Dave Roberts takes blame for base-running error that haunts Dodgers in loss to Mets
What looked to fans in Chavez Ravine like a botched double-steal attempt in the bottom of the fourth inning did not cost the Dodgers the game on Sunday.
A rocky start by David Price, who gave up three runs in the first inning, a back-breaking two-run homer by New York Mets third baseman J.D. Davis off reliever Phil Bickford in the seventh and a pair of ninth-inning insurance runs did in the Dodgers in a 7-2 loss that snapped their nine-game win streak.
But the complexion of the game might have changed had the Dodgers plated the tying run with runners on first and third and two outs in that fateful fourth.
Cody Bellinger had roped a bases-loaded, two-out, two-run single to right field off Mets starter Marcus Stroman to pull the Dodgers to within 3-2 and advance AJ Pollock from first to third.
On a 1-1 pitch to pinch-hitter Billy McKinney, Bellinger took off for second but stopped short of the bag. Mets shortstop Javier Baez caught the throw from catcher Patrick Mazeika, looked Pollock back to third and tagged Bellinger after a brief rundown for the third out, with Pollock never breaking for home.
“Well, that was a miscommunication on my part,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said afterward. “I felt Cody had a really good opportunity to steal a base right there, and he ended up thinking it was a steal-and-stop rather than a straight steal and go all the way. So I own that.”
Pollock appeared on the team’s postgame video call before Roberts. Asked about the double-steal attempt, he said, “Um … yeah, without talking about stuff we personally do as a team … you can ask Doc [Roberts] about that one.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts says the team still has time to catch the Giants, adding “our fate is still in our own hands.”
Roberts took full responsibility for the sign either being missed or given incorrectly and rued the missed opportunity.
“I mean, you still have to get a hit right there [to tie the score],” Roberts said, “but it potentially could [change the game] if he gets a hit, absolutely.”
Not only did the play end the inning, it took McKinney’s bat out of the game and forced reliever Brusdar Graterol, who replaced Price to start the fifth inning, to lead off in the bottom of the fifth.
Graterol did well to make contact but grounded out to shortstop to start a one-two-three inning in which Stroman, who gave up two earned runs and four hits in six innings to earn the win, threw only six pitches.
Graterol gave up one-out singles to Brandon Nimmo and Pete Alonso in the fifth but got Baez to bounce into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
The hard-throwing right-hander got into more trouble in the sixth when he hit Davis with a pitch and gave up a pinch-hit double to left to Jeff McNeil, putting runners on second and third with no outs.
Graterol struck out Jonathan Villar with a nasty 99-mph sinking fastball and, with the infield in, got Kevin Pillar to ground to shortstop Corey Seager, who made a backhand grab and fired to nail Davis.
Mazeika was walked intentionally to load the bases, and Stroman grounded back to the mound to complete two stressful but scoreless innings for Graterol, who has given up three earned runs and 13 hits, struck out 13 and walked four in 13 2/3 innings of 13 games since July 25, dropping his ERA from 9.64 to 3.93.
“He’s just making pitches when he needs to,” Roberts said of Graterol. “There were a couple of pitches early in counts to hitters that he left up, but when he needs to make pitches, he’s starting to slow the game down a little bit better and make quality pitches.”
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