Judging the Royals

Game 7: Dave Roberts, Yu Darvish and second-guessing

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish walks off the field after he was relieved during the second inning of World Series Game 7 against the Houston Astros on Wednesday.
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish walks off the field after he was relieved during the second inning of World Series Game 7 against the Houston Astros on Wednesday. AP

In Game 7 of the World Series, Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish pitched 1  2/3 innings while allowing five runs, four of them earned; Clayton Kershaw pitched four innings and didn’t allow any runs.

Now some people are saying instead of starting Darvish, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts should have started Kershaw on short rest.

Which might be an OK criticism if the people saying that had said that before Game 7 started. But if those critics waited until the dust cleared and then said Roberts should have started Kershaw, that’s not particularly profound or insightful.

Anyone can wait until the battle is over and second-guess the moves made by the losing side. If before Game 7 started, someone knew with 100 percent certainty that Kershaw would pitch well and Darvish wouldn’t, I’m sure Roberts would have appreciated a heads up.

Darvish and the postseason

Darvish had one start in the NLDS against the Diamondbacks, threw five innings while allowing one run and won the game.

Darvish had one start in the NLCS against the Cubs, threw 6  1/3 innings while allowing one run and won the game.

Coming into his third postseason start Darvish was pitching exceptionally well, but against the Astros in Game 3 of the World Series, he couldn’t get his slider down and was whacked around for four runs in 1  2/3 innings.

So in Game 7 Roberts should have been paying close attention to the sliders thrown by Darvish. If those sliders were up in the zone, Darvish would need to be yanked early.

And that was something anyone paying attention would know before Game 7 ever started.

The top of the first inning

Three pitches into Game 7, Darvish missed a down-and-away target and left a slider up and over the middle of the plate; George Springer doubled.

Right-handed hitter Alex Bregman wanted to hit the ball to the right side of the field to move Springer to third and Darvish made it easy by once again missing a down-and-away target and leaving a fastball up and on the outside corner.

Springer scored and Bregman advanced to second on a throwing error by Cody Bellinger. Bregman then stole third base when Darvish delivered a pitch with a full leg kick instead of a slide step and bounced the ball in the dirt.

Darvish left another slider up to Jose Altuve, Bregman scored on a groundout and the Astros were up 2-0.

Carlos Correa grounded out on a changeup left in the middle of the zone and Darvish got the final out of the first inning on a fly ball after throwing 13 pitches to Yuli Gurriel; three of them sliders left in the middle of the zone.

Let’s recap the inning: Dave Roberts needed to watch for sliders up in the zone and Yu Darvish threw plenty of them. But after the Dodgers got nothing out of a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the first inning, Darvish was sent back out to pitch the top of the second.

The top of second inning

Darvish was still missing the mitt and leaving sliders up in the zone and walked Brian McCann to start the inning.

Darvish fell behind Marwin Gonzalez 2-1, threw a cutter down the pipe and Gonzalez doubled, McCann advanced to third.

Josh Reddick grounded out, McCann didn’t score.

Then with Astros pitcher Lance McCullers at the plate, Darvish hung another slider, McCullers got it in play and his time McCann scored. The Dodgers were down 3-0, Gonzalez was on third, there were two outs and George Springer was at the plate.

If you still want to criticize Dave Roberts, this would be a good place to start.

Springer had faced Darvish three times in the postseason, hit two doubles and lined out once. And Springer was hot; he came into the game hitting .375 in the Series.

Darvish had two open bases and Alex Bregman on deck.

Bregman was 2-for-11 off Darvish (a .182 average) while Springer was 8-for-21 (a .381 average) with two doubles and two home runs.

Despite having first base open and a weaker hitter on deck, Darvish pitched to Springer and Springer homered on the sixth pitch of the at bat; the Astros were up 5-0 and Darvish was pulled from the game at least one batter too late.

If Darvish walked Springer, would it have made a difference?

When Darvish was allowed to pitch to Springer, the Dodgers were already down 3-0 and only scored one run all night, so would it have made a difference if Roberts pulled Darvish or had him walk Springer? Would the Dodgers have lost the game 3-1 instead of 5-1?

Maybe, maybe not.

Being down by three runs instead of five made a difference. Down by five runs, the Dodgers were unlikely to try and manufacture a single run and that meant the Astros didn’t have to spend much time worrying about a bunt or a stolen base. Had the Dodgers been down by three runs with eight innings to go they would have had more options.

Springer wasn’t walked so we’ll never know.

But Dave Roberts did know Yu Darvish had trouble with his slider last time out and Springer had hit Darvish a whole lot better than Bregman and Roberts didn’t do anything about it until too late.

And that’s not second guessing.

You could see this one coming a mile away.

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