On the same patch of Chavez Ravine dirt where the Utley Rule was born —or the Tejada Rule, if you prefer — Manny Machado twice engaged in questionable slides during NLCS Game 3 on Monday night.
The second time cost the Dodgers an extra out, on a night when they couldn’t afford to give any away, because Brewers manager Craig Counsell challenged the legality of Machado’s late-sliding effort to break up a double play. After the umpires huddled with their video overlords back in Manhattan, the crew sided in Counsell’s favor, which turned out to be one of many frustrations for the Dodgers in a 4-0 loss that dropped them into a 2-1 hole.
“They looked at the review and they got it right,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Because you do have to make a very good effort to hold on to the bag and apparently we didn’t.”
Machado never appeared in the postgame clubhouse while it was open to the media, so we didn’t get his version. We’ll say this much — at least he was one of the few Dodgers to get on base, with a walk, single and double. Before the ninth-inning rally, which came up empty anyway, L.A. had a total of three hits, and the stadium was lifeless for most of the game.
When Walker Buehler delivered his first pitch at 4:40 p.m. PT, there were large chunks of empty seats that didn’t fill in much after rush hour. Not that the Dodgers provided anything to cheer about. The Brewers took the crowd out early with Ryan Braun’s RBI single in the first and the Dodgers went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
“We had no energy,” Enrique Hernandez said. “The stadium had no energy. The fans had no energy. Overall, it was a pretty bad game for everybody who calls themselves Dodgers. It was a playoff game and it didn’t feel like a playoff game. Not just because of the fans, but because of how we were playing the game.”
One Dodger was able to get the 52,793 fans riled up, however, and his name was Yasmani Grandal, the embattled catcher who would rather leave this October off his resume for his upcoming free agency this winter.
Grandal returned to the lineup after taking a seat for Game 2, the result of his nightmarish performance in the NLCS opener at Miller Park. His ledger that night included two errors, two passed balls and a catcher’s interference in the Dodgers’ 6-5 loss. Most of that ugliness occurred in the third, when one of those errors involved failing to corral centerfielder Cody Bellinger’s throw.
Roberts must have believed that Grandal would be better back home, but things actually got worse for him. Much worse. He had a ground-rule double in the fifth, but sandwiched around that was a whole lot of ineptitude. In the sixth, with Travis Shaw at third, Grandal failed to block a Buehler breaking ball that crazily bounced away from him and toward the Dodgers’ on-deck circle. Shaw scored easily to give the Brewers a 2-0 lead on what was ruled a wild pitch.
“It still hit me in a good spot,” Grandal said. “It’s just one of those plays as the ball is coming down, it picks up speed.”
In Grandal’s view, there was nothing else he could have done. And he did plenty more nothing in his other key at-bats, striking out in the eighth (to more boos) and then getting crushed after he whiffed on three pitches, with the bases loaded, during the ninth-inning rally. Not only was Grandal booed mercilessly by the normally chill L.A. fans, but they also began chanting, “We want Aus-tin!” — as in backup Austin Barnes.
As bad as life got this season for Gary Sanchez, Yankees fans never stooped that low — though they could have used the same chant for Austin Romine.
Not long after taunting Grandal, the fans got their wish; Roberts announced that Barnes will start Game 4. Rarely does a stadium protest deliver results that quickly.
“He had a tough night and obviously the fans voiced their opinion,” Roberts said. “They’re passionate. They want to win. I know it’s not personal. I think it’s just one of those things that they were just as frustrated as we all were.”
Maybe they should try demanding free beer and hot dogs Tuesday.