On the day after the Dodgers clinched a postseason berth, their manager did not rule out the possibility that Austin Barnes could be their primary catcher in the playoffs.
The Dodgers have used Barnes to spell Yasmani Grandal against left-handers this season. But Barnes has been more effective than Grandal against right-handers as well, and Grandal leads the major leagues in passed balls.
"If you're looking to win 11 games in October, there needs to be consideration of who gives you the best chance to win that particular game," manager Dave Roberts said Wednesday. "Austin deserves that consideration. He's earned it."
Barnes is batting .297 with six home runs and an .887 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, the highest of any National League catcher with at least 200 plate appearances.
In September, Grandal has one hit in 30 at-bats, with 16 strikeouts.
"I fully expect Yasmani to get on track," Roberts said.
Barnes is batting .360 with a .965 OPS against right-handers, .242 with an .818 OPS against left-handers. Grandal is batting .249 with a .772 OPS against right-handers, .231 with a .677 OPS against left-handers.
The Dodgers this weekend visit the Washington Nationals, the team that already has clinched the NL East championship. The Dodgers are trying to hold off the Nationals for home-field advantage through the NL playoffs.
It sounds like the cheapest of amateur psychology to suggest that the Dodgers might need to make a statement, given their 11-game losing streak, but Roberts buys it, sort of.
"I don't think we need to make a statement, but I do think it is important for us to play good baseball," he said. "With baseball, there is a psychological component: pitcher vs. batter, team vs. team. You can't really quantify it, but I think there is something to it.
"We lost a series to the Nationals at home. For us to go into their ballpark, against a team playing pretty good baseball, I think it's important – not only because it's the Nationals, but for us internally, just to play good baseball. If we do that, then I like our chances, and that's a statement enough."
On the night after the Dodgers snapped their longest losing streak in 73 years, Roberts admitted the team had been anxious and intense.
"It seemed like a little bit of Game 5," Roberts said. "It seemed like a playoff game. That kind of shows how desperate we were to get a win. There was a lot of fight and a lot of care. We all slept well last night."
Kenley Jansen was well-rested — that happens to closers when their team loses 11 consecutive games — but Roberts did not deny that the losing streak factored into his decision to deploy Jansen in the eighth inning.
"This wasn't planned out," Roberts said. "This was dire."
"Urgency," Roberts countered. "There's nothing wrong with a sense of urgency. There should be a sense of urgency every day. That's unrealistic, but that's the way it should be."