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Monday, October 7, 2013
Hanley great, Braves awful, Fredi messes up

By David Schoenfield

Well, not every rookie starter can be expected to deliver a performance like Gerrit Cole did for the Pirates or Sonny Gray did for the A's.

There isn't a whole lot to say about the Dodgers' 13-6 pounding of the Braves in Game 3 of their NL Division Series, other than to say the Dodgers hit well, the Braves pitched and fielded poorly and Hanley Ramirez might be on his way to one of those legendary Octobers.

The turning point, if there was one, came with Fredi Gonzalez's slow hook on rookie starter Julio Teheran. Teheran had allowed four runs in the second inning during a rally capped by Carl Crawford's three-run homer to right field with two outs. OK, he'd been one strike away from getting out of the inning with one run -- Crawford jumped on a 2-2 slider -- but in the bottom of the third, after the Braves had scored twice to tie the game, Gonzalez let Teheran allow four more hits and two runs before finally pulling him.

It was too late. Considering the importance of this game -- the winner of Game 3 has won 14 of the past 15 Division Series that were tied at one game -- you can't leave the starter in that long. What's the point of carrying seven relievers for a five-game series that has two off days if you can't be more flexible than how you would manage in the regular season?

Julio Teheran
Julio Teheran wasn't the only rookie hurler who didn't bring his best game to this October Sunday.
It's an issue I have with most managers in the postseason, the unwillingness to change how they manage in October from how they manage in July, the inability to be more creative. Over 162 games, you have to worry about burning out your bullpen, and you have to let Teheran learn how to pitch out of jams. But you can't wait in the postseason. There is an urgency to every game, and one inning can change an entire series.

Compare Gonzalez's slow hook to what Don Mattingly did. Donnie Manager made some questionable moves in Game 2, but he didn't hesitate in this game. After the Dodgers took that 6-4 lead, Hyun-Jin Ryu was due up with two outs. He's actually a good batter -- he hit a sac fly earlier in the game and hit .203 with four extra-base hits in the regular season -- but Mattingly sensed an opportunity to (A) get more runs and (B) not gamble by keeping Ryu in there after he'd struggled through three innings.

Again, in the regular season with a 6-4 lead, you let Ryu go back out there with that lead, hoping that you can squeeze a couple more innings out of him. So I liked the decision to yank him and go to Chris Capuano, who responded with three scoreless innings.

One more minor nitpick on Gonzalez. When Capuano walked the first better he faced, No. 8 hitter Elliot Johnson, I thought Gonzalez should have hit for pitcher Alex Wood, who had replaced Teheran. Yes, Wood is a guy who started in the regular season and can give the Braves multiple innings out of the pen, but the leadoff walk presented the possibility of a big inning. Again, series tied, trailing in Game 3, there is no time for patience. Wood sacrificed and Capuano settled down, but bring in a position player to hit off Capuano and who knows what could have happened.

As for Ramirez, the dude is ripping line drives all over the place. After going 3-for-4, he's 7-for-13 in the series with six RBIs and six extra-base hits. He could be headed for one of those Reggie Jackson/David Ortiz/David Freese postseasons. Ramirez was the best player in 2013 on a per-game basis, and he's showing why he hit .345 with 20 home runs in 86 games. The Braves have 24 hours to figure out how to get him out.

Freddy Garcia -- yep, Freddy Garcia, who first appeared in the postseason way back in 2000 with the Mariners -- is the starter the Braves are trusting in Game 4 to do that. Garcia had 27 good innings with the Braves (1.65 ERA), which proves nothing but was enough to convince Gonzalez to start him. Hey, he had a 5.77 ERA for the Orioles in 53 innings, but who cares. Johnson got released by the Royals, but had 100 good at-bats with the Braves, so let's make him the starting second baseman. Evan Gattis isn't a left fielder, and his failure to get to a fairly routine fly ball in the second inning helped set up that four-run inning, and he later failed to back up a Ramirez triple that bounced off the wall, but, whatever., Let's keep sending him out there.

Look, this kind of decision-making doesn't kill you against the Phillies, the Mets or the Marlins. It does against a good team. Dodgers wrap this one up in four.