The Los Angeles Dodgers have made a sport of utilizing their roster depth and playing to matchups, but as those opportunities presented themselves Sunday night, manager Dave Roberts sat idly by.
With him the dugout were Matt Beaty, Joc Pederson and Edwin Rios. Roberts stuck with the likes of Kiké Hernandez, AJ Pollock and Chris Taylor late in the game, and that arguably was a factor in a 3-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants.
It dropped the Dodgers to .500 on the young season and represented a drastic decline from the first two games of the series when they scored a combined 17 runs in back-to-back wins.
“You’ve just got to give credit to those guys. They matched up really well, you’re seeing a different guy every at-bat, and they made pitches,” Roberts said after the loss.
“You’ve got to give Smyly credit for keeping them in the game and making pitches when he needed to. They did a good job of getting guys on base — that leadoff man — and finding way to scratch out a few runs.”
Roberts was critical of the quality of at-bats the Dodgers put together on Opening Day, was pleased the following night, and again Sunday. “Our at-bats were fine. I thought there were some balls hit hard. Again, they made pitches when they needed to,” he said. “Offensively, we’re going to be alright.”
Roberts specifically faced questions as to why he stuck with right-on-right matchups in the eighth inning against Tyler Rogers. Taylor batted with two on and one out, and Hernandez left the bases loaded.
“Actually, Rogers is very neutral. We started that inning with Muncy, Turner and Bellinger. That’s obviously speaking to the fact he’s pretty neutral,” Roberts explained. “And that was the third time Kiké has seen him in four nights, so I would think the familiarity would benefit us.
“He got a hit off him the first time, so I just went with the familiarity. Having Joc on the bench, if it was a righty killer or a guy that has a slider that really handles the right-hand htter, certainly it’s a conversation.
“There was a guy earlier, I think in the sixth inning, he’s a changeup guy who gets lefties out better than righties. I think you’ve got to dig a little deeper than what hand a guy throws with.”
Of course, there also was the potential and likelihood of the Giants bringing in a southpaw to face Beaty, Pederson or Rios anyhow. The greater opportunity would have been to pinch-hit for Pollock in the seventh inning, when Sam Coonrod had not faced three batters yet.
Every position player but Beaty on the Dodgers active roster has appeared in at least one game thus far. “Just circumstances,” Roberts explained of the absence.
“I can see Matt being in there soon enough.”
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