The Dodgers did not sign A.J. Pollock to a four-year, $55-million contract in January to have him come off the bench in playoff games, but that’s where Pollock was for Monday’s Game 4 loss to the Washington Nationals.
The outfielder wasn’t in the starting lineup after going 0 for 11 with nine strikeouts in the first three games of the series after batting .288 with an .885 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in the regular season’s second half. Rookie Matt Beaty, a left-handed hitter, started in left field instead against right-hander Max Scherzer.
“With A.J., I think right now he’s struggling with spin,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. There’s more chase in there than there has been in the second half of the season, for whatever reason. Mechanical, maybe a little bit of pressing.”
Beaty was one of three rookies in the starting lineup, joining catcher Will Smith and Gavin Lux, and one of seven left-handed hitters in the lineup. He entered Monday one for two in the series and went one for three against Scherzer.
“I haven’t at all lost confidence in A.J. and know he’ll figure some things out,” Roberts said.
Pollock pinch-hit for Kenta Maeda in the fifth inning, and Scherzer struck him out.
From hero to the bench
Russell Martin doubled, homered and drove in four runs Sunday, but Roberts said he didn’t consider starting the 36-year-old catcher in Game 4 in place of Smith.
“Not really,” Roberts said.
Smith is one for nine with three walks and four strikeouts in the series heading into Game 5.
Martin caught nine of the 19 regular-season games pitched by Game 4 starting pitcher Rich Hill. Smith caught three.
“I think that Will has seen a lot of Rich and I planned on starting him in Game 4,” Roberts said.
Hill had a 1.64 ERA when pitching to Smith and a 3.02 ERA with Martin behind the plate.
Roberts said of Martin: “I understand it was a really good night at the plate and I expect him, as the postseason goes on, to impact us with the bat as well again.”
Joe Kelly experiences regression
Reliever Joe Kelly reverted to his erratic early-season form when he entered Game 3 in the sixth inning. The right-hander faced four batters and didn’t get one out. He walked three and allowed a single. Roberts said Kelly, who was hindered by a cryptic injury in September, is healthy. He just didn’t make pitches.
“I think he was too fine,” Roberts said.
Raul Ibanez not pursuing manager post
For the second consecutive year, Raul Ibanez has emerged as a popular name in managerial searches. And, for the second consecutive year, Ibanez has declined to pursue a managerial vacancy.
The San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs were believed to be among the teams interested in Ibanez. He said he would like to manage at some point, but not next year.
“It’s not the right time for me,” he said Monday.
Ibanez, 47, played 19 years in the major leagues and now works as a special assistant in the Dodgers’ front office. He is highly regarded for his communications skills, and he spent time behind the batting cage here with Walker Buehler and Enrique Hernandez.
But he is based out of his Miami residence, and he said he appreciates the chance to remain home with his five children while learning from president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and senior vice president Josh Byrnes.
Wherever the Dodgers go, they have to hear how the team has not won the World Series since 1988. Wherever the Nationals go, they have to hear how the team never has gotten out of the first round of the playoffs.
Are the players as frustrated as the fans, or do the players instead how appreciate how hard it is to make repeated postseason appearances in a sport in which two-thirds of the teams do not qualify for the playoffs?
“I think as players we definitely appreciate it,” said Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, “but, if we say anything about it, we get killed for it.”
The Nationals have made the playoffs five times in the past eight seasons. They made it this year despite falling 10 games out of first place and 12 games under .500 before Memorial Day.
“This year has been pretty special for us, with the way that we started,” Zimmerman said. “Not to say we’re satisfied. I don’t think anyone is satisfied. But any year you can make the playoffs, I think -- some people would be hesitant to say it -- but I think it’s definitely a good year. We have had years in the past where we were supposed to make the playoffs, and you don’t make it and it’s disappointing.
“Obviously, everyone wants to get past the first round. Everyone wants to win the World Series. But, yeah, it’s hard to be successful at this level.”