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Dodgers' Don Mattingly awakens to a postseason world of criticism

October 12, 2013|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly has little time to answer critics with Game 2 of the NLCS on Saturday afternoon.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly has little time to answer critics with Game… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Welcome to the postseason, Don Mattingly.

It’s a place where every move is magnified, particularly those that do not work out. And Mattingly had a few that did not work out Friday in the opener of the National League Championship Series against the Cardinals.

Roll the dice here and it’s not just the local fans and media watching. Scrutiny becomes national. More than ever, it is best to get it right, or at least get the outcome right.

The one move from Friday’s game that earned Mattingly the most criticism was his decision to pinch run Dee Gordon for Adrian Gonzalez. This came in the eighth inning of a 2-2 game after Gonzalez had led off with a walk.

Wile E. Coyote never saw anything blow up in his face like it. Gordon never got a chance to steal and was erased on a force play. Then twice the replacement at first for Gonzalez -- Michael Young -- later came up with the go-ahead run on base and hit into double plays both times.

Safe to say, the Mattingly's reviews were not raves. The Times’ Bill Plaschke questioned the wisdom of his decision and Bill Shaikin pointed out Mattingly’s lack of accountability for the move’s failure.

Because if failed. Yet, as Mattingly repeatedly said, the entire reason Gordon is on the team is to pinch run, steal a base and make the difference in a tied or close game. Which, of course, is absolutely true.

The problem was that he ran for Gonzalez, the team’s top RBI man and most consistent hitter.

But who exactly in the lineup would you run Gordon for? Not Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez or Yasiel Puig, who all have great speed. Probably not your No. 1 catcher, A.J. Ellis. So if you’re not going to hit for Gonzalez, and assume your pitcher hasn’t gotten a hit, then the only time you’re going to use Gordon is to run for Mark Ellis, Juan Uribe and Andre Ethier?

If Gordon is only on the roster to pinch run for three guys, he shouldn’t be on the roster.

The move failed because Gordon wasn’t driven in, which was the real problem the entire long night. The Dodgers were one for 10 with runners in scoring position.

“We drive those guys in, no one talks about it,” said Mark Ellis.

It’s like Mattingly’s admittedly infuriating decision to have Uribe twice try to bunt with the winning run already on second base in the form of Puig in Game 4 of the division series against the Braves. Which he failed to do twice, before launching the game-winning home run.

“Playoffs are so stupid, aren't they?” Mattingly remembered thinking to The Times’ Dylan Hernandez. “Just crazy.”

They can drive you crazy if you’re a manager. Or to unemployment if moves backfire, because each one is more magnified and everyone is watching.

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