Dodgers finding clutch hits elusive in NLCS

October 19th, 2021

ATLANTA -- The quickest fix to all those pitching questions surrounding the Dodgers these days has nothing to do with pitching at all.

For the second consecutive night, the Dodgers found themselves locked in a low-scoring game, in which their pitching staff unraveled late. For the second consecutive night, the Dodgers’ offense did little to alleviate the pressure.

Again, Los Angeles managed only one hit with runners in scoring position in a 5-4 loss to the Braves on Eddie Rosario’s walk-off single in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. They went 1-for-8 on Saturday night. Then 1-for-10 on Sunday.

On the whole, the offense hasn’t been particularly poor in this series. But in the biggest spots, it has gone missing. After the game, manager Dave Roberts had an idea why.

“It's an approach thing,” Roberts said. “I think that at certain times, in scoring position we're expanding too much.”

Two batters into the game on Sunday, the Dodgers had a two-run lead on Corey Seager’s booming home run into the right-field seats. From there, the Dodgers created plenty of traffic. They were a perfect 4-for-4 in stolen-base attempts, tying a franchise playoff record. They didn’t capitalize.

In a tie game in the top of the sixth inning, Chris Taylor walked, stole second base and advanced to third with one out on Cody Bellinger’s deep fly ball. But AJ Pollock chased a changeup from Jacob Webb below the strike zone. Albert Pujols did the same on a slider from Tyler Matzek.

An inning later, the Dodgers finally broke through, recording their only hit of the night with men in scoring position. Taylor hit a bases-loaded blooper that landed just in front of Guillermo Heredia’s outstretched glove. Heredia promptly misplayed it into a double. Two runs scored, and the Dodgers had another lead.

Again, they didn’t tack on. Los Angeles reloaded the bases on an intentional walk, but Pollock swung at three pitches below the strike zone. It was the Dodgers’ 10th and final at-bat with at least one runner in scoring position. They struck out in five of them.

“Any time guys are in scoring position, you want to try to not do too much and use the whole field,” Taylor said. “Grind ‘em out, and take your knocks. We’ve got to do a better job than that.”

In the regular season, the Dodgers’ .806 OPS with men in scoring position was the second-best mark in the National League. But they are presently without Max Muncy, who is out with a left elbow dislocation. The Dodgers have been forced to reshuffle their lineup as a result, and the bottom of their order has been exposed.

Perhaps a return to Dodger Stadium might do the trick. The Dodgers know they can overcome this type of deficit, after all. They did so last season in the NLCS. Against the Braves.

“We’ve been here before,” Taylor said. “We know it’s one game at a time. We can’t worry about the next two or three games or whatever. We’ve got to win on Tuesday.”