Dodgers on the Brink
The 111-win team need to win tonight, or else their magical season will become the answer to a trivia question.
Before we get into the mess the Dodgers have created for themselves, a programming note. There will be four (!!) MLB playoff games today, and three (!!) of them are elimination games. I cannot remember the last time three elimination games were played on the same day. It’s possible this happens every year but the day is so overwhelming/exciting/traumatizing that I block it out.
Anyway! We are going to be watching the games and chatting together in one of our mega threads. If you would like to join hundreds of like-minded baseball fans for super-fun and funny chats, you must be a paid subscriber to this newsletter. You can upgrade your subscription by going here:
If you would like to upgrade but can’t afford to, email me! If you would like to gift a subscription to a person who can’t pay for one, email me! We have a lot of graduate students and aspiring writers and non-profit workers in our midst, so I understand the cash crunch. Let’s help each other out! <3
Ok, now on to the aforementioned Dodgers’ mess.
You can lose 51 games between April 1 and September 30th and people will call you one of the greatest baseball teams ever assembled. But lose two games in October and watch the Internet explode with rage:
I do not know what Andrew Friedman was thinking starting Tony Gonsolin in Game 3 of this series. We are fans of the Cat Man in these parts, but he’s been injured for weeks, and Tyler Anderson exists.
Friedman has been the architect of the Dodgers’ last seven years of excellent baseball. But he’s also been prone to playoff overthinking in October, as when his group decided it would be a good idea to use Clayton Kershaw in relief on short rest in Game 5 of the NLDS (it cost them that series). Or when they continued to use Julío Urías in playoff relief appearances in 2021 even though he had emerged as one of the best starting pitchers in baseball.
I hated the decision to start Gonsolin, because it essentially meant the Dodgers would be throwing a bullpen game on day 1 of a potential three-games-in-three-days situation if they lost. And that’s exactly what happened. Now? They’re going to have to beat Joe “Magic Ears” Musgrove to force a Game 5, and if he looks anything like he did versus the Mets in the wild-card round last weekend, it’s going to be a very long offseason for the Dodgers.
You may be wondering why I’m blaming Friedman for these pitching decisions when Dave Roberts is the Dodgers’ manager. That’s simple. While Roberts is involved in these decisions, the buck stops with Friedman. If Friedman wanted Anderson to start yesterday, Anderson would have started yesterday.
Friedman is smart. So smart, in fact, that he turned the lowly Tampa Bay Rays into a juggernaut with 10 bucks and some chicken wire. With the Dodgers’ gargantuan payroll at his disposal, it’s like he’s been handed a box of crayons with 300 different colors to use instead of the eight he had in Tampa. And instead of just using good ol’ Red to bludgeon the other team, he overanalyzes the moment and opts for Jazzberry Jam, which does not work.
Starting Gonsolin didn’t cost the Dodgers the game yesterday, but it did tax the bullpen, which could come back to crush the Dodgers if they need those relievers in Game 5. And, I don’t know, maybe Tyler Anderson goes out there yesterday and gets into a groove and the Padres don’t score first and the Dodgers hitters benefit psychologically from not playing from behind from the very first inning?
We will never know.
What we do know, however, is the Dodgers’ offense needs to wake up today, or there will not be a tomorrow. The Padres’ pitching is good, but not as good as Shane Bieber and Emmanuel Clase, whom the Yankees had to deal with yesterday. This is why the word “embarrassing” was trending last night:
L.A. tied its season record as last night’s game went on, and are currently 0 for their last 19 with RISP. This is a team-wide failure. At least Mookie Betts recorded a sacrifice fly in there, which is more than the rest of the team did combined. We’re reaching the point of the series where I’m actively yelling BUNT at my television screen, and I hate bunting (unless it’s for a hit).
The best offense in baseball scored one run yesterday. They would have been better served bunting In every single at-bat. Embarrassing, indeed.
I don’t know what’s going on with Trea Turner, but he looks like me out there at shortstop. Which is to say, he appears to not want the ball to be hit anywhere near him. This is, obviously, the worst time for the fielding yips to happen to the captain of the Dodgers’ infield. Every ball hit to him right now is an adventure, and not the fun kind. Then, he jammed his hand sliding back into first base in the ninth inning last night, and finished that half-inning with an oven mitt on two hands like he was carrying a Thanksgiving turkey.
Despite some bad ABs where he has swung at balls in the dirt over and over again, Turner has been the Dodgers’ best hitter this postseason, and they cannot afford to be without him tonight with their season on the line. The X-rays on his ring finger were negative, so I expect he’ll be out there. Maybe they will use him as a DH if he can grip a bat. But, yikes. This injury is not great.
Still, Justin Turner needs to hit. Mookie Betts needs to hit. Freddie Freeman needs to hit. Will Smith needs to hit. Cody Bellinger needs to be back in the lineup tonight because I believe he will get a hit. All the Dodgers need to do is win two games this weekend to survive. The won 111 games this year. They can do this. They just need to hit the baseball, and hard. Ideally to the fence and over it.
We will see in a few hours if they can do it.