LOS ANGELES -- So you’re the Dodgers’ Brandon Morrow, witnessing Sunday night’s mound carnage at Minute Maid Park, with the staffs of both teams being unmercifully hammered, and you still come to this conclusion:
Yeah, I need a piece of that.
Having already pitched in 11 of the Dodgers’ first 12 postseason games, Morrow was due a breather in Game 5 of the World Series. His manager, Dave Roberts, didn’t intend to use him Sunday, figuring his star setup man could use the break.
But once Clayton Kershaw exited in the fifth and the bullpen phone began ringing as if it were a college campus Chipotle, Morrow chose to make an outgoing call to Roberts, telling him he wanted in.
That turned out to be a serious lapse in judgment, and for the Dodgers’ weary relief corps, a regrettable call that could cost them dearly as the Astros, up three games to two, try to close this out in Tuesday night’s Game 6.
Morrow threw only five pitches but allowed four hits, including home runs by George Springer and Carlos Correa that turned the Dodgers’ 8-7 lead into an 11-8 deficit in the seventh inning. He didn’t record an out, and on a night of horrific pitching, Morrow was the worst offender.
“I was feeling OK,” he said early Monday morning after the Astros prevailed in 10 innings, 13-12, in the 5-hour, 17-minute slugfest. “But it was probably selfish on my part. They had a plan and I made them deviate from that.”
As we’ve discovered, plans are for the 162-game regular season. The postseason requires an all-hands-on-deck mentality, and arms get stretched to the breaking point, especially when teams start seeing the finish line.
Put yourself in Roberts’ Dodger-blue windbreaker. At that point, the Astros already had hit a pair of three-run homers, but L.A. somehow had emerged from the rubble and was nine outs away from a crucial second victory at Minute Maid Park.
And Morrow was offering to pitch? The angel on Roberts’ shoulder must have stepped away for a hot dog, because the shell-shocked manager ultimately gave in to the temptation.
“In the seventh inning, you can’t turn him down,” Roberts said. “He felt good, he wanted to be in the game, and it’s a credit to him to be used like he has been and want the baseball.”
As for how he convinced Roberts, Morrow said, “I didn’t have to try too hard.”
These bullpen discussions come up all the time, whether it be July or October, but the bill comes due around Halloween, just as we saw with last year’s ace relievers, the Indians’ Andrew Miller and the Cubs’ Aroldis Chapman. Both were on fumes by Games 6 and 7, their fastballs running on sheer willpower, with the low-fuel light blinking in their heads.
Now it’s up to Morrow, Kenley Jansen and the rest of the Dodgers’ taxed bullpen, as well as their Houston counterparts, to operate on near-empty tanks. From the L.A. perspective, the relievers — supposedly a big advantage for them in this Fall Classic — can’t be much worse, and that surely has to do with the fatigue factor.
Overall, the Dodgers’ bullpen has pitched 52 1⁄3 innings with a 2.92 ERA and 0.94 WHIP and has limited opposing hitters to a .208 average during this postseason. But narrow the focus to these five World Series games and the ERA balloons to 5.32 in 23 2⁄3 innings, a dismal stretch that includes nine home runs, a .292 opponents’ batting average and a 1.48 WHIP.
Morrow looked spent Sunday, and Jansen, who gave up Alex Bregman’s walk-off single in the 10th inning, has allowed pivotal runs in two of the losses. Both had the opportunity to recharge during Monday’s travel day, but do they have the confidence to contain a rolling Astros team that believes it can bash its way to the title in Chavez Ravine?
Morrow’s mind is there. He just needs the rest of his body to show up.
“It’s a grind,” he said. “It wears on you physically. You’re trying to dig inside and pull everything out.”
Here’s one comforting thought for the Dodgers: The Astros’ relievers are gassed, too. Houston’s bullpen has a 5.94 ERA and has allowed 13 homers in 53 innings this postseason. In the Series, those numbers have jumped to a 7.58 ERA and five home runs in 19 innings.
So if you enjoyed Sunday night’s slugfest, which threatened to go until 2 a.m. ET, make sure to get a nap in before Game 6.