Last October, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts proved to be a tactician with his finger on the pulse of his club, specifically the bullpen. That same feeling carried into the 2017 postseason, as the Dodgers swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League Division Series.
Behind a collective input from several members of the front office, the Dodgers made a decision to start Rich Hill in Game 2 and Yu Darvish in Game 3. Hill labored some through his outing, while Darvish was dominant in his outing at Chase Field.
He was cut short — just 74 pitches in five-plus innings — but Roberts’ turning to his bullpen yielded positive results. Tony Cingrani induced a double play, Brandon Morrow went 1.1 innings, Kenta Maeda retired the side in order in the eighth, and Kenley Jansen closed the game out.
On top of pushing the right buttons with his relievers, Roberts’ decision to start Austin Barnes in Game 3 loomed large. He lined a solo home run off Zack Greinke to lead off the sixth, providing the Dodgers with some breathing room.
Following the Dodgers’ third win of the NLDS, general manager Farhan Zaidi lauded Roberts for his success in best utilizing the players for the various scenarios that arose, via Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times:
“When a manager can make it seem like all the pieces fit together perfectly,” Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said, “that’s when you know he’s really done a great job, using the whole roster and strategizing to the absolute maximum. He did an amazing job.”
Aside from the bullpen, Roberts’ unwavering trust in Logan Forsythe paid off, as he went a combined 4-for-8 with an RBI and one walk in Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS. The playoff experience was Forsythe’s first of his career.
Because of that, Roberts wanted to afford him the opportunity to start in Game 1, so as to find a rhythm. He led off the fourth inning with a single, which sparked a bit of a rally as the Dodgers went on to score three runs.
For as much success as Roberts enjoyed in the first round, the Dodgers still remain eight — presumably grueling — wins from winning their first World Series since 1988.