The Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen as a whole has taken the brunt of the team’s shortcomings this season, which generally speaking have been few and far between. After taking two of three from the Boston Red Sox, the Dodgers enter play with the best record in the Majors at 62-33.
While Dodgers relief pitchers have not been perfect, there have been multiple bright spots along the way. Chief among them being Pedro Baez, who has continued to evolve and improve.
It wasn’t long ago that Baez was being booed off the mound at Dodger Stadium, leaving Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to be hypercritical of the fanbase. Roberts has been rewarded for his longstanding faith in the right-hander more times than this season.
However, that was not the case Sunday night, when Baez entered in the eighth inning with a 4-2 lead. He surrendered back-to-back home runs to Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez within his first five pitches.
The Dodgers still emerged victorious — albeit needing 12 innings — and Roberts revealed the team believes Baez was a victim of tipping his pitches, according to Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
“I think there’s a little bit of showing his hand … or showing his glove. You can read between the lines,” Roberts said, indicating that Baez might be tipping his pitches. “I think they had a good idea of what was coming. That’s something we’re going to have to clean up.”
Baez responded to strike out the next three batters faced, though there was also an odd mound visit by Roberts after he threw two pitches to Andrew Benintendi.
If Baez has fallen susceptible to any sort of tell, it certainly would explain a sudden spike in home runs. He allowed just one homer in 39.1 innings through his first 40 appearances this season, but now three in 3.1 innings over the last three games.
The Dodgers of course have prior experience in this department, most notably during the 2017 World Series. After the Houston Astros won Game 7 at Dodger Stadium, multiple players implied Yu Darvish tipped his pitches.
If that was the case, it not only got by a diligent front office but also the organization’s former expert in the area — Chase Utley. He developed a reputation for both picking up on opponents’ tells and his teammates, so as to lend guidance.