Scott Servais and the Dodgers beat M's in LA
Dodger manager Dave Roberts laughs uproariously at the moves made by his counterpart that provided him a Dodger comeback on a silver platter
May 12, 2021
It was bound to happen. It had been too long since Scott Servais, manager of the Seattle Mariners, handled a game as if he were a double agent. OK, that's too harsh. It's not that Scott Servais was consciously working for the other side; he was more of an unwitting agent, what in geopolitical espionage might be called a "useful idiot."
Tonight in Los Angeles, the Mariners opened their two-game series at Dodger Stadium with a brilliant performance by starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi. The Japanese Southpaw cruised through six innings on 93 pitches, allowing a run on four hits—the run on a solo homer—and pitching out of jams without running up his pitch count. He walked one (thanks to an erratic strike zone called by home-plate umpire Greg Gibson) and struck out a career-high eleven batters before he was relieved by Servais with one out in the seventh inning, leading by a score of 4-1.
The problem wasn't that Servais relieved Kikuchi there. He could have left Kikuchi in to perhaps finish the frame, but by then Yusei had topped 100 pitches and Dodger second baseman Gavin Lux had just reached base on a cheap infield hit—allowed by an ill-advised infield shift on a career .200 hitter—to put runners at first and second. The problem was that the reliever Servais brought in was another left-hander, Anthony Misiewicz. Misiewicz, who had surrendered 6 runs in his last 21⁄3 innings, would be facing announced pinch-hitter A.J. Pollock, a right-handed batter who historically torches lefties (.319 vs. LHP, .252 vs. RHP the last three seasons) and perennial MVP candidate Mookie Betts (also a righty), and if he didn't get both of them out would be forced to remain in the game to face Corey Seager thanks to the new three-batter rule.
The M's are, naturally, carrying way too many relievers—ten, to be exact—80% of whom are right-handed. The team was off yesterday, no one is gassed. Servais had a smorgasbord to choose from and went with Mxyzptlk—er, Misiewicz. What do you suppose happened?
To the surprise of no one, Pollock reached base, this time via walk (and not an umpire-aided one). To the surprise of many, Betts struck out—even though he really walked. Gibson's magical moving strike zone worked in the Mariners' favor that time. No matter, though, Corey Seager, owner of a .300/.340/.500 line against lefties, only needed one pitch from Misiewicz to drive in two runs, not only turning a comfortable Seattle lead into a nailbiter but doing unnecessary damage to Kikuchi's ERA.
This is when Servais made the move he should have opted for in the first place, relieving Misiewicz and bringing in right-handed reliever Rafael Montero, only now it's with a one-run lead instead of three. We have learned this season that Montero is not the guy to go to when protecting leads of a single run, but three wouldn't be too stressful. But instead we get one. Montero gets his man in Justin Turner, striking him out to mercifully end the inning, but he'd be back to pitch the 8th. Not egregious in and of itself, but remember, one run is not safe with Montero, so better have someone warm in the ’pen in case he needs backup as a bridge to Kendall Graveman for the 9th.
Raise your hand if you think Servais had anyone ready in the bullpen. You in the back, put your hand down, no, of course he didn't have anyone ready.
The Dodger 8th includes a sequence of base hit, stolen base, hit batter, home run. Now there's no need for Graveman.
Now that they have the lead, the Dodgers go to their lights-out guy for the 9th, Kenley Jansen, and he doesn't break a sweat mowing down the M's 1-2-3 to end the game. Final score: Mariners 4, Dodgers with a Servais assist 6.
Frankly, it's surprising we got this far into the season before the bullpen follies portion of the program kicked in; the relief corps had been overperforming during the early weeks. But starting with the series in Houston—and Servais' choice to replace injured starters with Johnny Wholestaff twice a week—it's been back to the form of last year and the year before and the year before: making predictably wrong in-game moves with the pitching staff.
The Dodgers were in the midst of a slump that had them angry and making mistakes. They're an exceptionally talented team at their most vulnerable. But have no fear, Angelinos, the Mariners and their very generous manager are here to set your guys back on an even keel.