WASHINGTON -- Dave Roberts said everything one would expect to hear from the manager of the Dodgers about having confidence in outfielder A.J. Pollock moving forward in this postseason. But after nine strikeouts in his first 11 National League Division Series at-bats, Pollock found himself on the bench to begin Los Angeles' 6-1 loss to the Nationals in Game 4 of the National League Division Series.
Left-handed-hitting rookie Matt Beaty started against Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer and went 1-for-3 in place of right-handed-hitting Pollock, whose ninth strikeout of the series came in the sixth inning of Game 3 on Sunday night before the Dodgers mounted a furious two-out comeback to take the game and a 2-1 series lead. That’s two strikeouts shy of the dubious all-time record for an NLDS shared by the Mets’ Lucas Duda (in 2015) and the Nationals’ Trea Turner (in ‘16 against the Dodgers), who each struck out 11 times in series that went five games.
Pollock moved one punchout closer to that record when he appeared as a pinch-hitter for reliever Kenta Maeda in the fifth inning of Game 4 and went down swinging against Scherzer. Pollock's 10 strikeouts in the series are the most ever by a Dodgers player in a best-of-five postseason series.
“I think, number one, Scherzer's really difficult and has shown to be tough on right-handed hitters,” Roberts said. “So, to get Matt Beaty's bat in there, I thought there's not a whole lot of downside. He's had a couple at-bats already in the DS.
“And with A.J., I think right now he's struggling with spin. And I think that there's more chase in there than there has been in the second half of the season, for whatever reason -- mechanical, maybe a little bit of pressing. So, I think that to give him a blow, get Matt in there, get as many left-handed bats against Scherzer as possible, I think gives us the best chance to win.
“But I haven't at all lost confidence in A.J. and know that he'll figure some things out.”
Beaty got most of his regular-season playing time against right-handed pitching, against whom he registered an .840 OPS and hit all nine of his home runs in 217 at-bats. He became the third Dodgers rookie to get a start in the series; Gavin Lux started three of the first four games at second base and Will Smith started three of the four behind the plate. Rookie Dustin May has also pitched out of the bullpen for Los Angeles.
“Since day one that I showed up, all the veteran guys, all the guys that have been on the team, they made us feel welcome,” Beaty said. “Kind of just let us be who we are. It's been great. Just go out there and perform every day and to be alongside those guys that have done it in the past couple years. Just to be there, it's special.”
Beaty, Lux and Smith all started Game 4, marking the first time in four years that a trio of rookies were in the Dodgers’ lineup for a postseason game. The last time was Game 5 of 2015 NLDS against Jacob deGrom and the Mets with Enrique Hernández, Corey Seager and Joc Pederson.
Ryu volunteers for Game 5
Left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu told members of the Korean media in the wake of his five-inning start in Game 3 that he would volunteer to pitch if needed at some point in a potential Game 5 on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium. Should the game be played, Ryu would be on two days’ rest.
He would be one of two starters available in relief of tentative starter Walker Buehler. Clayton Kershaw will be on full rest that day, if there is a game.
“I didn't know that from Hyun-Jin, which is great to hear,” Roberts said. “And I applaud him for being open to do whatever it takes to help us win a baseball game. We'll have that conversation if it's necessary.
“I think that him coming back and signing a one-year contract here speaks to how much he wanted to be a part of this and win a championship here with the Dodgers. I thought he pitched really well last night and at  pitches, to get him back online potentially for an inning out of the 'pen, that's certainly a luxury for us if it gets to that point.”
Ryu delivered five innings of two-run ball in Game 3 and departed for a pinch-hitter amid L.A.’s game-breaking, seven-run rally.
Dodgers confident of no Strasburg
The Dodgers noticed Washington’s potential Game 5 starter, Stephen Strasburg, throwing a bullpen session on Monday afternoon at Nationals Park, leaving Los Angeles convinced Strasburg is committed to starting on Wednesday and would not be used in relief Monday night.
That said, the Nationals described Strasburg’s session as a “light” bullpen, while conceding they wanted to stay away from using him so he would be fresh if they can win Game 4.
Kelly available in relief
Roberts said the club believes Joe Kelly’s ineffective appearance in Game 3 -- when he allowed all four batters he faced to reach base, three on walks -- was the result of having to warm up twice because of the marathon top of the sixth inning.
Roberts said it was not an indicator that the unspecified physical issue that sidelined Kelly in September had returned, and the manager said the right-hander was available to pitch in Game 4.
Ibañez managing? Not now
Raúl Ibañez’s name has been floated as a potential candidate to fill one of MLB’s seven managerial vacancies. Managing is eventually something Ibañez wants to pursue, but the timing isn’t right at the moment.
“I remain interested, just not right now,” said Ibañez, special assistant to Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. “Teams that have inquired, they know. I’m a dad of five amazing kids, love the flexibility I have and right now on the family front, it’s not the ideal time. One day.”