LA's historic season ends in NLDS heartbreak

Dodgers eliminated in Game 4 as lead slips away in San Diego

October 16th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- Back in March, with a roster filled with superstars, manager Dave Roberts volunteered a prediction. He guaranteed that the Dodgers were going to win the 2022 World Series. 

For six months, Roberts looked as if he would be right. The Dodgers set a franchise record with 111 wins, becoming just the fifth team in AL/NL history to win that many games in one season. It looked like the Dodgers were on their way to a second World Series in three seasons. 

Instead, the Dodgers’ season ended with one of the most disappointing finishes in baseball history, and certainly in the franchise’s storied history, following a 5-3 loss to the Padres in Game 4 of the National League Division Series Saturday at Petco Park.

“Shock factor, very high. Disappointment, very high. It's crushing,” said Roberts. “This hurts everyone because we didn't accomplish our goal, and that's the bottom line. Yeah, this one hurts.”

Despite coming into the postseason with the best record in the sport, the Dodgers had a series of questions on the roster, perhaps none bigger than the unorthodox pitching plan they anticipated to roll out during the postseason. The Dodgers, however, were adamant that it was the best way for them to get through the postseason. In the seventh inning on Saturday night, that plan unraveled and ultimately cost the Dodgers their season.

Left-hander Tyler Anderson got the start in Game 4 and pitched as well as the Dodgers could’ve hoped. Anderson’s velocity was up across the board and he rose to the occasion, quieting a raucous Petco Park crowd by tossing five scoreless innings in his first postseason appearance since 2018. 

But instead of letting Anderson go back out for the sixth, the Dodgers elected to turn the ball over to the bullpen to preserve a two-run lead. Chris Martin answered the call and worked around a pair of singles to toss a scoreless sixth.

“I could’ve gone five more innings,” Anderson said. “I would’ve thrown 150 pitches if they would’ve let me. But you never second guess that situation.”

In the seventh, it was Tommy Kahnle’s turn to take down an inning and he failed to record an out. Kahnle walked the leadoff hitter in Jurickson Profar and gave up singles to Trent Grisham and Austin Nola. Kahnle’s inefficiency forced Roberts’ hand against the top of the order.

Roberts went with Yency Almonte over Evan Phillips, who was their best reliever all season, because they were hoping to have Phillips ready in the ninth inning. Phillips pitched in the eighth. The ninth-inning save opportunity never came. 

“Well, to start the inning, I don’t expect to have Yency taking down the fourth hitter of the inning,” Roberts said. “At that point in time we had to get somebody to get the right-hander, and the chance for a punchout right there to get an out where Tommy has been more effective versus left-handed hitters. But look at who that part of the lineup was coming up ... Yency was the guy right there.”

Almonte proceeded to give up an RBI double to Ha-Seong Kim and an RBI single to Juan Soto that tied the game at 3. But Almonte was able to settle down, striking out Manny Machado and getting Brandon Drury to pop out.

The inning then took another turn with a costly miscommunication. Believing left-hander Alex Vesia wasn’t yet ready to come into the game, Roberts called for a throw to first base to buy time. Catcher Will Smith, however, called for a pitch and Almonte threw a first-pitch ball to Jake Cronenworth. Roberts then came and pulled him for Vesia, who after the game said he felt ready to pitch before the at-bat began. 

“I’m in the bullpen. Phone rings, I get hot when I’m told to get hot,” Vesia said. “I was ready.”

Vesia said the 1-0 count didn’t bother his approach, but it ended up costing the Dodgers as Cronenworth lined a two-run single to give the Padres the decisive 5-3 win. Prior to Saturday, the Dodgers were 80-3 in franchise postseason history when leading by three or more runs in the seventh inning or later. This regular season, the Dodgers were 74-0 in similar situations. 

“This was a really good team -- a really, really good team. October baseball can be brutal and it happened for us,” said Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman. “We just didn’t win the World Series this year. .. But this was a really good baseball team that just came up short in October.”

Freeman is right. This Dodgers team was exceptional for six months. You can stack it up against any in franchise history. But with expectations at an all-time high and the biggest payroll in the sport, coming up short will be viewed as a failure. Over the last two seasons, the Dodgers have amassed 217 wins, by far the most in the sport. But that has translated to just one series win in October.

“I don’t think anybody’s really going to care, you know?” said Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw. “It’s just another good regular season.”

The Dodgers are left looking at what will be a crucial winter for president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. Trea Turner, Andrew Heaney, Anderson and long-time ace Kershaw are some of the notable free agents. Kershaw indicated he would like to return in 2023.

The Dodgers will also have to decide on Justin Turner’s team option and what is next for Cody Bellinger, who is arbitration-eligible for one more season but was benched in each of the last two postseason games. Walker Buehler will miss most, if not the entire 2023 season after undergoing a second Tommy John surgery in August.

Only time will tell what the Dodgers do over the next few months. Maybe they elect to shake things up after coming up short for the ninth time in 10 years. Maybe they don’t overreact on a roster that won 111 games.

But right now, the only guarantee is that the Dodgers’ season ended much sooner than anybody could have anticipated.

“We had a really great team. Won 111 games. Just goes to show you winning the postseason is not easy,” said Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts. “It was super cool to win that many games, but it means absolutely nothing if you lose in the postseason. They played well, but there were some situations where we didn’t execute.”