Dodgers sacrifice short-term gains (a win Wednesday) for long-term goals (World Series)


Sometimes, the Dodgers will pull out all the stops to secure a win.

More often, however, the first-place club makes decisions with the big picture in mind.

In a 7-6 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night at Coors Field, the Dodgers stuck to that latter approach. In the interest of self-preservation, and ensuring their already banged-up roster doesn’t risk more losses, they entered the ninth inning without two potentially key players — rolling the dice in a game the Rockies walked off with a sacrifice fly.

The first key personnel decision came in the bottom of the seventh, when slumping utilityman Chris Taylor replaced streaking veteran Teoscar Hernández in right field.

At the time, the Dodgers were only leading 6-4 — thanks largely to a three-run double from Shohei Ohtani in the second inning and a two-run double from Jason Heyward in the fifth.

Hernández has been taken out of games early for rest before, but never when the score was so tight.

However, as manager Dave Roberts explained it postgame, the decision was based on more than just Wednesday. So far this season, Hernández has started all 76 of the Dodgers’ games. His body has held up, evidenced by his 18 home runs, .255 batting average and team-most 54 RBIs. But Roberts nonetheless looks for times to “get him off his feet.” Wednesday was the ninth time he’d come out of a game early.

“Coming into this series, I was considering giving him a day off,” Roberts said, mindful of the mile-high altitude at the Rockies’ home ballpark.

But, after Hernández grounded out in the seventh, Roberts felt the final three innings of Wednesday night would suffice.

“I felt like having CT out there to give Teo a few innings off his feet could be beneficial going into a day game [on Thursday],” Roberts said, noting that now, Hernández “could help us win a game tomorrow.”

The only problem: The Dodgers’ Wednesday night lead evaporated in the blink of an eye.

First, Roberts’ decision to try and get an extra inning out of pitcher Bobby Miller — who gave up five runs in 6⅓ innings in his first start since early April, having missed more than two months with a shoulder injury — backfired.

Miller hung a two-strike changeup to leadoff man Sean Bouchard. A batter later, Roberts was summoning reliever Daniel Hudson from the bullpen.

“He competed really well, and it was good to see him get into the seventh inning,” Roberts said of Miller, who settled down after yielding a three-run homer in the first, thanks in large part to three double plays turned behind him. “I thought there were some good throws in there, some things we have to clean up as far as the consistency of the throw. But to have him out there and give us a chance to win, was big.”

After Miller exited, however, the rest of the inning started to spiral.

Third baseman Cavan Biggio booted a grounder with one out, on the same play Miller’s inherited runner scored. The Rockies’ No. 9 hitter, Adael Amador, lined a double just past center fielder Andy Pages in the next at-bat, setting up Brenton Doyle for a tying sacrifice fly.

The score remained knotted at 6-6 into the ninth, when Hernández’s spot in the order came back around.

Batting in his place, Taylor hit a sharp line drive that was snagged at second for the inning’s second out. While Pages doubled in the next at-bat, pinch-hitter Miguel Rojas flied out to retire the side.

“CT had a good at-bat,” Roberts said. “We didn’t lose the game because Teo came out.”

The Dodgers’ other key personnel decision, though, proved more costly.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers hadn’t yet burned closer Evan Phillips, or top left-hander Alex Vesia. With a left-handed-heavy portion of Colorado’s lineup due up, and Phillips being saved for a potential save situation in extra innings, the situation seemed suited for Vesia and his bullpen-best 1.10 ERA.

Except, after pitching Tuesday night, and warming up for an appearance that never came on Monday, the Dodgers decided not to push Vesia for a third-straight night.

Low-leverage right-hander Yohan Ramírez came trotting to the mound instead.

Back-to-back singles put two runners quickly aboard. A ground ball for the first out moved the lead man, Jake Cave, to third.

With one out, Doyle came back to the plate simply needing another fly ball. On the second pitch of his at-bat, he got one, skying the game-winning sacrifice fly plenty deep to center.

The Dodgers succeeded in protecting two key players. But they failed to hold on for a win at the same time.

“You have to look at the short term,” Roberts said, “but also the long term of how you manage the players’ workload, certainly the players who play every day.”

Of course, these are the small sacrifices the team is willing to make in the middle of June, as they hold a nine-game division lead and near certain odds of reaching the postseason.

Already this week, they lost star shortstop Mookie Betts and starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Third baseman Max Muncy has been out since May 15. Several other key relievers remain on the shelf.

They hope that nights like Wednesday will help prevent further losses; that come October, the roster will be fresh and back near full health.

If that means risking a few games during the regular season, so be it, club decision-makers have repeatedly decided.

The Dodgers have their eyes on a World Series. Wednesday epitomized the trade-offs they believe are required to pursue it.



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