Dodgers’ Dancing On The Bases Accomplishes Little Against Jon Lester
Dodgers’ Dancing On The Bases Accomplishes Little Against Jon Lester
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

While the Los Angeles Dodgers’ struggles against left-handed pitching this season remained a talking point heading into the National League Division Series, the Dodgers believed they could exploit a weakness of Chicago Cubs southpaw Jon Lester.

Prior to Game 1 of the NLCS, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said his club would make a concerted effort to disrupt Lester’s rhythm. Multiple players squared around to bunt and took big leads after reaching base.

However, Lester seemed unfazed and turned in six innings of one-run baseball. The lone run came on an Andre Ethier wind-aided homer. After the Game 1 win Lester thanked the Dodgers for their willingness to attempt bunting.

Before Game 5 at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, Roberts vowed the Dodgers would do much of the same, if not more. “I think that we all see that, and they know that, that he doesn’t like throwing the ball (to a base),” Roberts said.

“Whatever you want to call it, he just doesn’t feel comfortable throwing the baseball. So obviously as good of a pitcher as he is, yeah, we’re going to get huge leads and try to bunt on them and try to get in his psyche a little bit.”

Roberts’ words were immediately put into action as Kiké Hernandez drew a leadoff in the bottom of the first inning. Hernandez took an aggressive lead, even running out to a lead at one point. But he didn’t attempt to steal a base, and that was the prevailing theme.

The Dodgers had six batters reach on Lester. Their aggressive leads proved to be more smoke and mirrors than true threats to steal on the 32-year-old.

“I thought that when we did get a little bit of traffic, I thought that we put a little pressure on him,” Roberts said after the 8-4 loss. “But he’s a great pitcher. He’s a great pitcher who competes and finds ways to get outs when he needs to.”

As the Dodgers skipped and danced, it was as if Lester never noticed. Justin Turner stole second base in the third inning and Howie Kendrick swiped third base in the fourth. Only Kendrick scored, on a gift in some regard, as Anthony Rizzo bobbled a grounder.

“David Ross still throws the ball well, and even Jon Lester, there were some 1-1.5s and 1.2s (times to home plate), so you’ve still got to get a pretty good jump,” Roberts explained the lack of base stealing.

“Also when you start getting behind in the game, you don’t want to give outs away by just stealing. And it’s just the high fastball that you’re throwing out, it’s just not worth it, where you could potentially get an extra base hit to get the game closer. So you’ve really got to be certain if you’re going to do that.”

Lester fielded one bunt and threw a one-hopper to first base to retire Joc Pederson to end the second inning. Well aware of the purpose behind Pederson’s attempt, Lester glared toward the Dodgers dugout as he walked off the field.

“It is what it is. People have been doing it all year,” he said of the Dodgers’ futile attempts to agitate him.

“I’d prefer Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson to try to bunt. They’re home run guys. They hit 30 homers, so I’d rather them put the ball on the ground and let these guys try to field it and take my chances that way.”