No Dodgers fan will ever forget the disastrous bottom of the seventh inning in Game 4 of the NLDS, when a 3-0 L.A. lead suddenly turned into a 5-3 San Diego lead, effectively ending the Dodgers’ season. It was one of the more painful series of moments in recent memory that has fans clamoring for significant change this winter.
As Juan Toribio writes on MLB.com, though, the bottom of the seventh was only half of the story. In writing about the “defining moment” of the season for Los Angeles, Toribio identifies the entire seventh inning.
The Dodgers’ season ultimately came down to one disastrous inning. In the top half of the seventh, Los Angeles held a 2-0 lead and had an opportunity to go for the kill. The Dodgers had the bases loaded with nobody out, but were held to just one run. Max Muncy struck out in a crucial at-bat against left-hander Tim Hill. Justin Turner then grounded out to end the inning.
In the bottom half, the pitching decisions spiraled out of control. Tommy Kahnle was inefficient and failed to record a single out. Yency Almonte was one out away from keeping the game tied at 3, but manager Dave Roberts turned to Alex Vesia to face Jake Cronenworth. That resulted in a two-run single, effectively ending the Dodgers’ season.
It was a sour end to a season that included a lot of good memories for Los Angeles. But that’s how things roll in October sometimes.
The top of the seventh sometimes goes overlooked — as do all the offensive struggles, because once an opportunity came up to blame Dave Roberts for everything, everything else goes out the window. The Dodgers loaded the bases with no outs and were only able to get one run in, on a Will Smith sacrifice fly.
Smith’s sac fly was hit 100.3 MPH and had an expected batting average of .410, which means 41% of the time, it’s a two-run single or even a three-run double. Muncy is 2-for-7 with three walks in his career against Hill in the regular season, but he’s now 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in the postseason (two each in 2020 and 2022).
So while the Dodgers did extend their lead to 3-0 in the top of the seventh, you could make a strong case that it should have been more. If they’re up 4-0 or 5-0, it’s possible the bottom of the inning plays out exactly the same way, but you never know. The Padres fed on emotion, and it’s a lot harder to get fired up down by five than down by three. One thing we know would have been different is that the Dodgers wouldn’t have allowed Juan Soto to steal second base if he were representing the tying or go-ahead run, so Cronenworth’s single would have only scored one run.
Again, it’s all what-ifs, but it underscores the fact that, even though the bullpen implosion was the nail in the coffin, the cause of death for the Dodgers in the 2022 NLDS was an inability to get big hits in key moments.
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