Dodgers' crapshoot rotation must avoid Ryan Howard at all costs
PHILADELPHIA -- The Dodgers' decision to start
The bigger issue if the Dodgers are going to have a chance to come back to beat the defending world champion Phillies is not what to do about Kuroda (that should be easy, as this should be it) but rather what to do about Phillies slugger
One of the keys to the Dodgers' upset sweep over the Cardinals was how brilliantly they pitched the great
The Dodgers had a smart strategy of avoidance with Pujols. But with Howard, that doesn't appear to be the case. While the Dodgers have walked Howard three times, they also have thrown him too may fat pitches. The result is six RBIs in this series, including two on a triple in the first inning in Game 3 that was all the Phillies would need.
"I wouldn't give him anything to hit," one Dodger said before the game. "Going into the series, I wouldn't have said that. But here (at Citizens Bank Ballpark), especially, all he has to do it hit a fly ball and it will go out."
That they should stay away from Howard should be obvious by now. Howard, who is batting .385 in the playoffs and slugging .731, also has at least one RBI in all seven of his games this postseason. And this has been going on awhile. After the All-Star break, he hit .305 and slugged .621. He also hit 23 home runs and drove home 74 runs.
The Dodgers started the series apparently believing Howard could be beaten by busting him inside. They may have to rethink that now, though. With Phillies at first and third and one out on Sunday night, Kuroda appeared to be trying to apply the game plan to Howard by continually going inside on him. Eventually, Kuroda got too much of the plate, and Howard sent a rocket into the right-field corner for a triple.
"We didn't come into the series saying we're going to walk Howard every chance we get," Torre said after the game. "We're certainly not going to pitch to him with a base open. There was no base open in the first inning ... He's got a pretty good supporting cast around him, too. There's no easy out in that lineup."
Torre has a point in that there are no easy choices here. Ex-Dodger
In the end, Kuroda allowed six hits and six runs in 1 1/3 innings. Torre and company made the surprise decision to summon Kuroda for Game 3 after Torre accompanied pitching coach
"I don't second-guess the decision because we made it on what we saw," Torre said. "His bullpen was good for this start, and the bullpen today coming into the game was good. He came into the game and ... the ball just didn't behave."
The rotation has actually been a series of tricky calls throughout the postseason for Torre, since the Dodgers have a group of starters that all bring a variety of pluses and minuses. Most of his calls have worked so far, especially the one to utilize scrap-heap pickup
But the reality is, the Dodgers' rotation is a crapshoot. They have a collection of livable but less-than-dominant starters. Some see it as a group of No. 3-type starters. They could still win with their rotation, since they have an excellent bullpen and many other strengths. But undeniably, there is no
"We don't have a No. 1 or 2 (starter), that's no secret," one Dodgers official said. "[
Their pitchers are all so close that
Billingsley got into Game 3 in relief, and while he didn't shut down the Phillies (two hits, two walks and two runs in 3 1/3 innings), he was a little bit better than Kuroda. Sources said weeks ago that some Dodgers people were losing some faith in Billingsley, and that's become obvious, as he's gone from regular-season No. 1 starter to mop-up man.
Torre will have a tough call if they get to Game 7 as to who should start.
The easier call now should be to avoid Howard at all costs.
If the iconic Torre has been bothered at all by the Dodgers-owning
Those two Dodgers officials say if there's any issue at all there, they have yet to hear one word about it. "He's never said a word about it," one Dodgers person said.
"The job's been fun," Torre said. "And if that were the case, it wouldn't be fun. And the job really has been fun"
Torre worked for 12 years for the
After Game 3, the Cooperstown-bound Torre reiterated his plan to finish out his three-year contract by managing only one more year after this one. "My wife doesn't believe me, but I anticipate that's what's going to happen," Torre told SI.com. "I know I also have said that before. But I haven't been 69 years old before. Am I saying a lightning bolt won't hit me? No, I can't guarantee that. But that's not what I anticipate."
Torre's wife isn't the only one who is skeptical.
"He's been in the game since he was 18," one Dodgers person said. "What else is he going to do?"
People around the team believe that he will be extended at some point. But that it hasn't happened yet is stunning.
As was in the case in New York, where Torre was close to general manager
Colletti's contract called for a mutual option, whereby both sides would have to agree for a return at a previously agreed-upon figure. But the Dodgers have to understand that Colletti has earned a multiyear deal. He is also due a substantial raise (word is, he is far from being one of baseball's best-paid GMs, despite leading a marquee franchise to the LCS two years running).
One Dodger speculated that the club-owing McCourts were originally thinking they could keep Colletti's pay down if the team failed to make the playoffs. But with the Dodgers in the NLCS yet again, that plan should be out the window.
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