Heading into the pivotal Game 3 of the National League Divison Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers knew Hyun-Jin Ryu would take the mound, but weren’t sure what to expect from the left-hander.
Despite not having pitched in more than three weeks, Ryu threw six strong innings and exited with the game tied. With Yadier Molina due up in the seventh followed by two left-handed batters and the pitcher’s spot, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called on Scott Elbert out of the bullpen.
Molina hit a leadoff double and Kolten Wong hit a two-run home run, which proved to be the difference in the game. Elbert recorded two outs — one on a sacrifice bunt — and gave way to Brandon League.
During a press conference with members of the media Thursday, Mattingly immediately bringing in Elbert is the one decision he regretted and offered an alternative course of action, via J.P. Hoornstra of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin:
Even though he hasn’t hit the lefties as well, I would’ve gone one hitter with Molina then gone to Elbert. Probably more like a (Brian) Wilson there for one hitter.”
On the season, Molina was a .278 hitter against left-handed pitching, compared to .283 against righties; he was 1-for-2 with a single in Game 3 prior to facing Elbert. Mattingly’s decision to lift Ryu at that time was understandable when taking into account stamina issues and the fact that the southpaw had already thrown 94 pitches.
However, following the loss, Ryu said he was capable of remaining in the game. With the Dodgers’ shaky bullpen, Mattingly’s toughest decisions throughout the series involved relying on a potentially tired starter or the bullpen.
Mattingly left Clayton Kershaw in during the seventh inning and it cost him, as it did in Game 4. With Zack Greinke pitching well but was over 100 pitches, Mattingly lifted the right-hander in the seventh and saw J.P. Howell give up a game-tying home run.
Given the bullpen’s struggles throughout the season and how it was exposed in the NLDS, it figures to be a point of emphasis for upgrading prior to 2015.