SAN FRANCISCO — Yasmani Grandal started 103 of the Dodgers’ first 145 games this season. Austin Barnes started his 43rd game behind the plate Wednesday night.
But Dodgers manager Dave Roberts opened the door to a possible change in that relationship with Grandal in a six-game slump that has shaved more than 50 points off his OPS.
“Is it possible? Yes,” Roberts said. “Because there’s a point over the course of the season where the handedness doesn’t bother (Barnes). He puts forth a good at-bat against anyone. So Yasmani is a guy that’s gotten the lion’s share against right-handed pitching because of his performance, not only this year but throughout his career. But if you’re looking at (what it takes) to win 11 games in October, there needs to be consideration on who gives you the best chance to win that particular game. If it’s Austin, then it’s Austin. If it’s Yasmani, then it’s Yasmani. Austin deserves that consideration. He’s earned it.”
Over his last 31 games before Wednesday, Grandal was batting only .162 with a .601 OPS and 40 strikeouts in 105 at-bats.
“The past few weeks he’s been out of the strike zone,” Roberts said. “When Yasmani is going well, he’ll take his walks. I think if you look at, call it the past 30 days – there haven’t been many walks in there (14 in his past 120 plate appearances).
“The thing with him is the ability to look over a baseball and when it’s in the strike zone to take swings and when it’s not to take his walks. But he’s being overly aggressive. I think the last few days he’s been better. The intent has been better. I think he’s been frustrated by some of the calls in the strike zone, causing him to expand. But that’s no excuse and we’ve talked about that. So he’s gotta get better at swinging at strikes.”
The switch-hitting Grandal has always been a more dangerous hitter batting left-handed, making for a natural platoon with the right-handed Barnes. But Barnes has actually hit better against right-handed pitching (a .302 average and .806 OPS in his brief career) than lefties (.233 and .799).
“I fully expect Yasmani to get untracked. I really do,” Roberts said – as he has with slumping outfielder Curtis Granderson. “Grandy, we talk about being a streaky hitter and Yasmani has been streaky throughout his career. Hopefully this is a trend that will turn Friday for Yasmani.”
Before Tuesday night, Roberts had not asked closer Kenley Jansen to pitch more than an inning in over seven weeks. But he went to Jansen in the eighth inning Tuesday night with the Dodgers clinging to a two-run lead and a chance to end their 11-game losing streak.
Roberts jokingly compared the sense of urgency and desperation to Game 5 of last year’s NLDS against the Washington Nationals when Jansen threw 51 pitches over 2⅓ innings and Clayton Kershaw came out of the bullpen to close it out. And he acknowledged he would not have made the move to Jansen in the eighth Tuesday if not for the 11-game losing streak and shrinking lead in the NL West.
“No,” he said. “This wasn’t planned out. This was – dire.”
Roberts added that Jansen’s minimal workload during the 1-16 freefall made it feasible to use Jansen for four outs without putting him “in harm’s way.”
“But, yeah – with where we were at, in that situation, I wanted him to go and get four outs,” Roberts said.
“There’s nothing wrong with a sense of urgency. There should be a sense of urgency every day. It’s unrealistic. But that’s the way it should be.”
With the Dodgers facing Giants left-hander Matt Moore on Wednesday, Roberts dropped Yasiel Puig to the eighth spot in the order – a position he occupied frequently in the first half of the season but had hit his way out up in the order. Not against left-handers, though. Puig has struggled mightily against lefties with strong reverse splits this season – .288/.356/.559 against right-handers, .168/.318/.234 against lefties.
“I don’t. It’s just something that doesn’t make any sense. It really doesn’t make any sense,” Roberts said, unable (or unwilling) to offer a theory to explain the discrepancy. “I’ve talked to Yasiel. I’ve talked to our hitting guys. It’s just more of trying to keep him confident when a left-hander is on the mound. Because I don’t think it makes any sense. But I do still think Yasiel in the batter’s box poses fear.”
Powered by WPeMatico