ARLINGTON, Texas — The settings change, the circumstances evolve, and but it all the time appears to come back right down to Clayton Kershaw getting stretched slightly too far, a promising bullpen failing to choose him up, a high-powered offense developing small, a well-oiled machine breaking down on the worst potential time.
The backdrop for the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ newest collapse was Sport 4 of the 2020 National League Championship Series, performed below howling winds at a impartial stadium that was solely 1 / 4 full. It was, extra particularly, Thursday’s backside of the sixth, when the Atlanta Braves‘ high-powered offense immediately got here to life and the star-studded Dodgers collectively unraveled.
The Braves tallied six runs in that half-inning, greater than sufficient to cruise to the 10-2 victory that offered a commanding 3-1 collection lead and, based mostly on the historical past of seven-game postseason collection, gave them an 85% probability of advancing to the World Collection. The Dodgers, 43-17 with a plus-136 run differential through the shortened common season, are one loss away from a surprising elimination.
The blame shouldn’t be singular.
You may level to their prestigious offense, which managed nothing however a solo house run by means of the primary six innings towards 22-year-old Bryse Wilson, and three hits for all the sport. You may level to their supposedly deep bullpen, which has given up 15 runs in 15⅔ innings on this collection. You may level to Kershaw, who as soon as once more didn’t do sufficient with the season teetering. And you may level to the supervisor, Dave Roberts, who might need as soon as once more stayed along with his ace slightly longer than crucial.
“I simply thought Kershaw was throwing the baseball rather well, and there was no motive,” Roberts stated when requested about going to his bullpen slightly earlier. “I felt actually good about it.”
When Kershaw jogged to the mound for that backside of the sixth, he had given up just one run and had used up solely 71 of his pitches. The highest of the Braves’ order was due up. As Kershaw navigated by means of his at-bat with leadoff hitter Ronald Acuna Jr., Brusdar Graterol started to heat. By the point Acuna legged out an infield single, and moved to second base on an errant throw, Graterol was virtually prepared. After Freddie Freeman laced an RBI double to proper area, away from a shifted Mookie Betts, Graterol was wanting on, ready. After Marcell Ozuna lined one other RBI double into the left-center-field hole, his second of 4 hits, it was too late.
Ozuna homered the earlier time he confronted Kershaw. Earlier than the postseason started, he was batting .356/.463/.867 off lefties and .333/.381/.556 off curveballs, the full-count pitch he finally turned on to plate the Braves’ third run of the sport. It was at greatest a nasty matchup, at worst an indefensible determination.
“I am not going to take Clayton out after a weak floor ball and one other floor ball off the bat of Freeman,” Roberts stated, including that Ozuna’s batted ball “wasn’t hit very onerous,” regardless that it traveled at 108 mph.
“I felt actually good with Clayton at that time limit.”
The choice was a reminder of Roberts’ deep-rooted, maybe unwarranted, belief in Kershaw, a trait that may have performed a hand within the Dodgers’ elimination from final 12 months’s postseason. It additionally revealed that the bullpen Roberts talked up all summer time possesses not more than three relievers he actually trusts with the sport on the road, one in all whom is now not Kenley Jansen. With Dustin May saved for Sport 5, and Walker Buehler principally accessible solely in reduction if Kershaw’s again had flared up once more, Roberts’ choices have been surprisingly slim.
Possibly it would not have mattered anyway, on condition that Graterol and Victor Gonzalez allowed 5 of the subsequent six batters to succeed in base and the offense solely flirted with late-inning comebacks thereafter. Possibly there was nothing Roberts might do to maintain the Dodgers from melting down with their season on the brink.
And possibly the narrative about Kershaw’s postseason struggles can by no means be vanquished.
His profession ERAs now go like this: 2.43 within the common season, 3.68 within the division collection and wild-card spherical, 4.84 within the LCS, 5.40 within the World Collection. His postseason ERA from the sixth inning on is 7.31, the worst of any starter with a minimal of 20 innings in that state of affairs, in accordance with analysis from ESPN Stats & Info. His three go-ahead hits allowed within the sixth inning or later for the reason that 2013 postseason is tied with Justin Verlander for the second most in that stretch.
Roberts dismissed the considered Kershaw developing quick as a big-game pitcher, saying that he gave his group an opportunity and that his offense did not do sufficient.
“That narrative,” Roberts stated, “could not be farther from the reality.”
This is what’s true: If the Dodgers do not string collectively three wins in a row, two of them towards the 2 beginning pitchers who shut them down earlier on this collection, one other one in all their dominant seasons will finish bitterly.
It could be their largest disappointment but.