With two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Dodgers had runners on first and second with Padres closer Josh Hader on the mound.
Cody Bellinger’s spot in the lineup came up, and with the lefty killer Hader on the mound, L.A. manager Dave Roberts chose to pinch-hit for Bellinger.
The only question was: Who will pinch-hit? Would it be Chris Taylor, a right-handed hitter who strikes out way too often? Maybe rookie Miguel Vargas, a lefty-masher in the minors who hasn’t proved much yet in the big leagues?
Nope, it was Austin Barnes, who had his best offensive season in five years this year, but also his OPS+ was just 94, so it’s not like he was good.
Barnes flied out to end the inning, and the Dodgers went on to lose, 5-3.
After the game, Roberts was asked why he went with Barnes over Taylor or Vargas:
Dave Roberts said pinch-hitting Austin Barnes rather than Miguel Vargas or Chris Taylor went down to matchup. Liked Barnes’ shorter swing rather than Taylor’s tendency to go “uphill” against high velocity like Josh Hader’s.
— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) October 13, 2022
Taylor and Barnes are both know commodities at this point. Barnes was likely to get out, and Taylor was likely to strike out. The only real wild card there is Vargas — but he batted .170 in the big leagues this year.
Simply put, there were no good options in that situation. That’s the point of having a pitcher like Hader, he puts the other team in positions where all of their options are bad.
The game wasn’t won or lost in that decision. Trea Turner’s error that allowed the winning run to score helped lose the game, as did going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Barnes’ fly out was just one of those eight outs with RISP.
I’d have loved to see Vargas get a chance in that situation — again, we know what Barnes and Taylor are more than we know anything about Vargas. But Roberts’ logic makes sense, and Barnes hit the ball hard, just right at the outfielder.
Maybe the story here is that baseball is hard.
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