Young Dodgers pitchers set to fail as ‘winner’ in Game 2

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So the Chicago White Sox are interested in hiring Tony La Russa as their manager? Everything old is new again.La Russa is 76 years old. Only Connie Mack has managed more games. La Russa was inducted into the Hall of Fame six years ago, and that’s part of his accolades: he is the inventor of the modern enclosure.

In the late 1980s, at a time when lifters were generally seen as an interchangeable group of failed starters, La Russa converted Dennis Eckersley from a starter to a closer one and, ultimately, to a Hall of Fame.

The closer concept was not new, but the organization of the La Russa reliever pen was. He defined the roles, including which inning you could pitch and which hitters you could face. If you knew what your role would be, at least theoretically, you might get comfortable with it and better prepare for it.

The modern manager often talks about putting his players in a position to succeed. The Dodgers didn’t do an optimal job of that in the playoffs, and their management was highly questionable in using two of their young starting pitchers on Wednesday.

Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May combined to get eight strikeouts and drop four points in the Dodgers’ 6-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 2 of the World Series. The best of seven series is tied at one game each.

Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin looks down as he abandons a march past Manuel Margot of the Tampa Bay Rays in the second inning of Game 2 of the World Series at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas on Wednesday.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Gonsolin and May have spent the summer digging deeper into games, not combining to cover less than a third of a game. The Dodgers are leading a 15-man pitching stick, with Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler as the only “starters”. There is no “closer”.

They see Gonsolin and May as two of their best arms, and they want to use them in a variety of roles, often unknown.

“It’s a big request, to be very frank,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

“These guys are in uncharted territory. Thanks, they don’t make excuses. They expect to pitch. It’s different, sure. But we still need these guys to get some big outs so we can win this thing.

In the regular season, May made 12 appearances, including 10 starts. In his two appearances, both in September to prepare for the playoffs, he pitched four innings once and 51/3 innings the other time.

In the playoffs, he made six appearances, never more than two innings.

He’s been an opener three times. During his emergency exits, he entered the game in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings.

On Wednesday, for the first time in the playoffs, he entered in the middle of a set. He gave up a two-run single and double to the first two hitters he faced. In the next set, the fifth, he gave up a two-run home run, putting the Dodgers in a 5-0 hole.

In the regular season, May averaged 2.57 earned runs. In the playoffs, his ERA is 5.00.

The disparity is even more glaring for Gonsolin. His regular season ERA, when he started in all of his nine appearances except one: 2.31.

In the playoffs, he made a traditional start, a start as an opener and a relief appearance behind an opener. His playoff ERA is 9.39.

Gonsolin started Wednesday, with the Dodgers scoring him for two innings. He gave up a homerun on the second batter of the game, and he did not survive the second inning.

“I want the ball,” Gonsolin said. “I want to go out there and give our team a chance to win every time I go out and throw. … I’m just trying to think of it as a learning experience.

Judging the performance of the pitchers, and by extension the handling of the Dodgers, is a little unfair based on the few innings each pitcher has pitched in the playoffs.

“I still have confidence in them,” said Roberts. “I still believe in them. They just have to pitch.

Roberts said Buehler will start Game 3, Julio Urias Game 4 and Kershaw Game 5.

Roberts would not rule out using Alex Wood as a starter, meaning Gonsolin and May could be used outside of their normal roles for the rest of the World Series. Their role is to “overtake”, and the time for comfort in this role is running out.

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