And so another season has come and gone for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This early exit doesn’t have the same sting as 2019 did — that was a great baseball club. Surely winning a title in 2020 helps ease the three-decades-long stress of failures. Still, this was a club — even with all the injuries — that was built to win.
Despite missing key contributors, the Dodgers won 106 games this season. They did it with mostly inconsistent offense during the regular season but with exceptional pitching all year long.
Then things changed in the postseason.
The offense becoming more inconsistent in October adds up. After all, these are the best teams in baseball running out their best pitchers for the first two or three games of a series. But what became puzzling for baseball experts and fans alike was the immediate change to how the pitching staff was used by Dave Roberts and the front office.
People have pointed to Roberts using starting pitcher Max Scherzer in relief to close out game 5 of the NLDS against the Giants. The right-hander spent 13 pitches to record his first career save and then partied hardy in the post-game celebration.
But that wasn’t even the first head scratcher of the postseason for Doc and the Dodgers.
That game opened with the team opting to utilize an opener (Corey Knebel) over Julio Urias who came in later to toss 4 innings in relief. While that game was won and the NLDS was secured by LA, the cost was felt greatly in the NLCS.
Even if Dave Roberts won’t fully admit it.
The manager talked around that a bit after Saturday’s game 6 loss to the Braves.
In retrospect… and if you could guarantee that we can win game 5 with someone else, I would have used someone else different. I just think, in the moment, talking to coaches, staff and in particular Max and having done that — and a veteran player that I trust there’s a point that you just got to trust the player and I trusted Max, so it just didn’t work out.
But yeah, we were kind of behind it and fighting an uphill battle this entire series.
Ultimately, the series with Atlanta was not lost by Dodger pitching, however stressed it may have been. The series was lost because the team struggled to score against a very good team that had just enough pitching and the series of a lifetime by a hitter LA pitching just couldn’t get out in Eddie Rosario.
Maybe things turn out differently if the Dodgers opted to keep Scherzer fresh for a game 1 and instead got a bridge inning from an Alex Vesia or Phil Bickford type. Or a Brusdar Graterol or Joe Kelly type. Or maybe letting Blake Treinen toss one more inning after mowing down the Giants batters in order in the 7th inning. Perhaps Julio Urias starts that game and tosses 5 or 6 innings of 1 or 2 run ball. Then maybe Max takes the ball in game 1 and Walker Buehler follows him with a gem in game 2 of the NLCS in Atlanta.
Maybe we would never be having this conversation if Dave used someone else in the 9th and LaMonte Wade connects on a walk-off home run to send San Francisco to the NLCS.
We get a whole offseason to think about all this.