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Game 3: Hinch Follows “Blogfather Model” While Roberts Digs Lasting Hole

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MLB: World Series-Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros
“Well ruffle mah feathers and call me Judy!”
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

And yes, “Blogfather” and “Model” are rarely used in the same sentence.

As raucous and entertaining as World Series game 2 was, game 3 could be the one that reverberates throughout the series. Each manager made bold moves — or if not bold then at least surprising and unconventional — in what wound up being a 5-3 Astros win. Now Houston needs to win 2 more games out of a possible 4, while the Dodgers need to find 3 wins the rest of the way.

Hinch, for the second time, followed the model I favor with bullpens, which is to make as few pitching changes as you have to and not to be too quick to yank a reliever who is excelling. In ALCS game 7, Lance McCullers relieved Charlie Morton and hurled the last 4 innings while every short reliever sat and could only fantasize about how they might blow the game. Last night, McCullers was the starting pitcher, last one out into the 6th and with his team needing to get 11 outs Hinch turned first -- and as it turned out, only — to Brad Peacock. Ken Giles never got up, Chris Devenski and Will Harris never got it, as Peacock took it to the finish line himself.

Of course it helps to have actual starting pitchers in your bullpen if you want to get 11 or 12 out saves. McCullers and Peacock are both SPs who happened to be in the right bullpen at the right time. But in each case, Hinch had to make an intentional decision to ride them when more natural options (such as Giles and Devenski) were available.

The theory behind the “Blogfather Model” is that each time you insert a new pitcher you risk that the reliever might not have his best stuff that day, and one bad stint often completely offsets all the good work done by the others. If you have a pitcher in there who is on his game you are often better off riding him longer, rather than summoning what is behind curtain #2 and hoping it’s a brand new BMW and not 2 cans of squid.

Meanwhile, over in the other dugout Dave Roberts rolled some interesting dice. Down 4-0 he elected first to go to, and then to stick with for 42 pitches, a key bullpen weapon in Kenta Maeda. Living very much in the now and hoping to come back to win game 3, Roberts spent Maeda to the point where he will be unavailable for game 4 and likely game 5 as well. Granted, there was a lot of game left, the Dodgers have a good offense, and the Astros’ bullpen has been a bit adventurous. Still it was quite the “all in” dice roll with the odds unfavorable.

Then Roberts got even more “all in” when he went to Brandon Morrow in two situations where you don’t usually see him: before the 8th inning and with the Dodgers trailing. What that led to later was having to go with Ross Stripling with the bases loaded and 2 outs, hardly ideal given that Stripling is one of the last relievers out of the LA pen and given that in his one previous appearance he had faced one batter and issued a 4 pitch walk. Roberts and Stripling got lucky when George Springer’s bid for a grand slam fell a couple feet short at the center field wall.

So Roberts burned two of his best weapons early only to be forced to put a key situations in the hands of one of his “mop up guys,” lost Maeda for the weekend and has Morrow available only on back-to-back days now (something the Dodgers specifically don’t like with Morrow), in a game the Dodgers never got to better than “down 2 runs”. All in front of the game 4 start by Alex Wood, who is no Clayton Kershaw. Wood had a good season but even at his best he rarely gets deep into games. We’ll see how it goes but game 3’s moves have the potential to significantly impact the upcoming weekend games in ways that heavily favor Houston.

Managing a 7-game series is different from managing a one-game series or a 162 game season. Roberts managed last night as if it was a wild card game, while Hinch managed it like he knew an effective pitcher when he saw one. LA: we may have a problem.