SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Dave Roberts is going to try a little bit of everything to help guide his National League-leading Dodgers out of a funk that matches the worst in L.A. team history. That includes getting creative with his lineup.
“I haven’t considered pulling it out of a hat yet,” Roberts quipped before the first-place Dodgers opened a series at San Francisco amid a surprising 10-game skid that is the club’s worst in 25 years. “I haven’t done that.”
The first pitch Monday night was delayed because of a lightning storm that spectacularly lit up the sky beginning about an hour before the scheduled start time. The tarps were pulled amid sporadic showers, and rain continued to fall during a moment of silence in memory of Sept. 11. The game resumed at 7:57 p.m. but was put back in a delay after one out — then another delay of 2 hours, 52 minutes.
The game resumed at 10:50 p.m. local time, with Ty Blach taking over as Giants starter for Chris Stratton.
Roberts acknowledges his Dodgers are struggling with confidence. The Los Angeles manager himself has endured the toughest stretch of his professional career, counting a 10-year big league playing career — “in any capacity, yeah,” he said.
“Right now, it’s probably wavering a little bit,” Roberts said. “But it’s still the same guys that we had when we were playing really good baseball. So I believe in the mindset, I believe in the talent, and also I’m encouraged at the focus on just winning today. Yeah, there’s a little bit of confidence in there but that’s a part of it when you’re not having success.”
Roberts hopes to soon settle on a regular lineup — based on pitching matchups — leaning toward Chris Taylor as a regular option in center field because of his arm strength and throwing accuracy while he also can play left. Logan Forsythe and Chase Utley have shared duties at second base, but Roberts said Utley has earned more chances against right-handers, and he was the starter Monday against San Francisco rookie Chris Stratton. In addition, Yasmani Grandal has been catching more against right-handed starters and Austin Barnes against lefties.
Getting back to basics such as smartly running the bases and capitalizing with strong situational hitting are among Roberts’ focuses.
“There’s a sense of urgency to turn it around,” he said. “... But you see what you got when you go through a tough time like this. Our guys know no one’s going to feel sorry for you. You’ve got to make your own breaks.”
Los Angeles, which had lost 15 of 16 overall, began the day with a four-game lead on idle Washington for best record in the National League. The Dodgers travel to play the Nationals next.
The Dodgers were a loss away from their longest skid since moving to Los Angeles, having also lost 10 straight in 1961 and ‘92. The 1944 Brooklyn team lost 16 games in a row.
L.A. was a season-best 21 games over .500 for four days and as recently as Aug. 25, but that had dwindled to nine games going into Monday.
“Oh we’re using it,” Roberts said, “we’re using every bit of the cushion. I never thought we’d need to but we’re finding a way to use every bit of it.”