Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and I wish I had the magic words to make everything better. But I don’t.
Who to blame?
I waited as long as I could after the game to write this. Longtime readers know that I try to write when emotions are low, because I try very hard to be fair in this newsletter. I try to look at both sides. But it’s hard to see a positive side today. So let’s get a couple of things out of the way before we look closely at Game 5.
— I have no doubt that everyone on the Dodgers team tries as hard as they can.
— I have no doubt that no one feels worse today than Clayton Kershaw.
— I respect that the players all stayed in the clubhouse after the game and answered question after question. That’s not easy, and I’m not sure I’d handle answering a bunch of questions on one of my worst days really well.
— I know the players are all very sad. But I’m not going to run any of their quotes, because frankly, I’m tired of reading how disappointed they are every year. If you want to read their quotes, please check out this game story by Jorge Castillo. Or read this column by Bill Plaschke. Or read this column by Dylan Hernandez.
Now let’s move on to Game 5.
— Here’s what I know about the Dodgers and the playoffs. Their best pitcher (Kershaw) falls apart. Their best hitter (Cody Bellinger) is a nonentity. Bellinger had a grand total of zero RBIs in this postseason. Zero. Good thing for him that NL MVP votes were due before the playoffs began, because if they weren’t he’d finish third behind Anthony Rendon and Christian Yellich.
— Rendon went seven for 17 with three doubles, a homer, five RBIs and five runs scored. That’s what MVP candidates are supposed to do in the postseason.
— Now let’s move on to Kershaw. There’s something about the postseason that causes him to fail. Don’t know what it is. I’m not a mind reader. I don’t know if the pressure gets to him. If he gets too amped up. I don’t care that he has had a good postseason start here or there, or that he saved a game three years ago. The fact is he is 9-11 with a 4.43 ERA in the playoffs. And his ERA goes up each round. In the NLDS, it’s 3.99. In the NLCS, it’s 4.61. In the World Series it is 5.40. As the pressure mounts, he folds. If the Dodgers decided to trade him during the offseason, I’d be fine with that. And I never thought I’d say that.
— And you know what? We all saw this coming. The bullpen problems. Kershaw and Bellinger fading. The lack of plate discipline in crucial situations. I wrote about it all season, you wrote to me about it all season. Meanwhile the Dodgers marched merrily on. “We have postseason experience now. We have a lot of depth. Our bullpen will work itself out.” I don’t want to hear any of that again.
— Walker Buehler should hold his head up high today. He pitched great.
— If I’m the Dodgers, I am doing whatever I can this offseason to convince Kenta Maeda to become a reliever.
— Whatever happened to Corey Seager and who was that wearing his uniform this series?
— A.J. Pollock’s favorite cereal? Special K.
— Now let’s talk about Dave Roberts, shall we? I love Roberts as a person. The players seem to love him. He keeps everyone loose and makes everyone feel important. But he is one of the worst game managers I have ever seen.
— Roberts set Kershaw up for failure. He got the strikeout to end the seventh inning. That was the time to take him out. He pumped up the crowd and the team. Maeda, who looked unhittable this postseason, was ready in the bullpen. They send him back out to start the eighth. Rendon homers. OK. Time to remove Kershaw, whose pitches were obviously flat. Juan Soto is up. Where is Adam Kolarek? Kolarek owned Soto in the playoffs. He was acquired for just these situations. Kershaw gives up lots of homers. Kolarek doesn’t. It’s a one-run game. Where is Adam Kolarek? The decision to leave Kershaw in is justifiable if this was five years ago, and Kershaw was still the best pitcher in baseball. But he’s no longer that Kershaw. Roberts sees Kershaw with his heart and not with his eyes.
— Soto homers off of Kershaw (Sandy Koufax he ain’t). Now Roberts pulls Kershaw for Maeda. What does Maeda do? He strikes out the side.
— Every Dodger goes to the plate in the bottom of the eighth trying to hit the game-winning homer. They all fail.
— Joe Kelly comes in to start the ninth. But it’s the good Kelly and he keeps Washington off the board. Will Smith almost wins the game. Almost.
— The 10th starts and Kelly is back out there again, despite not being a great two-inning pitcher. His ERA in appearances that last more than an inning this season: 8.39.
— Kelly walks the first hitter. That’s a trouble sign. Kolarek and Kenley Jansen are in the bullpen and appear to be ready. Kelly stays in the game. He gives up a booming double to Rendon. Kelly stays in the game. He walks Soto intentionally, making you wonder why Kolarek even bothered showing up at the game Wednesday. Surely, he will pull Kelly now. Kelly stays in the game. He gives up a grand slam to former Angel and Dodger Howie Kendrick. Now Roberts comes to get Kelly. Hey Dave, the horses have already escaped. No need to close the barn door now.
— Was there any guarantee that Jansen would have gotten out of that jam? Of course not. But it was obvious Kelly had lost his command, so why not remove him? It’s not like Jansen could have done worse.
— And does this mean Roberts had totally given up on Jansen? If so, why warm him up? If not, why not use him?
— I don’t mind the Dodgers losing when they get beat by a better team. But to give the other team opportunity after opportunity because of mismanagement is inexcusable. Roberts is a great 162-game season manager, when you can afford to give away a game or two here or there. But he’s a terrible playoff manager, where every mistake is magnified and every win is precious.
— The Nationals are a very good team. They took advantage of their opportunities. I salute them and hope they win the World Series.
OK, I’m going to stop now. It’s after 2 a.m. and I have to go to bed sometime, I guess. I’m going to sit and let my emotions calm, then come back at you Monday with another newsletter, looking at what needs to be done. In the meantime, I have a request:
I want to hear from you and give you a chance to vent. Selected ones will run in Monday’s newsletter. (Here’s how to sign up.) Ground rules: No profanity, no name-calling. No wishing anyone ill. Pretend you are the new Dodgers GM and tell me what are you going to do to make next postseason a successful one? Or just vent your emotions. Get it out of your system. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, take part in our poll:
Should the Dodgers fire Dave Roberts?
But keep in mind
It was a tough loss and an extremely disappointing end to the season. But today is a new day. Take a look outside. Look at your loved ones. Count your blessings. If you go to bed tonight and are still angry or depressed, take some deep breaths. There are far, far more important things in life than whether or not the Dodgers win the World Series. So be disappointed, but don’t let it ruin your day, or your week, or your year.
The Cody Bellinger postseason tracker
Game 5: 1 for 4, 2 strikeouts
NLDS: 4 for 19, 1 double, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts, 2 runs scored
Career postseason: .176 (24 for 135), 6 doubles, 4 homers, 13 RBIs, 10 walks, 52 strikeouts
Bullpen postseason tracker
Game 5: 3.1 IP, 5 hits, 6 ER, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts
NLDS: 6.75 ERA, 18.2 IP, 19 hits, 14 ER, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts
The Dodgers win the 1988 World Series. Watch it here.
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