Brilliant Managing Allows Dodgers To Win Playoff Series
Kershaw Makes Surprise Appearance in 9th Inning
October 13, 2016
By Mitch Chortkoff
Walter Alston's 20 years as the Dodger manager and Tommy Lasorda's 20 years brought a lot of joy to Los Angeles fans.
Now Dave Roberts has done something to bring more joy.
Roberts' brilliant strategy in the seventh game of the 2016 first round playoff series against the Washington Nationals allowed the Dodgers to reach the next round.
Of course the Chicago Cubs will be heavily favored to eliminate the Dodgers and deprive them of their first World Series appearance since 1988. But fans can dream, can't they?
On Thursday night Roberts had replaced every position player by the eighth inning, giving his team the best chance through matchups.
Then relief ace Kenley Jansen, who never enters a game in the seventh inning did so. You see, Roberts knew the Dodgers would be in considerable trouble if he didn't do something unusual. So he planned for Jansen to try a three-inning save.
By the ninth inning Jansen had reached his limit. So what now?
Roberts had said before the game that Clayton Kershaw wouldn't be available. "Absolutely not," he said. Period, end of discussion.
But Kershaw, who had missed a considerable part of the season with an injury, said he wanted to compete even though he had required 110 pitches against the Nationals just two days ago. And even though he hadn't made a relief appearance in 10 years.
Roberts checked with the Dodger trainers and they said Kershaw had significantly recovered to pitch to a few batters.
Knowing that, Roberts decided that Kershaw would be saved for one reason – to go against Daniel Murphy, the Nationals' outstanding clutch hitter.
Kershaw retired Murphy and one other batter to complete the most unusual win.
Don't forget the Dodgers didn't have a marquee pitcher to begin the game against the formidable Max Scherzer.
But Roberts devised an unusual strategy for such an important game, taking out starter Rich Hill in the third inning, bringing in Joe Blanton far earlier than usual, then pining the Dodger hopes on 20-year-old Julio Urias before Jansen made his appearance.
Credit the pitchers for doing an outstanding job and matching Scherzer. Joc Pederson's home run in the seventh inning tied the game at 1-1 and set up the dramatic finish.
'I gave the greatest effort I've ever given in my life," said Scherzer. "That was the craziest game I've ever seen and a very tough one for us to lose."
"This is an incredible group with guys willing to sacrifice everything for the team," said the 36-year-old Blanton, who entered the major leagues in 2004.
The Dodgers will be scrapping for everything against the Cubs, who won 103 games in the regular season.
Kershaw probably won't be able to start until the third game and Jansen will require a rest too.
But that's a story for another day.