Column: Over-managing costs Dodgers in Game 1 of Series



<pSometimes, in the pressure cooker of a World Series, a manager gets distracted by all those indecipherable charts and the trove of analytics he has at his fingertips.

<pSometimes, he spends too much time flailing around in search of the perfect matchup instead of just watching what's occurring right before his eyes.

<pThat's what happened to Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

<pIn a classic case of over-managing, Roberts helped send his team to an 8-4 loss in Game 1 Tuesday night against the Boston Red Sox by making one move too many in the decisive seventh inning, setting up Eduardo Nunez's three-run homer.

<pThe Dodgers were trailing only 5-4, despite another postseason flop by Clayton Kershaw, when Andrew Benintendi led off with his fourth hit of the game — a blooper down the left-field line that somehow managed to elude Joc Pederson before hopping into the stands for a fluky ground-rule double.

<pRoberts hustled to the mound to lift Julio Urias, summoning hard-throwing right-hander Pedro Baez from the bullpen.

<pBaez was left off the Dodgers' postseason roster a year ago, when Los Angeles made it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series before losing to Houston, but he's been a highly valued member of the relief corps in 2018.

<pHe worked 55 games during the regular season, going 4-3 with a 2.88 ERA.

<pHe threw a total of 6 2/3 scoreless innings during two playoff rounds, allowing just two hits while striking out 10.

<pBaez kept up his dominance against the Red Sox, striking out Mitch Moreland with three fastballs clocked at 96, 97 and 96 mph — the last one up in the eyes that Moreland flailed at helplessly. J.D. Martinez was wisely walked intentionally, setting up a possible double play, but Baez looked like he wouldn't need any help from the defense as he kept unleashing a torrent of wicked two- and four-seam fastballs.

<pXander Bogaerts stared at one, missed another, fouled one off to merely delay the inevitable, and then struck out swinging on yet another 96-mph fastball.

<pAt that point, Roberts merely had to let Baez finish the job.

<pInstead, the Dodgers skipper popped out of the dugout again, signaling to the bullpen for left-hander Alex Wood. With left-handed hitter Rafael Devers coming up, Roberts let the matchup game get the best of him.

<pBoston manager Alex Cora countered with a move of his own, sending up the well-traveled Nunez as a pinch-hitter.

<pRoberts defended his hook of Baez.

<p"We talked about it with Petey throwing the ball well right there," the manager said. "But Devers is really good against the right-hander. To get a guy off the bench in Nunez, I really liked Alex in that spot. I did. Whether they were going to hit Devers with the lead or go to the bench, go with Nunez, I still liked Alex in that spot."

<pUndoubtedly, that's what it said on the card prepared by a bunch of guys sitting in front of a computer.

<pBut baseball, a game that has always been rooted in numbers and statistics, still comes down to a gut feeling from time to time.

<pA human touch is required.

<pSome common sense goes a long way.

<pWood delivered an 83-mph breaking ball that Nunez took low for a ball. Wood came back with roughly the same pitch, just a bit closer to the strike zone. Nunez was ready for it, launching a drive over the Green Monster for a three-run homer that essentially locked up the victory.

<pRoberts had no trouble with the pitch from Wood.

<p"It was a breaking ball back foot," the manager said. "Pretty much got it there. It was a ball. But he put a really good swing on it and kept it fair."

<pDefying the analytics, Cora went with a lefty-heavy lineup against Kershaw, including the 22-year-old Devers.

<pNunez, who usually gets the call against the left-handers, had to settle for a bench role in Game 1.

<p"He probably was a little bit disappointed that he didn't start because he's started against every lefty," Cora said. "But I thought having him on the bench would pay off."

<pBoy, did it ever.

<p"I told him, 'Be ready, man. You might have big at-bat tonight. Do your thing,'" Cora related.

<p"And he did."

<pAll Baez could do was watch from the dugout.

<pHe should've still been on the mound.


<pPaul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at or at . His work can be found at


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