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Ending Dodgers' slump is RISPy business

Roberts wants hitters to capitalize with runners in scoring position
August 22, 2018

LOS ANGELES -- Dave Roberts turned to the analytics on Wednesday to confirm his suspicions about the Dodgers' offensive slump.On Tuesday night, the manager said he sensed hitters were being more patient with nobody on base than with runners on base, expanding the strike zone and helping pitchers during at-bats

LOS ANGELES -- Dave Roberts turned to the analytics on Wednesday to confirm his suspicions about the Dodgers' offensive slump.
On Tuesday night, the manager said he sensed hitters were being more patient with nobody on base than with runners on base, expanding the strike zone and helping pitchers during at-bats that should be ending in RBIs.
On Wednesday, he said he was surprised to learn another flaw in his hitters' execution.
"We lead the league at striking out on balls in the middle third of the plate," Roberts said. "That's not a good thing. When we do get a good pitch to hit, we're swinging and missing. One part of the equation is it's a good thing that we're swinging at the pitch, but the other thing is we've got to end the at-bat. When the pitcher makes a mistake, we've got to capitalize."
While losing the first two games of the current series against St. Louis, the Dodgers were 3-for-21 (.143) with runners in scoring position while leaving 25 runners on base. The team struck out in 22 of 84 plate appearances over the last two nights.
"We can see their swing gets big and they expand," said Roberts of his hitters. "Shortening the swing doesn't always land with hitters, because you get in a defensive mode. You've got to be careful with how you phrase things. I still think the ability to stay in the strike zone gives us the best chance in any situation.
"Everyone wants to drive in a run. The best at it take the pressure off themselves. Certain guys have a tendency to squeeze the bat, whether they admit it or not. When you're going out of the strike zone, it means you're pressing. We've got to temper that anxiety and understand if they don't throw a strike, we've got to take first base."
Roberts insisted that he, and his players, recognize the heightened urgency of being in third place in the National League West with five weeks left in the season.
"They feel it. I feel it," he said. "Urgency is a good thing. When every game is important, we should be [feeling urgency] and you've seen the way I'm managing. These games are important."
Worth noting
• Closer Kenley Jansen missed batting practice on Wednesday after becoming a daddy again, but Roberts said Jansen was expected at Dodger Stadium by game time and would be available to close out the series finale with the Cardinals.
• Roberts said left-hander Julio Urias came out of his Tuesday night rehab start fine, but there's been no decision about his next step. Urias, 22, has been out more than a year after shoulder surgery. In the start for Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga, Urias retired the first seven hitters, striking out five, but he allowed a home run for the third consecutive outing before being removed after 2 2/3 innings.
Urias is being counted on to pitch relief down the stretch, but management apparently isn't convinced that he's ready.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.