Dodgers: Dave Roberts Finds an Excuse for Craig Kimbrel Following Blown Save

Dodgers closer Craig Kimbrel blew his fifth save of the season last night, but manager Dave Roberts sees a silver lining in the embattled righty’s performance.

Dodgers closer Craig Kimbrel hadn’t allowed a hit in his last eight appearances going into Wednesday night, throwing 8.1 shutout innings and allowing just two baserunners.

Kimbrel has now allowed just one hit in his last nine appearances, but unfortunately for Kimbrel and the Dodgers, that one was a big one: a two-out, three-run, walkoff home run by Sergio Alcantara in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Diamondbacks the win and snap their 10-game losing streak to Los Angeles.

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It was Kimbrel’s fifth blown save of the season, and he has now blown the save in five of the six one-run save opportunities he’s had. 

Being a closer is a very “what have you done for me lately?” job, so L.A. manager Dave Roberts was asked after the game about keeping Kimbrel in that role, as Bill Plunkett reports in the Orange County Register.

“In the postseason, that situation wouldn’t happen in extra innings,” Roberts said. “Right now in the regular season, there’s that runner on second base to start an inning. It changes the dynamic. It adds stress. You have no margin to give up a hit or put the ball in play.”

On the surface, it feels like an excuse, but Roberts is completely right. Thankfully, commissioner Rob Manfred hasn’t yet allowed his obsession with ruining baseball to extend to the postseason, where teams will still play by real baseball rules. That means when extra innings start, they’ll still be playing by baseball rules instead of starting with a runner on second to get the game over because the 46-year-old slow-pitch softball players scheduled for the next game are already at the field and ready to go and they can’t afford to be down here all night because Ted has an 8:00 a.m. call with a potential client in Kalamazoo.

No, Kimbrel’s command wasn’t as sharp last night as it has been the past three weeks, and there might be lessons for Roberts to learn about throwing him on back-to-back nights. But even that only happened because he wanted Kimbrel to be on the mound clinching the division the night before, when he could have used someone else to lock down the 4-0 win.

In the grand scheme of things, Wednesday’s loss was simply a loss in the first game since clinching the division. They call these “hangover games” for a reason, and one of those reasons is that some of the players are very literally hungover from the celebration the night before. (All I did was watch that celebration, and I’m still feeling the effects of being up so late and then up early the next morning.)

Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Freddie Freeman, and Justin Turner all got the entire day off on Wednesday. That meant doing things like letting Joey Gallo face All-Star lefty Joe Mantiply in a tie game in the ninth inning. There aren’t many more clear “we don’t care about this game” statements than that.

It would have been awesome if Kimbrel had locked down the save last night. It would have confirmed to a lot of people who were skeptical about his recent success that he really had figured things out.

But the fact that he didn’t do it doesn’t invalidate the previous success. Clayton Kershaw allowed seven earned runs in 1.2 innings in a game in Arizona once — and went on to win the Cy Young Award and the Most Valuable Player Award that very year.

Kimbrel’s ERA in his past 10 games is 1.80. The fact that all his earned runs in that time came on one swing — one pitch — is probably actually good news. He has three weeks left to make believers of the skeptics.

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