I've said it before and I'm gonna say it again, a smart manager will win 5 to 10 games for a team every season, while a bonehead manager will lose 5 to 10 games. Last night the Dodgers lost to the Diamondbacks precisely because of Damn Mattingly's dopey handling of the Dodgers in the final innings of a tough, tied game.
Granted, the Dodgers had no business being in that situation in the first place, as their batting lineup looks like gangbusters on paper. However, they just can't seem to hit their way out of a wet paper bag these days.
I keep reading bloggers and the L.A. Times sportswriters running headlines that declare "Dodgers Bullpen Fails Again". Is every night supposed to be a shutout? The bullpen is being blamed when we lose 2-1 and 3-2? Really?
I've said this one before too - if a team scores three runs per game, they are going to win far more games than they'll lose. Particularly if that team has a pitching staff as good as the Dodgers. If those anemic Dodger bats had scored three, we never would have been in a position of having to rely on Mattingly's "strategy". But this game did come down to how Mattingly (mis)handles a batting order.
Cue the bottom of the eighth, and we're tied 1-1 with the Snakes. Yasiel Puig started off the inning with a walk. Everything looked good. With Puig at first, the Dodgers could have went with a sac bunt or play for a base hit because Puig's got the wheels to go to third on a single or steal at any time during the at bat. That probably was a good time for a smart manager to make a smart move. But our manager is Damn Mattingly.
Justin Turner (BA .185) was due up. Turner had started in place of Dee Gordon and had already struck out twice. Gordon waited on the bench. The same Dee Gordon of the .365 batting average, who can bunt and has the speed to possibly be safe giving us two rabbits on base, who has shown he can hit legitimate singles, has shown surprising power, AND can remain in the game at second base when he pinch hits for Justin Turner. But Flash Gordon Jr. remained on the bench. Result: Turner struck out for the third time.
Hanley advanced Puig to second, but was the second out on a close play. We needed an RBI and now had one sitting on second base, waiting to be driven home. Next up was Matt Kemp. I know most Dodger fans love Kemp unconditionally, and I'm not anti-Kemp by any means, but the Snake's pitcher at the time, Brad Zeigler, absolutely owns Kemp.
We also had the guy who has the second most RBI's on the team, one of the Dodger's best situational hitters this season, and can replace Kemp in CF, sitting on the bench. It would have set up a lefty hitter against a RH pitcher. Andre Ethier sat, Kemp stayed in. Result: Kemp hits into a puny force out. Momentum gone, ownage continued.
Sure, Mattingly would have been crucified if he PH Ethier for Kemp and Ethier didn't succeed, but it was the kind of gutsy (and percentage) move that I believe the situation called for.
The Dodgers gifted a run to the Snakes in the top of the ninth, so they went ahead 2-1.
Bottom of the ninth and the Dodgers needed a run just to tie and stay alive. Scott Van Slyke had already smashed one home run in the game and maybe can catch lightning in the bottle again.....but wait....Mattingly Von Stengel decided to make a move. A bonehead move.
Van Slyke, the guy who just gets better with more at bats, the guy with the awesome momentum-producing Led Zeppelin walk up music, the guy who's bat still smells like the burnt wood of an earlier home run, is benched. Mattingly replaces him with Carl "I forgot how to hit" Crawford. *sigh* Result: Lazy fly out.
Juan Uribe followed Crawford with a heroic home run blast to tie the game. Who knows what the significance of Uribe's homer would have been if hot hitter Van Slyke had been allowed to bat?
Instead the game was only tied, we eventually lost in 12, and everyone wants to blame the bullpen.