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Dodgers NLCS: Dave Roberts Defends Not Going With a High-Leverage Reliever

If the Dodgers drop the series, fans will be talking about this move for a while.



Managing a blowout is such a difficult thing to do as a manager in the postseason. You want to keep your hopes alive for the next few games, but you also don’t want to roll over and die. The Dodgers found themselves in that sort of situation on Tuesday afternoon in Game 2 of the NLCS. 

The problem that Dodgers fans have with the way things went down is that Dave Roberts’ most costly decision didn’t come in the middle of a blowout. Instead, it came when the team was trailing 3 runs in the 5th inning. 

With his pitch count climbing, Tony Gonsolin walked Nick Markakis and allowed a run-scoring double by Cristian Pache. Gonsolin probably should have been pulled there with the top of the order coming to the plate and just 1 out. Instead, the Dodgers manager chose to stick with Tony for Acuna’s at-bat. He walked. 

Things Spiral for the Dodgers Bullpen

Then, the Dodgers went to Pedro Baez instead of Adam Kolarek to face the left-handed Freddie Freeman. Freddie punched a single to left-center that scored another run, extending the lead to 4 runs. When asked about the decision, Dave Roberts sounded like he didn’t want to burn an important reliever already down 3 runs. 

With 1 out, you don’t want Kolarek to get after Freeman, whether it’s Acuna or whether it’s Ozuna behind him. So you’re put in a tough spot with that 3-batter rule. And then also, I felt Tony was throwing the baseball really well. He punches Riley and then it wasn’t a good walk to Markakis. He put together and good at-bat and then the walk there, and then there was a groundball double off Pache’s bat. So when it’s 3-0 right there to think about bringing in one of your highest leveraged relievers in a 3-run deficit it just doesn’t make sense.

On one hand, you have to understand that the Dodgers are playing the long game. This could potentially end up being a 7-game series and you don’t want to necessarily risk burning everyone out so early. But the fact that Los Angeles would come back to put 7 runs on the board really makes Roberts’ decision look terrible in hindsight. 

Playing the ‘What If’ Game

If he pulls Gonsolin early, maybe there’s at least 1 run that doesn’t come across. If he goes with Kolarek instead of Baez, maybe Freeman doesn’t push across a run. Unfortunately, what’s done is done. The Dodgers will have to move forward and get the job done in Game 3. 

Dodgers: Left-Handed Pitchers Neutralized Mookie Betts All Season, and Again in Game 1

Written by Brook Smith

Brook is the Senior Editor of Dodgers Nation, with several years of experience in sports journalism. He is an avid Dodgers and Lakers fan, and can be spotted fairly often at Dodger Stadium and Staples Center.

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  1. Did I miss something or did Kolarek give up what proved to be the winning run in the top of the 9th? What is the guarantee he gets Freeman out if he instead of Baez relieves Gonsolin? Looks like almost a complete meltdown of the bullpen so far. Is there hope still when the first started cannot go more than 4 innings and the second gets scratched? After all this hype actually how strong is the starting pitching and might that be a need for next year? Is there any guarantee Price will be effective after a one year layoff and one year older?

  2. I have said it all year! Dodgers will NEVER win a WS with Roberts as manager. His in-game pitching decisions lose critical playoff games.
    During the regular season, the Dodger depth playing against inferior teams allows them to dominate. Playing in the playoffs against comparable teams shows Roberts’s flaws.
    Every year it has been the same.

    • So true. Only reason Dodgers had best record this very odd season was that they had little competition from the two weakest divisions. Padres and A’s were the only potential threats out of the nine foes this year. Even poor management should allow a team with the depth and talent of this Dodgers team to collect wins in such a shallow pool. Now DR has to make the real management decisions against real competitive teams that he has not the training or experience to do. Perhaps he should have spent more years himself in the minor leagues managing.

  3. It’s easy being a Monday morning quarterback!!!
    What if roberts brings in kolarek instead of Baez and freeman hits homerun! Then everyone will be talking why did roberts bring in kolarek! ????

  4. Same old story. Can’t hit lefties, no lights out closer, big boppers Beli, Muncy, Seager, and now Betts look lost against good pitching. They lit it up against Arizona, Colorado, and Frisco. Right hand hitting also horrible. Time to shuffle it up after they get swept. PATHETIC!

  5. Had the Dodgers hit earlier in the game the outcome may have been different ! There was pressure on both teams the difference was the Braves broke the ice first putting the pressure on the Dodgers , near the end of the game I feel the Dodgers more relaxed.(Feeling the game may be out of reach) so going up there in the last inning what they did at bat was not pressured and the at bats were more successful , I think I would have put KiKi in to hit for Pollock , Kiki’s playoff average in playoffs may not be very high , but his at bats in situations of clutch seems to come through when really needed. I only hope this comeback by the Dodgers open up the charge to get positive results and go into VICTORY ……..LETS GO BLUE !!!

    • AZUL, the only thing I can say is that we have to get it done today or we can write this season off. Between DM’s managing style, Kersh’s bad back, KJ slowly fading into the abyss, or the easy schedule that allowed us to beat weak teams, we had better get it together tonight or else we are looking at 2021.
      Please give PD Jr an extra apple chip if we win. Stay safe!!!
      Go Blue!!!!!

  6. Pedro Baez’s career has been proved that he’s an unreliable reliever in critical situations. He tends to allow big hits, walks or inherited runners to score. I wouldn’t call on him in critical situations. Dave Robert has made plenty of bad in-game decisions ever since he became our manager.

  7. If the Dodgers lose the series to Atlanta or if they go on and lose the WS the reason is primarily the manager who can’t make the right moves in games that really matter

  8. THELAST 5 YR. PROVES D.R.IS A JOKE. THE MINORS MAY NOT WANT HIM. A.F. DOES NOT SEE WHAT IS & HAS HAPPEND WITH D.R., NO USE TO SAY ANY MORE,F.O. IS NOT GOING TO DO ANYTHING.WINNING N.W. NOT BIG DEAL. TO LOSE W.S. IS A HALF ASSED MANAGER.

  9. Freeman’s groundball off Baez was a tailor-made double play ball, BUT the Dodgers had to go to a shift, with runners on 1st and 2nd!! I don’t understand that!!

  10. Time and time again Roberts proves that he doesn’t know when to substitute a pitcher nor what pitcher to put in certain situations. That’s the reason the Dodgers haven’t won a World Series. And if he keeps making decisions like the one yesterday, we can forget about it this year too

  11. I haven’t seen a follow up yet from the commenter about bringing in Kolarek instead of Baez

    Kolarek seems to be extinguishing himself with his latest surrender of runs-two in Game 3. That gives him, as anyone can figure out and any loyal Dodger fan already knows – three runs total in the 9th inning of two straight games. It cost Game 2, perhaps but obviously in a mop up role last evening no real harm. But take away those 10 runs after two outs in the first and we are at nail biter tension in the 9th

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