NEW YORK -- The Dodgers won Sunday night, but manager Dave Roberts knows he's being second-guessed for removing Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning with a one-run lead and two outs.The move backfired, but Roberts got away with it, with a blown save by Adam Liberatore being overshadowed by a
NEW YORK -- The Dodgers won Sunday night, but manager Dave Roberts knows he's being second-guessed for removing Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning with a one-run lead and two outs.
The move backfired, but Roberts got away with it, with a blown save by Adam Liberatore being overshadowed by a ninth-inning rally and 4-2 win over the Mets, the Dodgers' sixth victory in seven games.
Kershaw was at 114 pitches, the tying run was on first after a leadoff single by Kevin Plawecki, left-handed hitter Michael Conforto had just lined out hard to center and left-handed hitter Curtis Granderson was coming up. Roberts chose not to ask a four-out save from Kenley Jansen (who was warmed up) and brought in the lefty Liberatore, who had allowed a .107 average to left-handed hitters this year.
Kershaw was clearly unhappy with being yanked, and one can only imagine how he felt when Granderson tripled off the wall, tying the game and leaving right fielder Yasiel Puig taking inventory on body parts after caroming off the wall in a valiant but futile attempt to make a spectacular catch.
"I know Clayton's the best in the game," said Roberts. "But with 114 pitches, I made that decision to go to a guy that dominates lefties all year long.
"Clayton wants to be in there and he should. But in that situation, I didn't want to see it go any higher. It's tantalizing to have him finish every game. He's not a guy to ever say I've had enough, at 120 or 130 pitches. It's comforting to know that, but I made that decision and have to live with it."
It was a lot easier to live with after a win. Even for Kershaw, who was caught on camera listening to Roberts explain the move during the ninth inning.
"It's a tough situation, that's why I'm not the manager," Kershaw said. "Managers appreciate when you don't want to come out, and obviously I didn't want to come out. He's making the decisions, and you've got to respect it."
Roberts hinted that part of the decision stemmed from a reluctance to use Jansen for saves of more than three outs, which he's done twice this month with one game saved but another one lost.
"I talked to Kenley prior to the season about once a month and not dipping into the well too often," Roberts said. "I appreciate his availability and willingness, which he is, but I believe in other guys in the 'pen. For Adam to face Granderson, I'll take my chances."
"I love that he cares about me," said Jansen, a free agent after this season. "You see a guy pitching a great game and you get anxious, you want to be in there, but I appreciate that he's saving me and taking care of me."
The decision aside, Kershaw finished May 5-0 with a 0.91 ERA, 65 strikeouts and two walks in 49 2/3 innings. On Sunday, he became the first pitcher in the modern era to reach 100 strikeouts with as few as five walks.
"That's a big, unfathomable number right there, that ratio," said catcher A.J. Ellis. "Speaks to his commitment to being aggressive in the strike zone, speaks to his ability to put guys away. It shows who he is as a competitor. Every stretch of his is amazing. You almost can't call them stretches anymore. They're big eras."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.