Did Don Mattingly really do that to the Dodgers? Yes, yes he did.
The title isn’t meant to be disrespectful to the Braves or infer that they didn’t deserve to win … but it never ever should have gone the way it did. It was just ridiculously bad decision making on Mattingly’s part.
In the top of the seventh inning, Skip Schumaker — who essentially showed why he shouldn’t have started to begin with — chopped a ball past starter Mike Minor for an infield single, and then A.J. Ellis followed with a predictable but pointless bunt. Michael Young pinch-hit for Zack Greinke and got a ‘hit’ via a gift from the scorer and Luis Ayala:
After a pitching change, it’s now first-and-third with one out and Carl Crawford is up against lefty pitcher Luis Avilan. Crawford has a .551 OPS against lefties in 2013 and Avilan’s primary role is to handle hitters like Crawford. So my question is why have Scott Van Slyke if not for situations like this?
The only reason I could think of would be that Donnie wanted to stay out of the double play … though that’s what happened anyway. Literally any result in play but a ball back to a pitcher ties the game, and he goes with the lefty outfielder who can’t hit lefties that was struggling just to make contact.
That was bad enough, but forgivable and predictable in a way. Unfortunately, it got way, way, way worse.
In the bottom of the frame, with runners at second and third and two out, the Braves pinch-hit Jose Constanza. At this point, Mattingly had a few options:
1) Pitch to Constanza with Chris Withrow because Constanza sucks.
2) Bring in Paco Rodriguez or J.P. Howell to face Constanza.
3) Bring in Paco or Howell to face Constanza, let Fredi Gonzalez pinch-hit with Reed Johnson, and let either of the two lefties face Johnson because he’s Johnson.
Never did it cross my mind that he would walk REED JOHNSON — who had not gotten a hit since July 28 — intentionally to get to one of the Braves’ best hitters in Jason Heyward … with two outs …. with the bases loaded.
It made literally no sense to me at the time.
The only advantage in walking Johnson was that the force would be in play, BUT THERE WERE TWO OUTS, how is that worth like ~200 OPS points in hitting ability, putting the hitter in a more comfortable mental state as a result of the loaded bases, and adding the possibility of walking a run in? There is no way in the world to justify it, regardless of outcome, but of course Heyward singled to center to basically put the game away after Paco fell behind 2-0.
To make me even sicker about this game though, Hanley Ramirez did this the next inning:
So it ended up being 4-3 in favor of the Braves when there was a possibility that it could have been 3-2 or something of the sort. I know it doesn’t work that way, but it makes you realize how important those sequences were in that inning.
Also, in the ninth inning there appeared to be a blown call on Dee Gordon‘s stolen base attempt*, but that didn’t cost them the game.
*I’ve seen the pictures, but it still isn’t conclusive to me. It shows the ball in Andrelton Simmons‘ open glove, but in the next frame his glove is no longer in contact with Gordon. You don’t get credit for catching the ball when it touches your glove, you get credit for the catch when you secure it. Hard to tell, replay or not.
Besides Mattingly though, the real problem was probably the constant double plays that killed rallies:
Plus, Hanley was basically the only offense, as his double plated the other run as well.
The Braves are good, but losing like this is just infuriating.