It took one glance at the Dodgers starting line up on Wednesday night to know that they were doomed even before the first pitch was thrown. How Dodger manager Don Mattingly actually expected to beat the Diamondbacks’ A-team, which is very very good, with his B-team which is… well… a B-team, is anyone’s guess. And though Mattingly would never admit it, it tends to support the belief that he really didn’t expect to win – and he didn’t.
Replacing Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw with struggling right-hand starter Stephen Fife was bad enough, but to keep Juan Uribe, Hanley Ramirez, and A.J. Ellis out of a must win game (to clinch the NL West title) was inexcusable.
Why Mattingly would keep his hottest hitting and best defending third baseman, his best catcher and his best hitter on the team out of the starting lineup is an absolute mystery and supports the belief that he was hoping to win rather than expecting to win.
It is understandable that Mattingly wants to protect his ailing shortstop, but winning Wednesday night’s game was an absolute must to clinch the division, after which he could have rested Ramirez for thirteen full days if he wanted to. Instead, the Dodgers will enter Tuesday afternoon’s game with their drop-dead last opportunity to clinch the division in one game instead of having to win two of their last nine against the Padres, Giants and Rockies respectively. Granted, two D-backs losses in their final 10 games would accomplish the same thing, but they have given zero indication that they will not win out the season, having won four of their last six games.
Here’s a simple plan for Mattingly – put the A-team out there until the Dodgers clinch the division and then rest them.