When you lose 3 of 4 games to an opponent, it’s easy to say that a lot went wrong. And in this series, you’d be correct. That isn’t to say there weren’t some glimpses of optimism for the future, and we’ll get to that. But this was not a evenly matched series, and it was obvious from the beginning. We were outscored 20-8 in the series, and our one win was a nail-biting one-run win that almost always seemed like it was about to go the other way.
The starting pitching had been a strength for this team, especially as it was able to pitch against the Marlins, Mets, Phillies, and Washington for much of the season. But the strength of the rotation was in its depth, and not necessarily that we possessed a formidable one-two punch or even one truly dominant starter. Mike Foltynewicz got rocked in game 1, clearly over-matched by his emotions (yes, I said it) and the Dodger lineup. Anibal Sanchez didn’t do much better, given up 3 runs and not getting through the 5th in his start. Sean Newcomb, surprisingly, was helpful out of the pen in game 1 and as the game 3 starter. He was one batter away from pitching 3 scoreless in game 3, but Kevin Gausman allowed his two inherited runners to score. Folty did come back to pitch well in game 4, but Folty, Anibal, Newcomb, and Gausman did not match up well with Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, and Rich Hill. So while it seemed like the rotation was a strength in the regular season, it was obvious we’re a long ways away from competing with teams like the Dodgers.
For me, though, the most discouraging development was the offense. Our top 4 hitters in our lineup (I’m including Camargo in this) went 8 for 49 with two home runs and six walks. The rest of the lineup had a similar level of futility. As a team, we hit .154/.218/.211. The bench didn’t produce a hit in 4 games, and two at-bats were given to the great Ryan Flaherty. Nick went 1-12. Camargo was 0-15. Culberson was 2-12, and Acuna was 3-16. The only silver lining is that the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies were somehow worse than us at the plate in their match-ups. Sometimes the bats just go cold against good pitching.
There were some bright spots with the young pitching. In what should be considered a great move by Snitker, Max Fried appeared in all 4 games. He made one mistake to Max Muncy that was hit into the right-center field bullpen, but overall, he was a weapon out of the pen. Same with Touki Toussaint. Like the rest of the staff, he struggled with his command against the uncanny Dodger plate discipline, but he held them scoreless across three innings. AJ Minter and Arodys Vizcaino also were able to keep them off the board. But Chad Sobotka, Brad Brach, and Jonny Venters didn’t help us stay in some of these games, and they gave up 6 ER in 5.2 IP.
I really have to give it to Snitker and AA for pulling the strings to give the team the best chance against a vastly superior team. The criticism of Bobby Cox was that he managed the playoffs too closely to the regular season. You can’t say that about this regime. Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle, Dan Winkler, and Sam Freeman combined for 245 appearances, and they didn’t make the roster. Instead, Sobotka, Touki, and Fried the roster, even though they had only appeared in 35 games total. There’s the saying, “What got you here will not get you there,” and they set their roster and lineups accordingly. They attempted to ride the hot hands in the pen, and to some extent, that was successful. Opening Day starter for the last 5 years Julio Teheran only appeared in the last game once it was out of hand and the season was largely over. There was minimal patience with Folty and Newk once the issues that plagued them in the regular season appeared. They continually tweaked the 2nd spot in the order with the vain hope that Albies, Inciarte, and Camargo could provide a spark. They ought to get some credit that they knew they were at a disadvantage and did most everything they could to try to sneak three wins.
We weren’t supposed to win, and we didn’t. But 14 guys appeared in the postseason for the first time, and they’ll be back.