BOSTON (AP) — Maybe this World Series just isn’t in the cards for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Trying to play the matchup game, manager Dave Roberts’ team instead looked overmatched at Fenway Park. They staggered home after a 4-2 loss Wednesday night, down 2-0 to the do-everything-right Boston Red Sox.
“We’ve got to do a better job of responding,” catcher Austin Barnes said.
Not even a bit of new-age strategy — and a curious sight — could save them.
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The Dodgers led 2-1 in the fifth inning when right-hander Ryan Madson was summoned to replace lefty starter Hyun-Jin Ryu with the bases loaded and two outs.
As Madson warmed up, a Dodgers bat boy trotted onto the diamond, where outfielders Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig were waiting. The bat boy gave each of them laminated cards, presumably with new alignments for defensive positioning for Madson on the mound.
They didn’t help when Madson walked Steve Pearce, forcing home the tying run and bringing cleanup man J.D. Martinez to the plate.
Martinez led the majors with 130 RBIs this season, and drove in two more runs in Game 1. A dangerous hitter, no doubt.
So Puig moved back in right field. Way back, in fact.
And when Martinez sent a soft liner the opposite way to right, Puig was nowhere close. He couldn’t even begin to make a move to catch it, and the ball dropped for a go-ahead, two-run single. The hit traveled 236 feet, Statcast said.
“Obviously, you have to respect the power of J.D., so you just play back a bit. But, yeah, you know, that’s baseball,” Barnes said. “Bloopers happen.”
As the fans went wild, Puig could do little except look at all the grass around him.
“Even if he was in, it’s going to drop in. It’s two out, they’re running on contact. And you’ve got to still respect J.D.’s power,” Roberts said.
Before the game, Madson said about facing Martinez: “You know you’re in a pit with a rattlesnake, and one bad move, and you’ll get bit if you’re not paying attention.”
The Dodgers certainly have been paying attention. They rely heavily on analytics for matchups, positioning and other decisions, and are among the most advanced in baseball in that department.
But even moves Roberts is making that seem to be right on the money aren’t working out.
“Every mistake we made, they capitalized and scored that inning, so it’s hard to come back from that,” Bellinger said.
Pulling Ryu seemed to surely be the right move with the bases jammed and three right-handed hitters coming up. But for the second straight night, Madson — a bullpen veteran who was part of championship teams in Kansas City and Philadelphia — let him down.
In the opener against lefty Chris Sale, the Dodgers became the first team to start nine right-handed hitters in a Series game, none switch-hitters. Roberts did it again against lefty David Price.
Perhaps the numbers showed that was the right move. But to stack the lineup that way, Roberts left 109 home runs on the bench: Max Muncy, Bellinger, Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal, the team’s top four homer hitters.
They all got into both games, eventually, as Roberts emptied his bench. But against a Boston bullpen that’s been dominant, they did no damage.
When the Series resumes Friday at Dodger Stadium, right-hander Rick Porcello is likely to pitch for the Red Sox.
“We’re going to shuffle it up for Game 3, but it’s not because of necessarily performance,” Roberts said. “It’s kind of who the starting pitcher for those guys is. But these are the guys that got us here, and we’re going to ride them out.”
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