Dodgers manager Dave Roberts sat on the dais Saturday afternoon, a serene smile on his face as he discussed the state of his team before Game 4 of the World Series.
He seemed so chipper a reporter commented, “You seem like you’re very awake right now. … Did you sleep much at all?”
Roberts leaned forward in his seat.
“I’m excited. It's the World Series, Game 4,” he said. “I’m three coffees, three cups deep. I'm good.”
Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora was lacking similar pep. He sat down, rubbed his eyes and had some trouble focusing on answering questions early in his news conference.
Granted, the makeshift interview room was noisy. A group of chatty people stood behind the curtain that served as the room’s outer wall.
But Cora’s exhaustion was evident even after the group fell quiet. Asked about his usage of outfielder Andrew Benintendi in the lineup, he surprised even himself.
“He put up good at-bats against lefties early in spring training,” Cora said. After a beat, he continued, “I mean — golly. World Series.”
Kershaw readies for another playoff start
Clayton Kershaw’s seesaw postseason career took another tumble in Game 1 of the World Series. He surrendered five runs and didn’t record an out beyond the fourth inning in the Dodgers’ 8-4 loss. After the game, he lamented his slider’s limited bite. A straight slider spells trouble for Kershaw. If it lacks depth then it resembles his fastball too closely because the velocities are so similar. On Saturday, Kershaw said the pitch has been a focus.
“You can't just assume it's going to be there the next time,” Kershaw said. “Definitely working on it. Definitely trying to make it better. It happens from time to time in the regular season as well. I focused on it. My bullpen focused on it, playing catch. I hope it's better tomorrow.”
Kershaw, 30, has either been dominant or lackluster in his four playoff starts this October. In his two wins, he has given up one run in 15 innings. In his two losses, he’s given up 10 runs (nine earned) in seven innings. The Dodgers need the good Kershaw to reappear in his 14th playoff start over the last three years.
“It is a challenge for sure,” Kershaw said. “I think anybody will say playing baseball every day is a difficult thing to begin with. In October you kind of get that rejuvenation of energy and adrenaline, because the games are so meaningful and impactful. And you kind of hope that adrenaline carries you through October. And I don't think that's changed for me. I think that's still the same. The second a season ends, you start feeling the aches and pains a little bit more. But we're all kind of running on adrenaline right now for sure.”
At 1:27 a.m. Saturday morning, an hour and 17 minutes after Game 3 finally ended, the Dodgers announced a change to their Game 4 plans. Rich Hill wasn’t listed as their starting pitching anymore. They said the choice was TBD. It was a surprising late-night development — and seemingly trivial. Hill was the only Dodgers starting pitcher on regular rest. He was the only option to give them length.
And the Dodgers ultimately acknowledged their reality, announcing Hill would start Game 4 early Saturday afternoon. What was behind the brief suspense?
“We were just kind of just potentially toying with the idea of an opener, and just kind of wanted to leave it open-ended,” Roberts said. “And just after more conversation and thought, just feel great about Rich starting and going through his normal routine.”
Gamesmanship could’ve also played a factor. The Red Sox also hadn’t announced their starting pitcher after Nathan Eovaldi, who was originally slated to start, tossed the final six innings of Friday’s 18-inning marathon. But Roberts insisted the motive was not psychological and that they were considering using an opener — a reliever to pitch the first inning or two — for the first time this season.
“It was just something we were thinking about,” Roberts said. “We were just thinking about all scenarios, and what would give us the best chance today.”
Manfred says no to one idea to shorten playoff games
On the day after the longest postseason game in major league history, Commissioner Rob Manfred said he had no intention of introducing any rule designed to shorten playoff games.
The Dodgers and Boston Red Sox played for 18 innings, seven hours and 20 minutes in Game 3. The game ended at 12:30 a.m. in Los Angeles — and 3:30 a.m. in Boston.
It would be nearly impossible for a minor league game to last that long anymore. Under rules adopted for the minor leagues this season, any extra inning starts with a runner on second base.
“Even if you were going to think about a rule change like that, I don’t think you’d want to do it in the World Series,” Manfred said Saturday at Dodger Stadium. “There’s a long tradition of playing your games out in the World Series, and I think that’s a tradition we should respect.”