LOS ANGELES — The sting of defeat is a poison the Dodgers have tasted three times this World Series. Another catastrophic undoing of their bullpen Saturday brings the Fall Classic one Red Sox victory from reaching its end.
It hasn’t mattered what move manager Dave Roberts has made, the bullpen has betrayed him. His relievers have hemorrhaged 13 of the 23 runs Boston has scored in this series and have had their stamp on 19.
The Dodgers were eight outs away from a brand new best-of-three scenario when Roberts called on Scott Alexander as first man out. Having played 18 innings less than 24 hours earlier, the bullpen wasn’t fully stocked. Pedro Baez and Julio Urias — the Dodgers best relievers in this series — were both unavailable after appearing in each of the first three games,
Alexander walked the only batter he faced, leaving another situation for Ryan Madson with multiple runners on for the third time in four games. Much like the previous two, Madson allowed the runners he inherited to score — a perfect 7-for-7 in total.
With a four-run lead and limited options, Roberts placed his trust in the 38-year-old to get the final two outs of the inning. Mitch Moreland ruined whatever plans were set in motion, crushing a changeup into the seats in right for a three-run homer.
“You’ve got Ryan, who has a very good track record of getting righties and lefties out, and actually left-handers considerably more, and we just didn’t execute,” Roberts said. “Moreland hit a changeup first pitch that was up, and he got the prior hitter to pop up to the catcher, and he made a bad pitch and unfortunately Mitch took a really good swing on it.”
Given the fact that the top of the order was coming to plate in the eighth for Boston, the Dodgers turned to Kenley Jansen after pitching two innings in Friday’s marathon. Playing out like it did Friday — the whole reason for the strained bullpen — the big man gave up a solo homer to tie the game.
It was the first time one reliever gave up game-tying homers on back-to-back nights in the World Series since 2001 — the only other time it happened.
In the last 10 seasons, teams are 31-2 when leading by 4+ runs in the World Series. The 2 losses:— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 28, 2018
- Dodgers in Game 5 of the 2017 World Series
- Dodgers on Saturday night
Saturday was also the Dodgers’ first loss this season when leading by 4+ runs. They had been 54-0. pic.twitter.com/OdcBoSzWPr
Even then, the Dodgers still had a chance to win the game. But when they failed to score in the home half of the eighth, Boston steamrolled what was left of the Dodger bullpen, scoring five times in the ninth.
The performance was historically bad.
A night after Max Muncy saved their season, the Dodgers are down three games to one to the best team in baseball this year. The bullpen — the strength of the first two rounds of the postseason — has brought them to this point.
The Dodgers have no choice but to win Sunday or they will watch their opponent celebrate on their field for the second straight year. Clayton Kershaw gets the ball Sunday with the hopes of sending the series back to Boston.
It will be the lefty’s sixth career start when his team is facing elimination. In the previous five, the Dodgers have won two while Kershaw has given up 21 runs (20 earned) in 28 2⁄3 innings (6.28 ERA).
The environment will be a lot different than the Game 1 start that saw Kershaw allow seven hits and three walks, ending his night in the fifth inning with five runs charged to his tally. The weather won’t be a factor this time around.
Game 5 will be another chance for one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history to pitch well when his team needs it most. Does that matter to him?
“Very little,” Kershaw said. “I don’t really care about legacy. I don’t really care what people think of me or perceive of me. Game 5 is a very important game to win the World Series, and I’m looking forward to pitching that game and hopefully putting us in a great spot going back to Boston.”
“And that’s really all I care about. All that other stuff, people are going to have their opinions, you know, and that’s fine. I’m not here to change them. I’m here to pitch. And all that other stuff will take care of itself.”
The Dodgers are as confident as they can be behind their long-time ace, as if they had any other choice.
“He’s Clayton Kershaw. He’s the best pitcher in the game,” said third baseman Justin Turner “He’s going to go out there and he’s going to empty the tank for us tomorrow and give us the best chance we have to extend this thing.”
The odds the Dodgers win the next three games are a long shot. Boston has proved how good they are over the last six months and are one game away from their goal.
“Obviously, the 108 wins speaks for itself in the regular season,” Roberts said of the challenge ahead. “They’re very balanced. They pitch well. They put together good at-bats. They play defense. But, you know, we’ve still got to play. And we’re not out yet. We’ve got to go out there and still, yeah, respect what they’ve done but our guys aren’t done.”
“We’ve got our best going tomorrow and we’re expecting to win a baseball game.”