LA dealt 1st 3-game sweep at home since '18

Pirates' defense erases key baserunners in third straight loss

June 2nd, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- On Wednesday, the Dodgers stood in their own way by running into two avoidable outs on the basepaths. Those were just the latest in a recent string of questionable baserunning decisions for Los Angeles.

This time, those choices came back to haunt the Dodgers, who fell to the Pirates, 8-4, in the series finale at Dodger Stadium. The loss marked the first time the Dodgers have been swept in a three-game series at home since Aug. 20-22, 2018 (vs. the Cardinals). It is the first time the Pirates have swept a series in Los Angeles in over two decades, which they last accomplished from Sept. 4-6, 2000.

“I hope it’s not a trend,” manager Dave Roberts said of the outs on the basepaths. “It’s very uncharacteristic. I hope it’s just kind of one moment in time where it’s happening all at once, because we are very good at limiting mistakes, outs on the bases, giving up outs.”

In the bottom of the sixth, Chris Taylor drew a leadoff walk. Hanser Alberto, on a 3-2 count, grounded to third, and Taylor, moving on the pitch, rounded second and kept on going for third while Ke'Bryan Hayes threw to first. Pirates first baseman Michael Chavis then made a spot-on throw back to Hayes, nailing Taylor, with the call being confirmed following a Dodgers challenge. Roberts defended Taylor’s decision to go for it, noting that it was only because of some great Pirates defense that things didn’t work out.

“If he was safe, it was a great play, and he’s there at third base with one out,” said Roberts. “Chris is a very good baserunner, and I thought Ke’Bryan made a great pick and a great tag, and it had to be a perfect play for him to be out.”

The Dodgers had another opportunity the following inning, which opened with Gavin Lux walking and advancing to third on a Mookie Betts single. After Freddie Freeman grounded out to first, Trea Turner hit a shallow fly ball to center field. Lux tagged up, and center fielder Bryan Reynolds’ throw had him at the plate easily. This time, it was Pirates manager Derek Shelton who defended Lux’s choice to try to take the extra bag.

"I thought it was just an overall good baseball play,” said Shelton. “A guy with Gavin’s speed, you’re going to run there. I thought it was a good call. Bryan just made a nice throw."

This is, arguably, the best baserunning team the Dodgers have had in years -- or, at least, it has the potential to be. Turner, who has twice led the NL in stolen bases, is one of the game’s most respected baserunners, with his 30.2 feet-per-second average sprint speed qualifying as “elite,” by Statcast’s standards. Lux, Taylor, Cody Bellinger, Betts and even Will Smith all have sprint speeds this season that rate above MLB’s average of 27 feet per second.

But speed alone isn’t the only component of good baserunning; good instincts and good decision-making have to go along with it. And recently, the results haven’t backed up the decisions.

“We talk about [the baserunning issues]. We all know,” said Betts, who hit his NL-leading 16th home run in the ninth inning. “But in the moment, [you] just make a decision, and sometimes it’s wrong. Right now, it’s been wrong for us more times than not. But tomorrow could be completely different.”

Because L.A. swept its four-game set against the D-backs in Arizona this past weekend, the baserunning blunders stood out less. But Saturday’s game in particular had more than its share of basepath outs, as two Dodgers baserunners got picked off, Turner had a rare caught stealing and Lux got thrown out trying to take third on a flyout. Turner also got picked off at second on Sunday.

For Roberts’ part, he doesn’t think it’s a matter of his club pressing too hard. And he also doesn’t want to diminish his players’ enthusiasm for aggressive baserunning. It’s just something that happens sometimes when you have a team that has the ability to make things happen with its legs.

“I do think that we run the bases aggressively and smart, and pick times to be aggressive,” said Roberts. “Some of those in Arizona were the replay and some kind of fluke-ish things. … I don’t want to take away from the aggressiveness.”