By Jon Weisman
“Well, we’re working the at-bats,” said the manager. “Obviously we’re looking for more results. We did attempt to shake it up a little bit, and obviously didn’t play very well. But, listen, I’ve got a lot of faith in our guys. It’s a difficult moment to be in … you have to fight through some pretty stringent adversity. But that’s how this thing works sometimes. Again, from my perspective, there is nothing differently to do, except to really come out tomorrow with the right mental attitude, and that’s our best weapon, I think.”
That was Cubs manager Joe Maddon after Chicago lost Games 2 and 3 of the National League Championship Series, and it’s no different in substance from what Dave Roberts said after the Dodgers’ Game 5 loss.
While the Cubs had breathing room that the Dodgers now lack when Maddon made that statement, it was the steadying approach — the choice of poise over panic — that said it all. Given a chance to rebound, the guys who weren’t producing did just that.
As the Dodgers head to Chicago to save a dream, it’s worth keeping this in mind. This is the team that rallied from eight games back in the NL West, the team that rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the National League Division Series, the team that, up to now, has won every must-win game it has faced.
“We got beat,” Dave Roberts said. “So we’ll get a day away from this to reset, and we’ve got Clayton going Game 6. So that’s a game we expect to win.”
The Dodgers have 18 innings to conquer, and the game plan calls for Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenley Jansen to cover as many of those innings as possible — to win those innings and the pennant. But although the Dodgers have been let down by their bullpen in their three NLCS losses, the idea of abandoning every other pitcher on the staff isn’t pragmatic.
Take Joe Blanton, and I won’t say please. By October, Blanton had established himself as the Dodgers’ most reliable reliever behind Jansen, and that carried through the NLDS. But this October, he has pitched four games and allowed three home runs, his trusty slider abandoning him.
“That’s been my best pitch for probably a year and a half or so, and to hang it twice, both ahead in the count, and get beat on it twice … sometimes you get lucky when you hang it, and sometimes you don’t,” Blanton said, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. “The goal is not to hang it, especially in those counts, and that’s what I’m doing right now.”
Most observers have quickly pointed to fatigue, but other factors could be at play, Blanton said.
“It could be a bunch of things,” he said. “It could mean you’re rushing through your delivery, and your arm’s dragging through. The end result is your hand is around the ball and you’re not on top of it. That’s what’s happening right now. It could be a body issue. It could be an arm issue, as far as being in the wrong position when you start to throw it. We’ve been working on trying to correct it.”
There’s no time for any more mistakes, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time for solutions, for Blanton or any of the Dodgers who have been in this position before.