You know you made a controversial managerial decision if the president of the United States starts tweeting about it.
That’s the situation Dave Roberts found himself in Saturday night. The Los Angeles Dodgers manager took out starting pitcher Rich Hill with one out in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the World Series, even though Hill had breezed through six scoreless innings and only had thrown 91 pitches. L.A. also held a four-run lead at the time.
Roberts’ decision backfired in a big way: Reliever Scott Alexander walked the only batter he faced before Boston Red Sox pinch hitter Mitch Moreland launched a three-run home run off right-hander Ryan Madson two batters later.
Moreland’s homer sparked a massive comeback for the Red Sox, who tacked on six more runs over the final two innings to storm to a 9-6 win and push the Dodgers to the brink.
President Donald Trump, of all people, was one of many to criticize Roberts for his quick trigger on Hill. But the Dodgers manager apparently got a warning sign about Hill — from the left-hander himself, who pulled Roberts aside after the sixth inning.
“He said, ‘Keep an eye on me. I’m going to give it everything I have. Let’s go hitter to hitter and just keep an eye on me.’ ” Roberts said of Hill in his postgame press conference, as transcribed by ASAP Sports. “So right there, I know Rich did everything he could, competed, left everything out there.”
Roberts admitted it was rare for a pitcher to come to him and admit he might be running out of gas — especially in the World Series.
“I’ve never heard it. I’ve never heard it,” Roberts said. “You’re talking about a World Series game where there’s no margin up to that point, and there’s a lot of emotion, intensity, effort, focus, and he did everything. He did everything to put us in a position to win a baseball game.”
But Hill may have been right, as he walked Xander Bogaerts to lead off the seventh. He bounced back to strike out Eduardo Nunez, but with Brock Holt on deck and a lefty specialist in Alexander in the bullpen, Roberts decided to pull the trigger.
“You’ve got a lefty (Alexander) … in the ‘pen that has done it all year long, getting lefties out, and trying to keep those lefties on the bench, Moreland, (Rafael) Devers. So you figure you have a chance to get a guy who matches up really well against Holt, and then to potentially go to (Christian) Vazquez and keep the other guys off the bench.”
Unfortunately for Roberts, the game isn’t played on paper, and Alexander promptly walked Holt on four pitches. That forced Roberts to go to a righty in Madson, which allowed the Red Sox to pinch-hit two lefties in Jackie Bradley Jr. (for Vazquez) and Moreland (for pitcher Matt Barnes), who delivered the clutch homer.
Hindsight always is 20/20, and Roberts may have handled things differently if given a do-over. But it sounds like he had good reason to pull Hill when he did.