Dodgers manager Dave Roberts surely expected the second-guessers after Saturday night’s stunning 9-6 loss to the Red Sox in Game 4 of the World Series, a defeat that leaves them at the brink of elimination.
But when informed afterward that his bullpen moves, which were questionable at best, attracted the attention of the White House, Roberts did a bit of a double-take. Turns out, President Trump, an active Twitter presence, blasted the manager with a tweet that ripped him for what he thought was pulling Rich Hill prematurely, calling it a “big mistake.”
“The president said that?” Roberts said. “I’m happy he was tuning in and watching the game. I don’t know how many Dodger games he’s watched. I don’t think he is privy to the conversation. That’s one man’s opinion.”
But Roberts faced plenty of postgame criticism from the rest of us, too. And coming off an 18-inning, nearly 7 1⁄2-hour marathon the previous night (and morning) that limited his bullpen options, Roberts had to nudge Hill a little further, then maybe stay away from Ryan Madson altogether.
It was a stunning reversal for the Dodgers, who rallied to win Game 3 on Max Muncy’s walk-off homer at 3:30 a.m. ET Saturday, then took a 4-0 lead in Game 4 on Yasiel Puig’s spectacular three-run blast at 10:15 p.m. ET later that day. Puig’s sixth-inning shot, which landed halfway up the leftfield bleachers, turned Dodger Stadium into a huge party, sparked by his bat flip, blowing kisses around the bases and a curtain call.
At that point, Hill was in position for the win, with six scoreless innings under his belt. Hill grew up a Red Sox fan, pretending to be Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs playing Wiffle Ball in his backyard in Milton, Massachusetts, so it had to be surreal when he walked off to a standing ovation against that team at Dodger Stadium.
But was it too soon? Hill pumped his fist in frustration after walking Xander Bogaerts to lead off the seventh, but he struck out Eduardo Nuñez and didn’t seem disappointed in the least when Roberts replaced him with another lefty, Scott Alexander, to pitch to Brock Holt. Hill had thrown 91 pitches, but the Red Sox didn’t get a runner into scoring position against him, and the Dodgers already were two men down — Pedro Baez and Julio Urias — because of their usage in Game 3.
Roberts said he had talked with Hill during the Dodgers’ long, Puig-filled sixth inning and his starter was wary of going much deeper into the game. According to the manager, Hill told him, “Keep an eye on me” because he could run out of gas quickly.
“So it was more of just the conversation I had, and just realizing that, man, this guy gave it everything he had,” Roberts said. “And we’ve got to pick each other up.”
As for Hill, he didn’t disagree with his manager. Not that he wanted to come out, but he felt Roberts should be “proactive” in making the decision before a fire became too difficult to extinguish.
After that, it went downhill quickly (no pun intended). Alexander walked Holt and Roberts opted for Madson, who got pinch hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. on a shallow pop — no easy feat — before sabotaging Hill’s efforts. Next up was another pinch hitter, lefthanded-hitting Mitch Moreland, who crushed a first-pitch, 85-mph changeup into the rightfield bleachers. Puig actually pointed at the vapor trail.
With the Dodgers’ lead trimmed to 4-3, Madson became the first pitcher in World Series history to let all seven of his inherited runners score. You would think he’d already be radioactive after torching the Dodgers’ hopes in Boston, but Roberts said he had no other valid options. “We just didn’t execute,” Roberts said. “Unfortunately, Mitch took a really good swing on it.”
There would be more really good swings by the Red Sox. Roberts called on closer Kenley Jansen for a six-out save again and got burned for the second time in as many nights, this time when Steve Pearce took him over the leftfield wall. That tied the score at 4, and Dylan Floro lit the fuse in the ninth, giving up a one-out double by Holt and the go-ahead single by pinch hitter Rafael Devers.
With the base open, Roberts said he didn’t want to put Devers on because that eventually would bring Mookie Betts into play. And in the end, it didn’t seem to matter as Pearce broke open the game with a three-run double.
The party at Dodger Stadium was over shortly after 9 p.m. local time in Game 4. It could be finished for the year Sunday night in Game 5.