Could Don Mattingly have managed better? Sure! So could Terry Collins, I’ll bet. I certainly could have been a better driver on the way to this coffee shop. But if you want to pick on Mattingly for one thing in Game 5, it’s probably this:
At the presser announcing Mattingly's firing, I hope Friedman just says, "Because he pinch hit Utley for Pederson."
If you’re interested in the results … Utley hit the ball quite hard, with a line drive to right field. The process, though … It’s difficult to countenance using a weak hitter like Utley instead of a guy like Pederson, who could tie the game with a flick of his powerful bat. Mattingly’s rationale might, I suppose, be that Pederson’s hit only six home runs in 184 at-bats since the All-Star Game. In fact, Utley’s been significantly better than Pederson over that span.
I’m not exactly saying I buy that rationale. But it won’t be among the 20 Most Questionable Moves This Month, when we make that list.
Except for this: Swapping one lefty hitter for another meant that Mattingly would have only one lefty among this first three: Utley, followed by righties A.J. Ellis and Howie Kendrick. He wasn’t going to pinch-hit for Ellis, since there weren’t any more catchers on the bench. But is Howie Kendrick better than Joc Pederson against Jeurys Familia?
Probably not. But again, it’s arguable. This was hardly an all-time managerial gaffe.
Don Mattingly, I think, is like most managers: You give him good players and he’ll win, although in big moments he’ll go with his gut more often than he probably should. I agree with Ken Rosenthal: The Dodgers lost not because of Don Mattingly, but because their players didn’t play as well as the Mets’ players, and it’s the front office that collected the players.
But it’s also worth remembering that if the Dodgers score just one more run Thursday night, and allow just one fewer, we are having an entirely different conversation Friday.