For the second time in three games, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is facing scrutiny over a pitching decision.
Game 5 of the NLDS and Game 1 of the NLCS were always going to be bullpen games for the Dodgers, and they worked with mixed results (a win Game 5, loss in Game 1). But Roberts was quickly faced with another one in Game 2 of the NLCS after starter Max Scherzer failed to even go five innings. And from there, Roberts again began getting questions about his strategy.
Scherzer closed Game 5 of the NLDS just three days earlier, and even though it worked, Roberts admitted “there is a cost” to throwing Scherzer in that situation.
MORE: How Roberts’ strategy won the Dodgers the NLDS
Scherzer lasted just 4.1 innings on Sunday, throwing 79 pitches in that span and only 52 strikes. After the game, Scherzer said he was tired from his excess usage over the previous 12 days.
“I’m not dealing with any red-flag injuries. I’m just tired.”
Pitched in 4 of #Dodgers first 8 postseason games. 16 2/3 IP in 12 days
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) October 18, 2021
He struck out seven and gave up just four hits, but did give up a two-run home run to Joc Pederson in the fourth inning. After the home run he got out of the inning and then struck out Orlando Arcia to start the fifth before being pulled. Scherzer was replaced by lefty Alex Vesia, one of just three lefties in the Dodgers’ bullpen.
Vesia faced two lefties — Eddie Rosario and Freddie Freeman — and a switch hitter in Ozzie Albies, giving up a single to Rosario and striking out Freeman and Albies.
MORE: Chris Taylor’s baserunning error costs Dodgers Game 1 of NLCS
It was those three batters atop the Braves’ order that led to Roberts’ second questionable pitching decision of the day when he called upon the lefty Julio Urías to try to replicate Vesia’s success and play to the advantage of the lefty-on-lefty matchups in the bottom of the eighth inning up 4-2.
It didn’t work, as Urías blew the save and gave up three hits and two earned in his inning of work to make the game tied at 4-4. The Braves won it when Kenley Jansen gave up a walkoff single to Eddie Rosario after inheriting Dansby Swanson on second base.
Roberts: “Julio, in my opinion, was the best option that we had.” Said he held off on throwing his bullpen session to prepare for coming out of the bullpen tonight or last night. Said he trusted Urías’s experience over other lefties available.
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) October 18, 2021
MORE: Full MLB playoff schedule, times, broadcast information
Roberts is now giving Urías multiple days to rest and get back on track to start for Game 4, hoping for a better result than his last outing.
Game 3 of the NLCS is Tuesday, Oct. at 5:08 p.m. ET, with Walker Buehler on the bump for the Dodgers and Charlie Morton starting for the Braves.