Baseball is a game surrounded by failure, with so many mistakes made throughout a game, that it would consume you if you focused too much on it. But it’s hard not to after witnessing one of the most stunning losses in Dodgers postseason history in Game 4 on Saturday night.
If the Dodgers lose two of the next three games, it will be Game 4 that sticks in their craw.
“Tomorrow’s another day. We’re positive, we like the atmosphere in there,” said Kenley Jansen after recording his fourth career World Series blown save, the most in history. “That’s what we did the whole year. We pick each other up.”
It was Jansen on the mound to end it, literally on his knees, before realizing he didn’t back up home plate on the final play. The play where catcher Will Smith dropped the ball while trying to make a swipe tag on Randy Arozarena, with nobody to tell him Arozarena fell down between third and home.
“Will wouldn’t have had any idea that Randy fell down there, and he was trying to catch the ball and put a quick tag down,” Justin Turner said. “Obviously if he would have known that, he probably would have taken his time, made sure he got it, then started the rundown.”
But to even get to Jansen, the game was fraught with landmines, many that the Dodgers stepped on but still managed to get to within one strike away from victory. The most perplexing part of Game 4 before the ninth inning was Dave Roberts’ usage of Pedro Báez.
It’s been a down year for Báez, who battled a groin injury and saw his fastball velocity decline by a mile and a half. But he pitched quite well this postseason, including scoreless innings to protect late leads in Games 5 and 6 of the NLCS, both elimination game. That earned Báez a spot in Roberts’ circle of trust, so he was brought in with a two-run lead and two on base in the sixth, to face Brandon Lowe.
Báez went with a changeup, his best pitch, three straight times to get ahead 1-2, then missed with a fastball to even the count. He tried another fastball, and Lowe hit it 399 feet for a three-run home run, giving the Rays their first lead.
Báez got the final two outs of the inning, but then for some reason pitched the seventh as well, and gave up the lead again, this time on a home run by Kevin Kiermaier.
“I take blame for having him go back out. Because we were down, I told him he is finished [after the sixth],” Roberts explained. “I asked him to go back out, and to see how he felt, and he said he felt good. But I shouldn’t have said that. I just kind of kept him burning a little bit.”
That’s a boot by Roberts as consequential as Chris Taylor’s error in center field in the ninth inning.
That was a gut punch loss.
“We know it’s not going to be easy. We know how difficult this is,” Turner said. “Got to learn from tonight, make our adjustments that we need to make, and come back to find a way to win tomorrow.”
“This was a tough one,” Roberts said. “We have to digest it, but we have to turn the page.”
Easier said than done.