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Dodgers: Don’t Blame Clayton Kershaw for Last Night’s Meltdown

The final line doesn’t tell the whole story during another Kershaw postseason loss



I know what you’re thinking. I thought it too. Clayton Kershaw just can’t win in October.

Another four earned runs and not nearly enough swings and misses are proof enough that Kershaw is not built for the postseason.

And without any additional context, you would be absolutely correct. Clayton Kershaw gave up the lead and should take the blame for not being able to pitch his team to victory. After all, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen this play out, right?

But when you look at the broader picture (and take emotions out of the equation), Kershaw’s struggles in the 6th inning are the least important factor of last night’s 10-2 beating at the hands of the Braves.

The Offense Didn’t Come to Play

Watching the Dodgers 15-3 victory on Wednesday night left me with an uneasy feeling going into Game 4. Whenever a team has that kind of outburst and burns so much adrenaline and energy, there is almost always an unexplainable hangover that follows, and Thursday was no different.

In what should have been another easily exploitable matchup against a rookie with only 7 starts to his name, the offense suddenly couldn’t be found. A team that absolutely feasted on the fastball all season looked lost against a modest 95 MPH heater that more often than not was right down the middle. Simply put, that will never get the job done.

Sure, the wind played a factor in this one by keeping a few balls from reaching the seats, but the Braves played in the same conditions and put up 10. The Dodgers, meanwhile, only mustered 3 hits and went 0-3 with RISP. Two runs will rarely win you a game in October.

Our Best Guys Couldn’t Get it Done

I, like many other Dodgers fans I would assume, went into last night’s game feeling confident about our chances to tie this series. And not because I expected Kershaw to pitch 7 shutout innings, but because we had our best relievers fresh and ready to come in and put out any fires along the way.

I cannot blame Dave Roberts for turning to Brusdar Graterol in the 6th when Kershaw couldn’t miss a bat, I would have made the exact same move. After everything that he has shown this year, the Bazooka was the obvious choice to pitch in that high leverage situation. But he clearly didn’t have it this night, and nothing the Dodgers could have done would’ve prepared them to put out that fire in time.

Victor González was slightly better, but even he failed to live up to the standards that we have come to expect from him, fair or not. Roberts turned to his two most trusted relievers in the biggest spot, and they failed to stop the bleeding. Had Graterol come in and shut them down, it would’ve remained a 3-1 game with plenty of baseball to be played. Instead, their inability to slow the Braves down not only ended any chance of a comeback, but it also tarnished Kershaw’s reputation even more.

That 6th Inning Never Should’ve Happened

This leads me to the most important point of all: Clayton Kershaw had no business being on the mound in the 6th inning whatsoever. Already dealing with an ailing back, what he was able to do through 5 innings should have been enough to call it a night. And maybe it was because of the lack of offensive support or because he had faith in his ace, but Dave Roberts made a mistake the moment he let Kershaw take the mound in the bottom of the 6th.

While his pitch count wasn’t exactly high, he had already thrown many stressful pitches with runners on base. Coupling that with his back injury and the fact that there was a stable of rested and capable pitchers ready, the decision looks even worse.

Perhaps a clean inning of work would’ve made the difference for Graterol tonight. Perhaps not letting Kershaw see the lineup for a third time would’ve kept the Braves bats silent. Maybe a different decision would mean that this series was tied. But it isn’t, and there is more than one reason why.

Final Thoughts

The Dodgers will go into tonight’s game facing elimination, and I honestly don’t know if they have the energy in them to make a comeback. What I do know is that I am not ready for baseball to end, and I know that they feel the same.

Knowing Clayton, he’ll put this loss on his shoulders and focus on making sure it doesn’t happen again, but that shouldn’t be the case. In order for the Dodgers to win, it’s going to take a team effort. Let’s hope that the magic of this year’s club makes a comeback tonight.

Written by Daniel Palma

Daniel is an avid sports fan who loves his hometown teams. If he's not watching baseball, you can find him playing or coaching. No matter what, he'll always root for the Boys in Blue!

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  1. So let me get this straight, it’s not Kershaw’s fault because Dave Roberts should have never let him go out for the 6th inning? You mean the face of the franchise for over a decade, the sure thing first ballot hall of famer, our stud ace couldn’t pitch into the 6th inning of a critical NLCS game?
    Actually, you’re right. If you look at His lifetime post season record, Roberts probably should have never handed him the ball in the first place. He should have parked his butt out in the bullpen right next to Jansen!
    Get real.

    • The man has been rushed from a back injury, he still managed to give us five innings of one-run ball, and you want him demoted to the bullpen? Stop trolling, it’s not even funny.

    • A manager that knows how to properly use his starting pitching and bullpen would have allowed Kershaw to start the inning, but would have had both a righty and lefty getting warm in the pen – just in case. Then, after the bloop infield single, made worse by an awful throw from Hernandez, and the hit by Freeman – NOW – go to your relief pitcher with the score 2-1. You’re asking a guy who was held out earlier in the week because of back problems, to go against the top of the lineup for a 3rd time in a crucial game. You’re evaluation of Kershaw is ridiculous.

  2. Completely agree. I wanted 7 out of him but expected only 5-6. Bats invisible. Roberts can’t manage his staff

  3. After the Dodger huge offensive explosion, I figured the series was lost as the Dodgers were doing their arm flexing, etc. You cannot hit tons of Home Runs at Globe Life they needed to hit the ball for base hits but instead, they were swinging for the fences and let a rookie control them.
    Letting Kershaw go more than 5 with a bad back was rather optimistic.

    I have stated in the last few years that the Dodgers will never win the WS with Roberts as manager. I am afraid Roberts is proving me right when I truly wanted to be wrong. His in-game decision making loses at least one game each playoff series and when you are playing teams with comparable talent that means you lose.
    Sigh well GO Anyone but the Astros.

  4. Needs for 2021: A starting pitcher who can go more than 4 plus innings ( maybe 2-3); a couple of bull pen arms who get get batters out in games other than when there is a 10 plus run lead; a position player or three who can get base hits when there are runners on the bases; some training to teach hitters not to take strike and swing ay ball four. Trevor Bauer has indicated a desire to be a Dodger. He has the habit of being able to pitch deep enough to get the win ( should his team mates be able to score runs more than 1 or 2 runs). All season long the Dodgers have shown they could not hit good pitching. We should have known better to get our expectations too high ( again ). Both the Red Sox and Cubs have had long bouts of winning it all. Will the Dodgers follow suit? Will we continue to see Lucy play the “football” counterpart trick on the Dodgers? The 1940 cry of “Wait til Next Year” ( I was one of the fans shouting that) was heard but the 1941 season failed to win the big one in no small part on Mickey Owen dropping that third strike on Tommy Henrich, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Who knows, miracles have happened in the past. The Red Sox came back from a 3-1 deficit ( in the playoffs)but this team seems to now have a defeatist attitude. My thoughts

  5. Different year, same results. You can talk all you want about the Dodgers awesome power ratings, run differential, ERA, blah blah blah but the past several years there is only one common denominator in the Dodgers failure to obtain a ring- Dave Roberts. The Dodgers have consistently have had the talent. No doubt about that. They can win divisional championships easily but when it comes playoff time they are lacking. Its obvious that the WS winner is not the best team, It’s the team that gets hot, the team that is well prepared, and the team that is well managed. Look at the SF giants in their 3 out of 5 years they won the WS. They clearly were not the best team but Bochy pushed all the right buttons and got his team some rings. It should be obvious to management (I would hope so) that Roberts cannot lead this team to a ring. Totally inexcusable that the team cannot manufacture hits against those “no name” pitchers they’ve been facing. And let’s not get into his management of his pitchers and bullpen. Roberts has to go. The Dodgers do not need elite manager although Bochy would be perfect (heard the white sox was looking into his availability). Look at the managers who are leading their teams right now. The only real known manager is Baker (my opinion of him has declined substantially after his reactions in the game with Joe Kelly) and he did the right thing by leaving in Greinke the other night. Until they get rid of Roberts we will be seeing this happen again next year and next year and next year—–insanity! Time to move on.

  6. Well stated. Considering back spasms, history in post season, etc., Clayton should not have stepped on mound for 6th inning. He gave 5 good frames. Can’t ask for any better.

    As for relievers and ( non) hitters — what’s the difference between playing Padres and Brewers? Attitude. Big letdown for professional athletes focused on their contracts instead of taking care of business on the field.

  7. Absolutely agree that Kershaw shouldn’t have been allowed to take the rubber in in 6th inning. And even then, Roberts left him in too long. That is a pattern in the post-season we’ve seen play out too many times. I don’t think Roberts can get past his loyalty to long-time players, especially ones how have been as great throughout their careers like Kershaw. Roberts decision may have cost him his job this time as expectations where sky-high for a title this year after the “regular” season. Every year we have the same poor decisions about how and when to use the bullpen. At some point it has to stop. Yes, the offense took another vacation, but I think we also have to give some credit to the Braves. They’re play great ball with the exception of game 3 in this series. I suspect that they’ll win it all this year just like the Nationals did a couple of years ago.

    I also think maybe it would be good for a sports psychologist to spend extended time with the players to figure out how they can better handle the post-season pressure. They seem to crumble each time.

    I’m still hoping for a great come-back and that we can win the next 3 games, but I doubt that will happen. No matter what, the Dodgers will always be my team!!!

  8. Kershaw shouldn’t have come out for the 6th. He had already thrown 80 pitches. Most high stress with a bad back. His history shows the 6th is his nemesis. They needed to get to 2 even. I was screaming at the TV why? You had to treat this like a game 7. The Dodgers need new bench coaches and some solid relievers! Not those that have been discarded by other teams that come at a cheap price!

  9. Totally agree that Roberts needs to go. His pitching and lineup management is terrible. But that is only part of the problem. We looked great during the regular season with a great record. The only problem was we were playing the worst teams in the majors. The Dodgers came from behind many times, not because they were a great come from behind team but that they couldn’t hit starting pitching. They hit weak relief pitching. Tired of hearing how deep our lineup is. We have a 1st baseman hitting less than 200 batting cleanup. Yeah, he draws a lot of walks but you don’t have a cleanup hitter for the walks. Joc may be a fan favorite but he is a career 230 hitter who is hitting under 200 and can’t hit L/H pitching. I could go on about our pitching core but this series has shown how weak they are.

  10. Fact: Kershaw has been erratic in the postseason. Sure, it is never entirely the pitcher’s fault. But we need to just face the fact that whether any given meltdown can be blamed on someone else, the cumulative record is what it is. You can blame the manager. You can blame the lack of hitting. You can blame the bullpen. But Kershaw has not controlled the factors he can control. He is not Koufax. He is not Drysdale. He is not Hershiser. He is not Valenzuela. We keep assuming he is. That’s on us.

  11. Chris Russo took apart the Dodgers and Kershaw on High Heat this morning. Admittedly he is a Giants fan but he didn’t say anything that wasn’t true.

    • Yes he did. He harped on failing to win in 8 shots but when asked if Roberts should lose his job, he gave him a pass. Are you kidding me? This is his 5th season and none of this is on him? Russo likes to lay it all on Kershaw because he’s a Bumgarner fanatic and he steadfastly denies the Dodgers have any gripe about 2017. That the Astros knew what pitches Kershaw was throwing in game 5 is without dispute; They didn’t swing at a single curve. Had the Dodgers won that game, they win the series in 6. Kershaw would have been the MVP and the conversation today would be very different. Russo is quick to vehemently condemn the Dodgers and begrudging in his compliments because his comments are always colored through his Giants bias.

      That said, the Dodgers need to man up tonight.

  12. You are what your numbers say you are. Kershaw is no Koufax, Drysdale, Valenzuela or Hershiser. If he was, the Dodgers would have a couple more championship trophies.

  13. This team lacks discipline !! How many times have we seen Pederson, Seager, and Bellinger trot to first base on a ground out only to watch their brilliant manager pat them on the butt as they go in the dugout. Turner hasn’t hit the ball all year and especially since coming back from the hamstring injury, yet, he’s in the lineup every night. Roberts needs to go !! Horrible decisions and non decisions. Kershaw fought through 5 innings and that should have been it. Pryor is no Honeycutt. He needs to go. I would love to have a Tommy Lasorda type manager manage this team. Discipline, and fundamental baseball is what this team lacks and as long as Roberts is the manager we will never see either nor will we see a World Series Trophy. IMHO

  14. SAME O SAMO. A.F. HAS HIS HEAD INHIS ASS,IF HE DOES NOT FIRE D.R..KERSHAW SHOULD NOT PITCHED THE 6TH,AND LEFT IN TO LONG.D.R. ETHER LEAVES THEM TO LONG ORTAKES THEM OUT TO SOON. NO W.S.WITH D.R., AND MAYBE WITH AF. F.O. MAKES THE NEEDED CHANGES OR FORGET FILLING NEW STADUIM.

  15. Points well made by all here. Dodgers have scored 25 runs jn these 4 games but the pitching has given up 26 to the Brsves. Aside from game 3, the offense has been dominated and was especially against a Braves pitcher who who had zero post season experience and very limited time in MLB. Besides the obvious about Roberts managing in October, once agsin the pitching couldn’t keep the baseball in the yard and has been dominated by the Braves hitters as well. But this is the norm in October when usually the hitting and pit ching fails to show up. To conclude, the Dodger 2020 season ends tonight, sorry to say.

    • Azul, last night’s loss hurt………………they all hurt!!!! Did Roberts make another bad managerial decision by allowing Kersh to pitch another inning. That is a moot point right now. I hope we can win tonight. If this thing goes to seven games, please do not allow Kersh to pitch the big game. Its time to reasses. Go Blue!!!!

  16. The time has come for Roberts to handed his walking papers. He is too nice of a man to make the difficult decisions. Someone has to be held accountable and in this case the buck stops with Mr. Roberts. Sorry!

  17. After the 11 run inning in game three I wasn’t surprised about last night. That was our hot streak for the series.
    Yeah, Kershaw shouldn’t have pitched the sixth and all that but the fact is all the bats stayed in the locker room last night. It aggravates the hell out of me when we have two men on and they’re all swinging for the fence.
    The long ball is cool but it won’t win us a ring.
    Roberts is the one consistent every year but I’m not blaming him anymore. Bottom line is our guys choke whenever the pressure is on, period!

  18. So, Kershaw is going to put his focus into seeing that it never happens again? HAHAHAHAHA, like he did after every postseason he has ever pitched in. It really sucks that a generational pitcher can’t ever seem to dominate a post season like so many others have in the past. And it’s incredible that he has the tendency to crash so suddenly, often cruising along and then all of the sudden, barrel after barrel. He has an uncanny ability to sink the ship in such an expeditious manner.

    He’s our best regular season pitcher every year and our worst post season pitcher every year. Cursed?

  19. Roberts has to be fired!!! He is horrible at in game decision making. Kershaw gave everything that he had in 5 innings, bad back. He was spent. I would have figured Graterol & González would have dine better but both are inexperienced. This is the playoffs. Bauer would be a great choice to add to this team. He is a battler. Buehler was mis-managed this year. He had blisters the whole year! Ridiculous. I too have seen lack of hustle. Pederson, & more, not running full out to first base &more. No repercussions against lack of effort. Roberts is trying to be a good guy not manager. Bochum would be great if available. Scioscia always had the Respect of his players, they worked hard, hustled. As involved as upper management is, analytics and all, Roberts is just a puppet anyway. Get someone with some fire. Not a cheerleader.

  20. Every playoffs, in one key game, there comes a convergence of the four problems that seem to kill the Dodgers: Struggling offense, shaky Kershaw, bad managing, ineffective bullpen. All four of these happen at the same time in a key game every year. It seems impossible, but it happens. (Houston Mitchell – L.A. Times)

    Exactly what happened on Thursday night. Don’t blame it all on Kershaw!!!

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