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Dodgers vs Braves Series Preview: Looking for Fight from LA after Roberts Gave Up on Sunday



The Braves finally slowed down the Giants for a weekend in Atlanta, taking 2 of 3 from the team with the best record in baseball and opening the door for the Dodgers to get within a mere half game of first place. Chasing the Giants has been a tall task for the Dodgers – with a win percentage over .600 every month this season, a weekend like the Giants just had in Atlanta hasn’t come around very often.

With Colorado in town for a weekend series, it felt like a golden opportunity to beat up on an inferior opponent and really make San Francisco sweat. Instead, the Dodgers came out flat and lost 2 of 3 while going 2-for-19 with runners in scoring position. I wrote before the weekend about the Rockies’ steady starting pitching, an underrated group that has Colorado a lot higher in the standings than most predicted. Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela each managed to shut down the Dodgers while pitching deep into their respective games, and Jon Gray looked well on his way to doing the same on Saturday before being removed with an injury.

In Friday’s loss, the Dodgers hardly produced any offense at all. They would score runs on solo homers by Will Smith and Trea Turner, but went 0-for-3 in the very few other opportunities they had en route to a 4-2 loss. Andre Jackson again looked solid pitching in a bulk role, but the bullpen game approach wasn’t enough to keep the Rockies at bay.

Saturday’s game was teetering on becoming another evening marred by missed opportunities – the Dodgers didn’t have a hit with runners in scoring position once again as the game entered the 8th inning. Will Smith and AJ Pollock would eventually deliver after the Dodgers loaded the bases, and Kenley would shut the door on a 5-2 win.

Heading into the rubber match on Sunday, the Dodgers had to feel confident. Mitch White was heading to the mound for Los Angeles, looking to build off of a career-best 7.1 scoreless innings in his last appearance on August 18. Antonio Senzatela, a pitcher the Dodgers had battered for 12 runs over 6 innings in April, was pitching for Colorado on a hot day at Dodger Stadium primed for runs to be scored.

Mitch White wasn’t sharp, allowing a 3-run home run in the first inning to CJ Cron that felt avoidable with Rio Ruiz on deck. To White’s credit, he teamed up with Brusdar Graterol and Justin Bruihl to keep the game at 3-0 until Joe Kelly fell apart in the 7th and the deficit moved to 5-0. The more shocking portion of the outcome to that point was the Dodgers’ inability to hit Antonio Senzatela, a pitcher they’d owned in the past. Los Angeles only managed 4 base runners over Senzatela’s 7 innings of work, despite making loud outs on several occasions. As frustrating as the offense was to watch, games like that will happen from time to time.

Then Dave Roberts lost his mind. Roberts would turn to Kenley Jansen to pitch the 8th, despite a 5-0 deficit and having pitched the previous night. Especially with a big Atlanta series starting the following day, the move was puzzling (or, to me, infuriating) to say the least. Kenley was fine, thankfully, getting through the inning on just 13 pitches. Time will tell if those wasted bullets negatively affect his ability to pitch Monday night against Atlanta if the situation calls for it. If nothing else, the move to Jansen was a show of faith in the offense from Dave Roberts; clearly, he believed that a 5-0 deficit was worth making irrational decisions to defend from becoming larger.

Related: Kenley Jansen Ties Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers on Saves List

The Dodgers would not score in the bottom of the 8th inning, though, and Roberts quite literally gave up. Third baseman Justin Turner would be called upon to pitch, a stunt that may have been cute had the Dodgers been chasing a 15-run deficit while nursing a nice lead in the division. In a 5-0 ballgame, while fighting for their lives in a divisional race, it was one of the more non-competitive, jaw-droppingly pathetic moves I’ve ever seen from a manager at the Major League Level. After all, Roberts had JUST deployed his closer on zero rest to protect the deficit. The incongruence of the two decisions, both absolutely nonsensical in their own right, was a scary display of incompetence in the face of adversity.

As Atlanta makes their way to Los Angeles having done the Dodgers a favor against the Giants, I’m hoping Dave Roberts wants it a little more badly than he did Sunday. If he doesn’t, why are we watching?

Monday, August 30
7:10pm PT

Drew Smyly (9-3, 4.54 ERA) vs Julio Urias (14-3, 3.17 ERA)

When Drew Smyly and Julio Urias face off Monday night, it’ll be a battle of two of baseball’s most fortunate pitchers in terms of run support. The Dodgers have offered 6.32 runs per game in Julio Urias’ starts, while the Braves have scored 5.36 runs per game behind Drew Smyly.
Drew Smyly’s “stuff” hasn’t been the catalyst behind his effectiveness in 2021. Smyly ranks in the bottom quarter of MLB pitchers in most Baseball Savant categories, including xwOBA, xSLG, xERA, xBA, Barrel%, Fastball Velocity, Fastball Spin, and Curveball Spin. Hitters have found plenty of hard contact against him, and he doesn’t strike out very many of them. Smyly typically relies on a high chase rate, especially on his curveball – and hitters have more than obliged thus far in 2021. Still, his numbers aren’t exactly world-shattering – in August, Smyly’s averaging less than 5 innings pitched per start and allowing a home run every 3.8 innings of work while pitching to a 5.21 ERA. He allowed 3 home runs to the lowly Orioles in his last start, but picked up the win thanks to continued elite run support from the Braves. Generally speaking, pitchers’ who rely on chase rates for success often struggle against the Dodgers, who have been the best in MLB at avoiding chasing.

Smyly does present one problem for the Dodgers – he’s left-handed. Despite boasting one of the top offenses in baseball, the Dodgers are only producing at a 98 wRC+ clip against lefties, slightly below average and ranking them 17th in baseball.

The Dodgers will send Julio Urias to the mound in search of his 15th win of the season. Urias has been lights out in August, pitching to a 0.90 ERA over 4 starts, and is riding a 10 inning scoreless streak. He last allowed a run more than 3 weeks ago, on August 7 against Anaheim. Julio pitched well against the Braves back in June, propelling the Dodgers to their only win in that 3-game set in Atlanta with 5 strong innings.

Tuesday, August 31
7:10pm PT

Charlie Morton (12-5, 3.60 ERA) vs Walker Buehler (13-2, 2.02 ERA)

On Tuesday night, it’ll be Cy Young favorite Walker Buehler taking the mound for the Dodgers against Charlie Morton, best known in Los Angeles for his work as an Astro in the 2017 World Series.

Morton has produced a solid season for Atlanta, thus far taking the mound for 26 starts and producing a .500 or better record in every calendar month. His August has been solid, thus far posting a 2-2 record with a 3.10 ERA that aligns fairly well with what he’s done all season. Uncle Charlie has pitched at least 5 full innings in 13 consecutive starts and 17 of his last 18, reliably providing the Braves with quality length and saving their bullpen. He was touched up a bit by the Yankees in his last start, allowing 4 runs including 2 home runs over 6 innings, picking up the loss.

Morton did pitch against the Dodgers in Atlanta back in June, a start he earned the win for despite allowing 4 runs (2 earned) over 5 innings. What the Dodgers did well that night is what they’ll need to do well again – they pushed Morton’s pitch count, forcing him to throw 94 pitches, and didn’t allow him to work deep into the game.

Walker Buehler pitches for the Dodgers, looking to continue a thoroughly dominant 2021 campaign. Buehler last saw Atlanta last season in the NLCS, pitching 11 phenomenal innings over two starts, allowing only one run to cross home plate. For Buehler, the plan is simple – maintaining postseason-level intensity and doing what he’s been doing all season.

Wednesday, September 1
7:10pm PT

Max Fried (11-7, 3.54 ERA) vs Max Scherzer (12-4, 2.51 ERA)

Like Tuesday, Wednesday’s Battle of the Maxes ought to be a great matchup between two of the better pitchers in the National League. Both teams are very familiar with their opponent – the Braves saw Max Scherzer for years in the National League East, and the Dodgers have run into Max Fried over and over in both the Postseason and regular season for Atlanta.

For Fried, who famously pitched and batted for Encino Little League’s All-Stars in the early 2000s, the trip to Dodger Stadium is a homecoming of sorts. The Dodgers saw Max Fried twice in the postseason last fall, splitting the two games against him but only managing 4 runs over 12.2 innings. He also dominated the Dodgers earlier this season, pitching 6 strong innings on June 6 en route to a 4-2 Braves win. After a difficult start to the 2021 season, Max Fried has pitched very well as the season has chugged along. Since the All-Star Break, Fried is 5-2 with a 1.90 ERA – and 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA in August. Unlike Smyly, Max Fried embraces soft contact – while he strikes out his fair share of batters, his 86th percentile Average Exit Velocity against is his bread and butter.

When Max Scherzer takes the bump for the Dodgers on Wednesday, he’ll be making his 27th career appearance and 25th career start against Atlanta. Unlike the Phillies and Mets, Atlanta has actually caused Scherzer a bit of trouble in the past. For his career, Max is 10-9 against the Braves with a relatively pedestrian 4.04 ERA; since 2018, Scherzer’s 4.22 ERA against the Braves is his highest against any team in the league. Scherzer made his first start of 2021 against the Braves, and allowed 4 runs over 5 innings – including 2 home runs to Ronald Acuna Jr (notably not available this week) and 1 home run each to Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson.

Since joining the Dodgers, Scherzer has been sensational. The Dodgers have won all 5 of his starts, as he’s personally pitched to a 4-0 record, a 1.55 ERA, and struck out 41 batters in 29 innings pitched. If Los Angeles is going to take a lead into the later innings against Max Fried, they’ll need this most recent version of Scherzer to pitch well against Atlanta.

Dodgers: Who Are the Best Relievers Available in the LA Bullpen?

Written by Dalton Brown

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  1. I’m not concerned at all as far as the pitching goes. But the offense is a HUGE concern because the Braves IMHO are better offensively But the biggest concern is Roberts, and how he simply threw Sunday’s game away.

    • So sad to watch. I am leaving California at the end of the year and had a friend asked if I was selling my Dodger stuff. After yesterday’s debacle I was tempted!
      This was the worst, most dis-heartening, decision I can remember and I have been a Dodger fan since 1973.

  2. If there was a doubt in anyone’s mind prior to yesterday relative to Dave Robert’s complete inability to remove his head from his arse, the 8th and 9th inning of yesterday’s game should eliminate any doubt whatsoever!!

  3. If I was setting the rotation for the next seven days for this extremely important week, I would not pitch Scherzer in the Atlanta series and have him start in S F on Friday on extra rest. A win in SF is a 2 game swing with less than 30 games left at that point. Then Urias and Buehler will also be the SF series. I would use a bullpen game on Wednesday against Atlanta or bring up Jackson to start the game. Also rosters expand to 28 on Wednesday and more pitchers can be brought up to facilitate that game from the minors. I realize all games are important to win, but time is running out to win the division and there will be no more games left against SF after Sunday, I’m not the manager or GM, but that’s what I would do. What would you do?

    • That make WAY more sense than Roberts could ever think of. Despite the dodgers having a good season, I’ve never experienced a season with SO MANY questionable strategies. Or are the strategies at all? I’m tired of Roberts’ quizzical looks from the dugout too. He needs to go.

      • If they win today they take the series, then I would make that change you suggested. You wouldn’t want to have a losing streak and going in flat to SF. But yeah, beating the Giants is a big swing of momentum as there are no more meetings for the year. One more BP game and day off between your aces would perfectly set-up for a showdown in SF.

  4. Roberts hasn’t changed the way me manages since he has been the manager. He is a percentage guy all the way. He always seems to take the guys that are hot out of the lineup for whatever reason and says they need rest. Bull S—. He set us up for a loss with his starting lineup Sunday. Why take some of the best hitters at this time and sit them down in a must win game? We had 3 guys who either can’t hit much or aren’t hitting all year in the back end of the order. How could Roberts be so blind and let White pitch to one of the hottest hitters in baseball with 1st base open? And why didn’t Barnes call time and go to the mound to tell White to stay away from the upper middle of the plate? Just to think we have to sweat it out with Roberts for the rest of the season is going to cause a lot of heart burn for all of us because he is going to continue to make these senseless moves. Hang on folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

  5. How about our chances next year?

    Just kidding, it does seem as if the Dodgers have wasted every opportunity to overhaul the Giants and continue to “play down” to the level of teams they should have beaten. After the Braves and Giants series this week, this club is at a make or break point. Roberts meanwhile is looking for a towel to throw in.

    Thanks Dave, now, back to our chances next year!

      • Absolutely. We can’t keep having to win every game against our inept manager’s decisions that try to stop us. With a decent manager we would be sitting comfortably at the top.

      • Optimism? How about being optimistic that the NL gets the DH in the new CBA, and that will eliminate some or many of those in game and pitching decisions that Roberts
        has had to deal with this year. Optimism? Can we hope for a healthier team next year too?

  6. I never saw Bruce Bochy give up in the ninth down 5-0. And he has three rings, all of them from seasons consisting of 162 games, not 60.

    • During the Bochy era, the Giants won the World Series twice as a Wild Card team. Therefore, with one exception, the Giants were not the Division leaders nor did they have ” the best record in baseball” during a 162 game regular season. Instead, Bochy was able to successfully mobilize his team to make the most of the opportunity and the Giants rose to each occasion. So, if we want to make an analogy between the Giants and Dodgers, how about: if the Dodgers do not win the Division this year because the Giants do, the Dodgers still have an opportunity to get to the World Series (and win) via the Wild Card.

      As for the Dodgers’ winning the 2020 World Series, if it was such an easy feat to accomplish then other teams, including the Giants, should have been able to do it, but they did not. Go Dodgers!

  7. THE CHANCES THIS YEAR , NEXT YEAR OR ANY YEAR ARE SLIM IF ROBERTS IS STILL THE MANAGER. THANK GOD LAST YEAR WAS A SHORT SEASON.

  8. Imo some of the DR criticism is a bit over the top – I think DR does excellent job interacting w the players – also resting players in August and September can pay dividends in October – do agree that DR over manages at times – would prefer he manage more with his eyes rather than with the analytics (like last postseason in the decisive games against Braves andTampa when he left Urias for 8th and 9th innings bc he saw Urias throwing strikes and getting people out)

  9. Denny Richards’ post was right on. How Roberts can devise a lineup without the Dodgers’ three best hitters in a crucial game is totally beyond me. And he absolutely must limit Bellinger to a platoon player until he learns to hit against the shift and/or bunt!

    • I LOVE BELLINGER, BUT HE HAS LOST HIS CONFIDENCE WITH THE BAT. HIS GLOVE AND ARM ARE WORTH A MILLION BUCKS, BUT HE NEEDS TO SIT MORE . RIGHT NOW HE’S AN AUTOMATIC OUT.

  10. Totally agree that Bellinger being LHH with elite speed to first base – should occasionally try to bunt down third base line early in count against certain pitchers in the right situation – also agree he should wait on pitches shorten his swing and try to hit to opposite field – especially when behind in the count

  11. JT put up a 0 in the ninth. So did the offense. How would that be different if Roberts had used a tired reliever? I have a bigger problem wasting KJ in the eighth, but who else was available? Roberts has won the division every year and gets no credit, just a lot of crap for iffy decisions that any manager must make.

    • I AM REALLY WEARY WITH THE PHILOSOPHY THAT HE PITCHED LAST NIGHT 1 INNING SO HE WON’T BE AVAILABLE TODAY. FOR GOD’S SAKE, IF HE IA A RELIVER, HE SHOULD BE AVAILABLE EVERY DAY FOR AN INNING OR MORE.
      THIS CRAP THAT THESE MILLION $$$ ARMS CAN ONLY GO EVERY COUPLE DAYS IS B.S.
      QUIT CODDLING THESE ONE INNING WONDERS!!! IF YOU WANT TO PITCH IN THE BIG LEAGUES, THEN BY GOD PITCH WHEN THE TEAM NEEDS YOU.

    • Former MLB players from the 90’s and back, are laughing at the ‘girls’ playing today….. I know a number of them, and it’s a 100% spot on comment.

      They also mention, why not bunt on an infield shift? A few bunt singles would shut that down real quick. Remember, batting stats make a huge difference when negotiating a new contract, why would they not try and win at all costs?

      Something does not smell right if you know what I mean….

    • He has caught the majority the games and they would want him to continue playing w/ out him hitting the wall. Catching is a mental grind and they want him to focus on his defense and the various pitchers. His hitting is a natural talent where he stays short and true, so there is not much concern. He is ideal 8 hole hitter, because he takes good pitches, contact hitter that’s able to drive in runners ahead of him, and most of all w/ all that said he will be able to turn the lineup over and get the pitcher up and not leadoff the next inning. Also by he getting on base that gives the opportunity for the pitcher to bunt him over to set the table for the top of the lineup. At this point of the season, they need him in there w/ out sacrificing a bat and not burning him physically and mentally.

      • Shaka….

        Research the following catchers:

        Johnny Bench
        Carlton Fisk
        Buster Posey
        Mike Pizza
        Gary Carter
        Roy Campenella
        Joe Mauer
        Joe Torre
        JT Realmuto
        Thurman Munson

        I’ll stop there, many more options….

        How many of these great catchers fall into your statistical analysis?

        With all due respect, you may want to rethink your mindset….

        • These guys you listed are all seasoned vets. I have no doubt that Smith will be on that list when he becomes a seasoned catcher. He young and has not played two full seasons yet and still developing to be an elite catcher in the major leagues. He’s rapidly learning the game as you must have seen some of the growing pains. I just don’t want to see him get burned out early w/ all the responsibilities needed to play that position. He’s getting the feel of the daily routine a Major League catcher has, as noted by Roberts and gaining the confidence of his pitchers. I’m sure some of those vets went through some growing pains in their first two yrs. in the majors, but I have all the belief that Smith will be up there. Just that right now the Dodgers have no one capable of filling the 8 spot. We were losing innings when McKinney or Belli were not getting on base and forcing the pitcher to hit instead of bunting them over and set the table for the top of the order.

  12. WOW!!! for over two years I have been saying.. Roberts is a total loser.. and now others see this???? I just don’t believe it…. when it has been so obvious….go count how many games this man has single handed lost….SMH

  13. I can’t get to a Dodger game, but can the fans that are there please yell at Bellinger to just simply cut his hair short. With all the superstitious behavior in baseball you would think this one would be obvious. HE HAS TRIED EVERYTHING OVER 2 SEASONS BUT CUTTING HIS HAIR AND IT LOOKS BAD ANYWAY WITH THAT STUPID DOO-RAG HE HAS UNDER HIS HELMET. LAST TIME HE WAS THE MAN CONSISTENTLY, HE HAD SHORT HAIR.

    I know it sounds stupid, but us athletes will do ANYTHING to be successful including the unexplainable. Please Dodger fans, make your voices heard as he needs to hear it from someone.

    Oh, and all you non-athletes that think this is a rediculous request, just ask a real athlete, they will tell you stories that make no sense to you, but a simple change like this can spark a fire under even the best of athletes.

    Next Dodger chant when he comes up “CUT THAT HAIR, CU THAT HAIR, CUT THAT HAIR!!!”

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