NLCS Game 4 Deep Dive: Dodgers, Dave Roberts And The Definition Of Insanity

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. And yet, here we are again: an elite Dodgers team underperforming in October, a manager who never delivers when his team needs him most and Clayton Kershaw’s legacy getting dragged through the mud once again.

Sure, you can blame the hitters for not producing or the pitchers for not executing and no one would call you crazy. However, the person I blame the most is someone that has the luxury of not being in the batter’s box nor on the mound. He has ample time to make the right decisions and constantly pulls the wrong lever.  That man is Dave Roberts.

For the last five seasons, every time there’s a postseason pitching decision to be made in a crucial situation, Roberts makes the incorrect call. It’s actually astounding how consistent he is on that front. Whether he leaves a pitcher in too long, takes him out too early, uses the wrong reliever or doesn’t bring in the right reliever – it’s almost like he doesn’t know his own team or doesn’t know how to read the moment or both.

What’s incredibly frustrating is in every one of these moments, Roberts always has a better option to select and, for whatever reason, he doesn’t select it. Even more infuriating is the fact that once he makes the wrong call there are still options to right the ship and he still lets us hit the iceberg. The sad truth is almost every Dodger fan with a pulse, more often than not, knows what the right move is in these scenarios – why doesn’t our manager?

Let’s take the saddest of deep dives into last night’s game, shall we?

Poor Clayton Kershaw

There is an argument to be made that there have been a number of times over his entire career where Clayton Kershaw hasn’t been the anchor the Dodgers have needed in the postseason. However, there is a stronger argument, in my opinion, that his manager gets too greedy and has relied on him too heavily.

Wherever you stand on the “Playoff Kershaw” argument, I can tell you, unequivocally, that last night was not Kershaw’s fault. This was a 32-year-old veteran who was scratched before Game Two due to back spasms and recovered enough to pitch Game Four. Kershaw’s offense gave him one damn run of support while he walked a tightrope through five innings of one-run baseball himself. He did his job and after the 15-run miraculous outburst of Game Three, the bullpen was fully rested.

But, no, Roberts wanted another inning out of Kershaw. He wanted Kershaw to face the top of the Braves’ order a third time in a 1-1 tie in the sixth. Like I said above, all of us Dodger fans knew the fifth inning should have been Kershaw’s last because we’ve seen this movie before.

This is very similar to Game Five of the 2019 NLDS when Roberts stupidly brought Kershaw in out of the bullpen to face Washington Nationals’ outfielder Adam Eaton. Much to everyone’s surprise, the wrong move worked and Kershaw struck out Eaton to end the inning. Then with a slim 3-1 lead, Roberts tempted fate and sent Kershaw back out in the next inning to face the heart of the Nationals’ order and watched him die on the mound.

Back to the 2020 NLCS. So, bad move number one: Roberts leaves Kershaw in. Like I also mentioned above, Roberts often has the opportunity to right this ship and does nothing. Kershaw induced some weak contact from Ronald Acuña Jr., but with Acuña’s speed it was an easy infield single. Unfortunately, instead of eating it, Kiké Hernandez threw the ball away and it trickled out of play which allowed Acuña to advance to second base.

Now Freddie Freeman is up. The lefty-on-lefty matchup makes sense so if Kershaw’s able to get him here then you pull him in favor of a right-hander to face Marcell Ozuna who’s on-deck. Well, none of that happened. Despite being ahead in the count 1-and-2, Kershaw was unable to put Freeman away as the Braves’ slugger promptly grounded one past Max Muncy at first, scoring Acuña from second.

So with the Braves leading 2-to-1 with nobody out, surely you don’t let Kershaw face Ozuna, who has already homered off him in this game, again right? Surely, someone was warming up ready to come in to face this batter, right? Wrong and wrong. With no relievers ready, Roberts leaves Kershaw out there and Ozuna belts a double into the left-center field gap to score another run. It was only at this point did Roberts take Kershaw out in favor of Brusdar Graterol.

After the game, Roberts proved once again he has absolutely no feel for the game nor the moment:

Unfortunately, Graterol and Victor Gonzalez, who came in after, couldn’t put out the fire surrendering four more runs. Those two guys are two of our top relievers and I expect better of them in that situation, but it didn’t have to be this difficult. This was a scenario set in motion by Dave Roberts. If it’s at all possible you want to give your relievers clean innings and maybe Graterol and/or Gonzalez get the job done if they’re brought in to start the inning.

Obviously, the best option would have been to not let Kershaw go out there for the sixth, but let’s say you do. If I’m managing this team, I have two relievers up and warming while my offense is at-bat in the previous half-inning. That way, if my starter gets into trouble, I can bring someone in right away. Secondly, there is no way in hell I’m letting Kershaw face Ozuna again under any circumstances – that’s just foolish. Roberts played with fire and we all got burnt.

Final Thoughts

It’s not lost on me that Atlanta has out-hit us and out-pitched us. They are a really good team and they deserve to be in this position. It’s also not lost on me that you can’t score one to two runs and expect to win in the playoffs. The bigger problem is, Roberts knows his team is struggling to put runs on the board so why does he continue to make it harder for his pitching staff to keep the games close?

It’s a lot to ask of an underperforming offense to constantly have to make up deficits of six runs or more. Yes, I know it’s not Roberts on the mound getting shelled every time, but just like in Game Two he always has a better option available. In Game Two (which I wrote about here) he lost us the game in the fifth inning and the offense still almost came back.

Roberts’ failure to recognize the moment and make the right decision when it counts is nothing new. In fact, it’s getting really old and we’re all tired of watching our manager lose important games. Andrew Friedman, Ownership, if you’re listening…it’s time for a change.

With all that being said, the Dodgers aren’t mathematically eliminated just yet. As a team, the Boys in Blue need to wake up and win three consecutive games. It’s happened before and it starts tonight with Dustin May!

Jake Reiner is a writer and reporter for Dodgers-LowDown and co-host of The Incline Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @QualityJakes