By David Rosenthal
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Thursday’s National League Division Series finale between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals was an emotional roller coaster.
The Dodgers, led by fearless scorecard-hazer Dave Roberts, managed to escape with a series victory with thanks in part to Roberts’ unconventional and un-Don-Mattingly managerial style.
Roberts, a rookie manager, has shown incredible poise throughout this season after making several controversial decisions, like pulling Rich Hill from a perfect game, and shown an even greater amount of camaraderie with the players, something Mattingly never did.
You can see the bond Roberts shares with his players, and his passion and energy keeps them wanting to play for him, another important facet of managing that Mattingly lacked in his tenure with the Dodgers.
It is a visibly different atmosphere in the Dodgers dugout this season, and Roberts is at the center of it.
The only interaction between Mattingly and a player I can remember is when he and Andre Ethier got into a shouting match during last year’s playoffs.
Back to Thursday’s game, Roberts lifted starter Hill at the first sign of trouble in the third inning and brought in his set-up man Joe Blanton to clean up the mess.
Using your set-up man in the third inning, trailing a run, is unconventional to say the least, but it saved the game and the series for the Dodgers.
Roberts’ usage of Blanton in the high-leverage situation that presented itself in the third inning was the first of several moves he made to help secure the Dodgers an NLDS victory.
After the Dodgers scored four rubs in the top of the seventh inning to take a three-run lead, Roberts went to the often-reliable Grant Dayton, who was anything but reliable Thursday.
Roberts pulled Dayton after he surrendered a two-run home run and brought in Kenley Jansen, his closer, in the seventh inning.
It was the first time Jansen had pitched in the seventh inning all season, and it’s a bold move Mattingly would have never even thought about.
Jansen ended up getting out of the seventh and eighth inning and even retired a batter in the ninth inning after throwing a career high 51 pitches.
When the Dodgers needed their most important outs of the game, Roberts did not hesitate and brought in his best pitchers, regardless of the unconventional situation that presented itself.
When Jansen ultimately ran out of gas and the team needed two more outs, there was only one person Roberts could trust with the ball: Clayton Kershaw.
Despite starting Game 4 and Roberts saying before Game 5 that Kershaw was not available, the Dodgers ace retired the final two batters of the game to pick up his first career MLB save and send the Dodgers into the National League Championship Series.
Kershaw allegedly took it upon himself to start warming up after receiving the no-go from Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and Roberts.
When you have a competitor like Kershaw, sometimes the decisions are made for you, unless you are Mattingly.
If Mattingly were still at the helm, you can forget bringing about in Kenley Jansen in the seventh inning, Blanton in the third inning and certainly Kershaw in the ninth inning.
The traditional, predictable, outdated and grumpy Mattingly would have brought in Pedro Baez in the third inning, which probably would have resulted in a catastrophic inning and thus ending the Dodgers’ postseason.
Instead, Roberts kept his team in the game using any means necessary, and here we are.
If you are concerned that Roberts over-used Kershaw, tell that to Kershaw himself, who allegedly went out to the bullpen by his own orders.
“He came up and said, ‘I’ve got an inning,’ ” Honeycutt told reporters.
“I said ‘No, no, no, and the next thing I know, he bypassed me and goes up to (Roberts), and tells him the same thing and (Roberts) says the same thing, no no no,’ ” he added.
“Next thing I know, he’s got his cleats on and he’s walking out to the bullpen,” Honeycutt said.
Jansen also seemed shocked by the sight of Kershaw in the bullpen.
“I’m thinking — am I dreaming?” Jansen said after the game.
In the end, the players play the games decide the outcomes. But without the master manipulating of Roberts, it is highly unlikely the team would still be alive today.
David Rosenthal is a web producer for CBS Los Angeles. David lives in LA & is a Dodgers, Kings, Lakers, and Rams fan. If you have any questions or comments for him, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TheReal_D_Rose