Dodgers’ bullpen strategy falters in 3-2 loss to Marlins
Kenley Jansen stood idle on a bullpen mound as the door opened for Tuesday’s ninth inning. Another pitcher trotted toward the diamond to preserve a tied score. It was not a save situation, but the assignment used to belong to Jansen. The orthodoxy of the sport requires managers to use their closers for the ninth inning of deadlocked contests. On Tuesday, in a 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts paid for his deviation from the norm.
Into the fray came Pedro Baez. The score remained tied for two batters. The first hit a single. The second hit a run-scoring double. The go-ahead hit byoutfielder Cameron Maybin caused the Dodgers to take only their second loss in the last nine games. The crowd showered Baez with jeers.
“That’s a decision that didn’t work out, and I take full responsibility for it,” Roberts said. “That was a decision I made, going against the book. But that was the decision I made.”
The decision to stay away from Jansen was puzzling. He had not pitched Monday after outings Saturday and Sunday. He appeared to be making progress from his April doldrums, with his cut fastball registering in the mid-90s during games against the Washington Nationals over the weekend. In the past, the ninth inning in games like Tuesday usually went to Jansen and Jansen alone.
Jansen did not object to the decision. He defended his manager, who has stuck by Jansen during his early-season troubles.
“Doc is the best,” Jansen said. “I think with him. I stand with his call. ... We win together. We lose together.”
The Dodgers stranded eight runners. They had one hit in five chances with runners in scoring position.
“We just didn’t get enough hits,” Roberts said.
The evening lacked the sizzle of Monday, when Walker Buehler made his debut as a starting pitcher. Maeda inherited a lead after the bottom of Tuesday’s second inning. The offense lined up against Dillon Peters, a left-hander with a 5.86 career earned-run average. Peters was starting in the majors for only the 11th time.
The Dodgers greeted Peters with doubles from Matt Kemp and Austin Barnes in the fourth inning. From there, they went quiet. On Monday, the Dodgers produced one run against Miami starter Jarlin Garcia. Peters gave up only one run in 51/3 innings.
Maeda struck out three Marlins in the first two innings. He struck out the first two he faced in the third. He was less fortunate with the next man up, catcher J.T. Realmuto. Maeda fired a 93-mph fastball over the heart of the plate. Realmuto tied the score with a blast over the right-center fence.
The Dodgers broke through in the seventh. They managed to land a glancing blow against Miami’s bullpen. Joc Pederson entered off the bench and took a two-out walk. Chris Taylor singled. Corey Seager and Chase Utley strung together walks against reliever Tayron Guerrero, a 6-foot-8 daddy long legs with a 98-mph fastball. Working as a pinch-hitter, Utley passed on a 3-and-2 fastball near his legs for a go-ahead walk.
The lead did not survive the top of the next inning. Cingrani gave up a single to Derek Dietrich. Next he incurred the wrath of first base umpire Joe West, who flagged Cingrani for a balk on a pickoff play to first. Dietrich advanced to second. Cingrani threw two balls to second baseman Starlin Castro before leaving a fastball down the middle. Castro raked a score-tying double. Cingrani barked at West as he left the mound.
Cingrani dripped with sarcasm as he discussed West’s call after the game.
“Joe West just knows what he’s doing,” Cingrani said. “Been around the game for a while. So obviously that’s a balk if he calls it a balk.”
Cingrani broke from his deadpan delivery to clarify.
“I mean, it’s not a balk,” he said. “But he called it a balk. So it’s a balk.”
West offered an explanation. He played video of the replay for a pool reporter.
“He didn’t step to first base,” West said. “We looked at it three different times. He starts to home, and he stretches out to try to disguise it. It’s a plain and simple bad step.”
West stressed that he did not want to call a balk.
“You hate that you have to do it, but you can’t let them cheat,” he said.
As the bottom of the eighth unfolded, Jansen and Baez warmed up next to each other in the bullpen. Baez was warming up for the second time in the game. Roberts felt if he did not use him after this exercise, Baez would be unavailable for the rest of the game. J.T. Chargois, Ross Stripling and Josh Fields were not available either.
Despite the circumstances, it made little sense to hand the baseball to anyone besides Jansen, one of the best relievers this decade. Roberts still trusted Baez.
“If Baez hadn’t been up prior, it would have been up to Kenley,” Roberts said. “But there were some other variables. I made that decision.”
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