kershaw getting hurt. Two HUGE end of year happening s that sealed our fate. Playing in Atlanta never should have been with them having home field advantage. But hats off to the Braves. Rosario and the rest played their hearts out

    • doc did a fantastic job getting the walking wounded thru 6 month regular season. His playoff management went from great WC, to good NLDS, to poor in the NLCS. He brought nothing to game 6, and it showed in failed moves that needed to be done. Errors of omission as much as errors of commission. But what choices do the Dodgers have to replace him?

      • I know of a couple of little league coaches in the neighborhood that are better suited for the job

        • With less talent Roberts will be even more exposed for the fraud that he is.
          Roberts does not make the team better, we lose 10-12 games per year directly because of Roberts. I have a basset hound “Bubba” that covers his eyes every time Roberts visits the mound. I think he would be a much better manager.

      • Joe, I completely agree. Difficult to understand how someone making all the right moves in the WC, to few blunders in the NLDS, to a complete face plant in the NLCS! I’m a huge DR fan. In the NLCS? Not so much. I’m truly disappointed. Gotta call it like I see it!

        • So your finally agreeing with us that Drrrrrrrrrrr is NOT a big game post season manager. The guy is a great person, he’s a excellent P.R. guy but he still has NO clue when it counts. NOT Starting Pujols when he had been getting hot just like Russ Martin and David Freese. Burning up Scherzer and Urias just like he did Kershaw and Kenley a couple years back. He doesn’t even learn from his mistakes. Blaming it on the FO is your way of deflecting the true blame from Roberts, but the FO has given Roberts a 275 million dollar roster loaded with Excellent players. Even if your presumption is true that the FO calls all the shots, then the Organization will NEVER win another championship UNTIL they learn to play situational baseball. You’ve admitted that the Post season has to be managed on the fly. Drrrrrrrrr’s weakness, hence we need a real Baseball manager period.

      • Mike Shildt, who led his team from a 2% chance at the postseason in early September to the Wild Card after a 17-game winning streak, for one.

        • DfanDave, or Bob Melvin who annually either has the A’s in the post season or right there. With the lowest payroll, the guy knows pitching, plays situational Baseball and has a great reputation with the players. Give a guy like him a 225 million dollar roster and they would win. He’s smart enough to ditch the computer analytics come play off time and play the Chess game of managing in the post season. How bout this, Dodgers have Drrrr and his replacement play a game of Chess for the job. Drrrrrr’s playing checkers….

  3. I actually will pin the NLCS on the FO. All the quants with all their number crunching is stuff that works over the course of 162. Over a short series, the quants will always come up short because they can’t measure the intangibles. There still is a human element that defies quantification…Eddie Rosario! Nuff sed.

    Doc said “we couldn’t figure him out.” Well if you can’t figure him out…walk his rear! Eddie Rosario, non-tendered by the 3rd world Minnesota Twins in 2020. Non-tendered means they cut him.

  4. Detrimental player effects: Losing Kershaw, Muncy, Turner, and Kelly (Max unavailable for game 6). Urias throwing a tantrum in game 4 loss after giving up 3 HR. Pitching staff out of gas.
    Detrimental manager decisions: Once again, Dave can’t-use-pitchers-correctly Roberts lack of a brain. This guy’s pitcher change decisions in games 2 and 6 helped cost us the NLCS. I don’t give a damn what that blowhard David Vassegh says, Roberts doesn’t deserve full respect. Dodgers won 2020 WS _despite_ Dave Roberts.
    Bringing in Urias in game 2 as a tired reliever instead of letting him rest was a mistake. He enters the middle of the game, immediately gives up 2 runs, and it cost the Dodgers.
    Bringing in Vesia to replace Graterol – who found a new gear – in game 6, caused a 2-out tie-game situation to turn into bases loaded from 3 straight walks and 3 runs scoring which was the death of morale. If you listen to Vassegh, Roberts deserves full respect and even admiration. Then Roberts doesn’t start Urias in game 4 and Friedman can take fault for that too because that was part of the script. You don’t use you 20 GAME WINNER AS A RELIEVER. He started all damn year!
    Roberts deserves a kick in the ass out the door for good. If the St Louis Cardinals manager can get tossed due to “philosophical differences” despite leading his team to the wild card after a 17-game winning streak on top of a respectable managing record that included the Cardinals getting back to the postseason, then Friedman can toss Roberts. Atlanta (and their garbage offending chant insulting to Native Americans) is a garbage team in a division that saw two teams give up the ghost in August in a way that would even cause the Cubs to snicker at. I’m done watching baseball with the anger, frustration, and sadness at the way our team lost, because the WS has devolved into a trash can vs garbage best of 7.
    P.S.: These bullpen games have got to go away.

    • I know you are. But for real, it’s not going to happen, no way, no how. They may send a message to doc, heh no contract extension, so doc you better get back to WS in 2022 (if we have a season!)

  5. Simply put Roberts likes to try fancy things. When he brought Scherzer in releif there were plenty of capable arms in the bullpen ready and waiting. Using Scherzer there was unnecessary and piled on the adversity for the team in games that followed.

    Also bringing Urias in releif was also not necessary, it worked in 2020 because it was a short covid impacted season.

    There are more bad decisions we all know about already.

    In short making solid baseball decisons may not draw as much attention as the fancy unorthodox moves but it wins ballgames.

    • And as we all know since 2017, the playoffs are the worst time to try the fancy. Yet he does it every damn year. Yet still, not enough people become infuriated with it, and Friedman doesn’t seem to understand. Urias pitched over 190 regular season innings on his way to 20 wins. Roberts fked up royally and denied us a rematch.

  6. If Joe Torre led Dodgers from 2015-2021, we would have won 3,4 more WS titles… How Friedman can’t see that and keep rehiring Roberts is beyond me…

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