A baseball team must secure at least 27 outs to win a game, and so
He consults with the coaching staff and the analysts from the front office. He gauges the readiness of various relievers. The group assembles a plan, one they trust Roberts to implement. Each action functions toward the larger goal of assembling a plan to compile the required number of outs.
"There are things that I have in my mind that gives each player the best chance to have success," Roberts said. "To deviate from that, that goes away from my process. And I preach nothing but process."
Through the first two games of the
As the series shifts to Chicago for Game 3 on Tuesday, the gap between the bullpens has been decisive. The Dodgers have trounced the Cubs relievers. The Cubs have yet to record a hit against the Dodgers bullpen. Roberts was willing to remove both
Led by hulking closer
"There's so much confidence," catcher Austin Barnes said. "They're being put in really good situations, and they're making really good pitches."
The presence of Jansen, a two-time All-Star on an $80-million contract who may be baseball’s best reliever, serves as a sizable building block in constructing a bullpen. The other contributors were assembled through canny trades (
Near the end of January, the Dodgers added Morrow, who had an enviable arsenal of pitches and a troubling history of injuries. His talent was immense — he was chosen two spots ahead of Kershaw in the 2006 draft. His health was spotty — he appeared in only 46 games from 2013 to 2016. Morrow agreed to a minor league contract, which included an option that allowed the Dodgers to stash him in triple-A Oklahoma City until late May.
The Dodgers eased Morrow into a place of prominence. He made 45 appearances, but only six on consecutive days. The team did not want to risk overexposure, and it wanted to see whether he could handle the strain of a full season. Morrow rewarded his employers with a 2.06 earned-run average as he handled right-handed and left-handed hitters.
Roberts leaned on Morrow during the first two games against Chicago. Morrow collected two outs in Game 1. A day later, he buzzed through six hitters in 18 pitches, finishing with a 99-mph fastball. Roberts described Morrow as "incredibly valuable," citing the pitcher's experience as both a starter and a closer.
"You take those components — as far as the head, the preparation, the feel and the pitch mix — that makes an elite, back-end guy," Roberts said.
At the All-Star break, the Dodgers bullpen led the NL with a collective 2.99 ERA. Yet, the organization was unsatisfied. They sought another left-handed arm for the group, and engaged in lengthy discussions with Baltimore about All-Star closer Zach Britton. Like the rest of the industry, the Dodgers found those talks stalled by the obstinance of Orioles owner Peter Angelos. The team opted to look elsewhere.
On July 31, as the hours ticked away toward the nonwaiver trade deadline, the Dodgers finalized deals to procure Texas ace
The organization viewed Cingrani as a reclamation project with a sizable upside. They felt he could be a mirror image of right-handed reliever
As October approached, the Dodgers simplified his role. The coaches told him to focus on the left-handed hitters of the coming opponents, players such as Arizona third baseman Jake Lamb,
"I came in and got my out," Cingrani said. "It's what I do now." He added, "I wouldn't want to do it in the regular season, but this is a different type of baseball. Everything is magnified, and it's all about winning."
To finalize the mix for October, the Dodgers turned to a player hidden in plain view. Maeda spent most of the season on the periphery of the starting rotation, with a 4.35 ERA in 25 starts. He has emerged as the breakout performer of this postseason, retiring all nine batters he has faced.
At times, Roberts acknowledges, he must check himself when watching Maeda mow down opposing hitters. The team views Maeda as a weapon against right-handed hitters. There is no reason to deviate from their process. The results are unquestionable.
"It's about discipline, and not trying to win favor from people," Roberts said. "It's to do the right thing for the Dodgers."