Everything was going well for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the World Series when Yasiel Puig hit a three-run home run to give them a 4-0 lead and Rich Hill had allowed just one hit through six shutout innings.
It all went south pretty quickly though as Hill walked the leadoff man to begin the seventh and was removed a batter later. Then the Dodgers bullpen, which had been so great this postseason, imploded to the tune of nine runs in 2.2 innings. The Red Sox went on for a 9-6 victory, and now are just one win away from a World Series championship.
After the loss, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was subject to plenty of criticism, with United States President Donald Trump even offering his critique on Twitter.
Some of the questions that were asked included why was Hill taken out so early, why was Ryan Madson brought in instead of Pedro Baez with runners on base when he has not had success in those situations during prior World Series games, and why was Kenley Jansen brought in for the eighth inning for the second consecutive night after blowing a lead in Game 3?
Roberts addressed some of those in his postgame press conference, first explaining that Hill came up to him before the start of the seventh inning and said to ‘keep an eye on him’ because he was starting to tire. Roberts added both Baez and Julio Urias were unavailable for Game 4.
My immediate response to him saying that was why were they, Baez in particular, unavailable? This is the World Series. It’s understandable that they are looking out for what is best for the pitcher.
But to me, Baez has to want it bad enough to go up to Roberts before or during the game and tell him that he wants the ball. Both Nathan Eovaldi and Rick Porcello, who threw more than 60 pitches apiece the night prior, told Red Sox manager Alex Cora they nonetheless were available Saturday. Just based off that, it is easy to see who is up 3-1 in the series.
But regardless of that, the real question I asked while I watched the bullpen implosion unfold was where was Clayton Kershaw?
Kershaw is scheduled to start Game 5 on Sunday night, but the most important game of the series was Game 4. The difference between a 3-1 series and 2-2 is absolutely massive.
The Dodgers’ longtime ace has had success out of the bullpen before, so maybe if they had brought him in after Hill, then the 4-0 lead would have been preserved and the Dodgers would have won the game while also keeping the rest of their bullpen fresh for Game 5.
If the Dodgers had gone to Kershaw in Game 4, it obviously also could have backfired just as well. Had he not pitched well and the Dodgers still lost, he would have been unavailable to start Game 5. This is what we saw with the Red Sox and Eovaldi in Game 3.
But even if that was the case, I don’t think the Dodgers would have been in that bad of shape pitching wise. Hyun-Jin Ryu would have then needed to start Game 5. Yes, it would have been on short rest, but it would also be his last start of the season and he would have had a rested bullpen behind him.
Additionally, it would have given Ryu the opportunity to start at Dodger Stadium, where he has had a lot more success this season, instead of a potential Game 6 at Fenway Park.
Had they gotten there, the Dodgers then would have had Kershaw available to start Tuesday, dependent how many pitches he would have thrown in Game 4, and then a well-rested Walker Buehler for a possible Game 7.
I am not sure if that decision even crossed Roberts’ mind, and to me, that is the real issue at hand. This is the World Series. Players are going to be needed to be pushed past their comfort level if you want to win it.
You have seen this with Cora as both David Price and Eovaldi have pitched out of the bullpen in this series, and all four of his starters have made relief appearances at some point in the postseason. Price is also set to start Game 5 on short rest.
Cora has understood how important every game is and that you have to steal wins when they are there, not worry about who is going to pitch the next game. Meanwhile, Roberts has played like there is a tomorrow, and that has been the difference in this series.
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