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Dave Roberts completely mismanaged bullpen in Game 5 meltdown

Larry Brown Sports logo Larry Brown Sports 10/10/2019 Larry Brown Sports
a man in a blue uniform holding a baseball bat © Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Dodgers won 106 games in the regular season and were a clear favorite to reach the World Series this year. They had fallen short in October two years in a row, and surely 2019 was going to be different.

Well, it definitely proved to be different — but not in the way the Dodgers wanted.

The Dodgers blew a 3-1, eighth-inning lead in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night and lost 7-3 in 10 innings on a Howie Kendrick grand slam that magnified some horrible bullpen management by Dave Roberts.

Dodgers starter Walker Buehler went 6.2 innings and got into trouble in the seventh by putting two on with two outs. Roberts decided to pull him from the game — a smart move. But he decided to go with Clayton Kershaw in relief, even though the lefty does not often pitch in that role, and despite his history of postseason struggles. Things looked fine after Kershaw got out of the jam, but it all changed in the eighth.

Kershaw allowed back-to-back home runs to tie the game and gave us the saddest photo ever. Making matters more painful for Dodgers fans who believed Kenta Maeda should have been in the game, the right-hander struck out the next three batters.

Then in the ninth, Joe Kelly pitched a 1-2-3 inning and the game went to extras. Roberts decided to stick with Kelly even though the reliever hadn’t gotten more than three outs in an appearance since Aug. 24th. Kelly immediately got into trouble with a walk and a double, and then he intentionally walked the bases loaded.

Roberts still stuck with Kelly rather than go to Kenley Jansen or Dustin May. Kelly then served up the grand slam to Kendrick to end the Dodgers’ season. By that point the game was essentially over — just ask Dodgers fans who left the stadium.

What should Roberts have done differently? Rather than go to Kershaw against lefty Adam Eaton in the seventh, he should have gone with lefty specialist Adam Kolarek. And then he should have had Maeda pitch the eighth and work into the ninth, with Jansen and then May behind him. The Dodgers had this one and let it get away. Credit the Nats for coming up with the huge hits.

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