By Jon Weisman
It’s a small change in the batting order, but at the same time, the Dodgers’ most significant of the postseason.
Against Cubs lefty Jon Lester tonight, Dave Roberts has moved Kiké Hernández to the leadoff spot, with Carlos Ruiz batting fourth, Howie Kendrick fifth, Yasiel Puig sixth and Adrián González seventh.
In his first postseason appearance of 2016, Hernández walked twice and lined out against Lester in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, and Roberts said he liked the quality of his at-bats.
“And I think that since he’s come back for this series, his pitch recognition is much better,” Roberts added. “I feel comfortable with him trying to get on base instead of worrying about trying to drive runs in — and also to put Howie in the middle of things. I think that to be able to get a hit with guys on base, I feel very comfortable with that.”
Ruiz is starting at cleanup for the first time as a Dodger and the first time at all since May 16 with Philadelphia. Ruiz is 2 for 7 with a homer in the playoffs, including an 0-for-2 start against Lester.
If the Dodgers go to left-handed batters against a right-handed reliever, such players as Andrew Toles, Josh Reddick, Yasmani Grandal and Chase Utley could work into the mix.
Roberts also spoke about what he think has gone sideways with tonight’s starting pitcher, Kenta Maeda, who has a 9.88 ERA in his past four starts (two in the regular season, two in the playoffs).
“I think a little mechanics,” Roberts said, “a little bit the flying open of the front shoulder, maybe trying to be too perfect. But just seeing Kenta last night in the dugout, this guy is a fighter, he’s determined. And I just — I’ve said it before, every time he takes the mound, I feel good. And this is no different. I think that he’s going to rise to the occasion.”
When he spoke to reporters Wednesday, Maeda owned the fact that his recent performance had been subpar.
“It’s going to be an important game for the team, but it’s going to be an important game for myself too.,” he said. “I haven’t been doing well, so I really want to — and that’s what I’m going to try to do.”