Dodgers @ Cubs Oct. 16, 2016: NLCS Game 2

It’s hard to comprehend what happened last night. The Dodgers weren’t getting any breaks before they finally got to Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning. Then, Dave Roberts successfully managed his team to a loss.

Dodgers
Cubs
5 p.m.
Chicago
2B
Utley
CF 
Fowler
SS
Seager
3B
Bryant
3B
Turner
1B
Rizzo
1B
Gonzalez
LF
Zobrist
RF
Reddick
SS
Russell
CF
Pederson
C
Contreras
C
Grandal 2B Baez
LF
Toles
RF
Heyward
P
Kershaw (L)
P
Hendricks (R)

After managing a great game in Game 5 of the NLDS, Roberts had a horrific time last night. He defended it and said he’d do it again, but he was clearly wrong. Chad covered the bulk of it in the recap and made this excellent point:

“The primary objective in that situation for Roberts can’t be to get Chapman out of the game at all costs because you’re scared of a tie game and potential extras. Yet the Dodgers played it like they were simply avoiding trying to end the inning instead of preventing a run, all over fear that they couldn’t score in the top of the frame because of Chapman, which should be more of an after thought than the main focus.”

Daniel also had his opinion heard on Twitter…

…and I was in such shock that I had a hard time processing everything.

And I didn’t, because I didn’t know what was happening. I am no fan of intentionally walking the bases loaded because the margin for error is non-existent. Joe Blanton had been so great for the Dodgers this season, but he was not last night. Fatigue probably played into it, as he threw in four of the five NLDS games, including 18 pitches on Thursday night. In that case, Blanton shouldn’t have been in the game — especially after getting into such trouble.

Here’s a fun stat: In plate appearances that ended with an 0-2 pitch, Blanton allowed just four hits (all singles) in 37 plate appearances. He also recorded 22 strikeouts (59.4 percent) in those plate appearances … but not last night.

Roberts got into trouble by seeing an opportunity to get Chapman out of the game. While I get that part of it, he had to make some calls that involved a ton of over-thinking to get to that point. Instead of going after Jason Heyward, one of the worst hitters in baseball in 2016, Roberts called for the walk. Instead of bringing in Grant Dayton to face Chris Coghlan (or maybe to pitch around Willson Contreras), Roberts called for the walk. Instead of maybe having Kenley Jansen at the ready, he stuck with Blanton against Miguel Montero and, well, you saw it.

But, there were some positives to take away from last night’s loss. Jon Lester allowed an 87.8 MPH exit velocity on the season. In Game 1, it was 90.3 MPH. The Dodgers’ historic struggles against lefties is well-known, so hitting the ball hard against Lester (despite not getting results), is a positive.

They were also able to score off Chapman in eighth inning despite Chapman having never allowed a run to the Dodgers in his career. After the Dodgers loaded the bases with no outs, Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig struck out swinging. Adrian Gonzalez came up and was, somehow, able to turn around a 102 MPH from Chapman for a game-tying two-run single. They were also able to tag Hector Rondon with a run in the ninth.

Even when the Dodgers weren’t getting the breaks, they still hung in the game. They weren’t thoroughly dominated by the 103-win Cubs. Chicago was clearly the best team in baseball this season, but the Dodgers showed they could hang with them. Now, it’s time to see if they can do more than just hang with them.

This team has been knocked down before — many times this season. They were done when they were eight games behind the Giants. They were done when Clayton Kershaw went out with his back injury. They were done after losing Game 3 of the NLDS.

Well, here we are with Game 2 of the NLCS and Kershaw on the mound. Will they step up as they have all season, or will they let last night’s disappointment weight them down? We shall see.

=====

The Dodgers face Kyle Hendricks tonight. He left his lone NLDS start against the Giants in the fourth inning due to line drive off his right arm. The NL ERA leader has turned out to be quite the find for Chicago. He was acquired when the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster to the Rangers in 2012.

He isn’t a big-time strikeout pitcher (22.8 K%, 8.0 K/9), but he does have good command (5.9 BB%), keeps the ball in the park (0.7 HR/9) and has the fourth-highest LOB% of any qualified MLB starter (81.4 percent … Lester was No. 1, Max Scherzer was No. 3).

Hendricks works with a high-80s sinker that has a lot of movement. He also throws a 4-seam fastball, a changeup that is the best in baseball by one metric, and an occasional curveball. He’s different than any pitcher the Dodgers have seen this postseason, but he did face the Dodgers before when he threw eight innings of 2-run ball against them on June 2.

—–

Game 1 wasn’t necessarily a must-win. It just would have been amazing if they did (and it hurts a bit more because they had their chance). Game 2, however, is a must-win game. The Dodgers have their ace going with an unsure staff behind him. If they don’t win this game, their odds of advancing to the World Series figure to be much lower than the 37.2 percent it sits at right now.

ThrowsRelieverSat 10/15Sun 10/16Mon 10/17Tue 10/18Wed 10/19Thur 10/20Fri 10/21
LAvilan--OFF-2421OFF
RBaez34-OFF-2727OFF
RBlanton28-OFF13-19OFF
LDayton3-OFF16-12OFF
RFields--OFF-910OFF
RJansen-18OFF21--OFF
RStripling10-OFF-2018OFF
LWood--OFF-32-OFF

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He does contracts and depth charts for FanGraphs and is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a one-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, California, and has yet to be shot.