Chess Match: Play now, not for next day
NLDS Game 3 decisions not made with tomorrow in mind
LOS ANGELES -- Just as it requires a different kind of roster to win in October, the strategy required for winning in the postseason is different as well. The tradeoffs of the season cease to exist.
Once the postseason begins, only one priority reigns supreme: win today's game. If that means you have to play catch-up tomorrow, so be it. It's not just the tactics that are different, the strategy changes as well.
Over his career, Dodgers manager Joe Torre has often -- but not always -- shown an excellent grasp of that truth, particularly in regard to the use of his bullpen. On the other hand, Cubs manager Lou Piniella made at least one decision on Saturday night that seemed more suited to June than October.
Make somebody else do it
The situation: One out, a runner on second in the bottom of the third inning and the Dodgers are leading, 2-0.
The decision: The Cubs walked Manny Ramirez intentionally, choosing to face Andre Ethier and James Loney instead.
The outcome: It worked. Ethier and Loney both flied out, ending the inning without any further damage. It worked again in the fifth, when the Dodgers walked Ramirez with a runner on second and one out, and got out of the inning without any more runs scoring.
The analysis: Playing for the double play definitely made sense, especially given that Ethier hasn't been swinging the bat well. Ramirez has, of course, been scorching, and he's at his best with runners in scoring position.
It's Rich's game
The situation: Runners on the corners, two outs and the Dodgers lead, 2-0, in the top of the fourth inning. The Dodgers walked No. 8 hitter Ryan Theriot to bring up the pitcher's spot.
The decision: Piniella let Rich Harden hit, rather than calling on a pinch-hitter and going to his bullpen early.
The outcome: As you might expect, Harden struck out. He pitched a sharp fourth, but he was pulled in the fifth, so the Cubs got only four extra outs from him after he batted.
The analysis: There's absolutely no way you would hit for Harden in that situation in the regular season. However, October is a different animal, where winning today's game is the absolute and only priority. So there's something to be said for getting extremely aggressive and going to someone like Daryle Ward, who could have put the Cubs ahead with one swing.
That's doubly true given that the Cubs were willing to get Harden after one run and two baserunners in the fifth -- it's not like they had decided to ride him till the end. The missed chance at some extra offense proved extremely costly.
The comment: "The truth of the matter is, you have to score in the postseason in the same way you score during the season." -- Piniella
Who's in the ninth?
The situation: Jonathan Broxton gets the last out of the eighth inning, and the Dodgers go into the ninth with a two-run lead.
The decision: Torre stuck with Broxton for the ninth, eschewing the use of co-closer Takashi Saito.
The outcome: Broxton breezed through the ninth for the save.
The analysis: It appears more and more that the Dodgers have more faith in Broxton than in Saito, and understandably. Saito still doesn't seem fully sharp after missing time with an elbow injury.
The explanation: "[Broxton] had trouble in Chicago there that last game, and a lot of it was based on the fact that he was getting behind the hitters. When he started throwing strikes -- I looked up one time and he had 12 out of 13 strikes -- that's one of the reasons I sent him back out in the ninth." -- Torre
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.