PHOENIX — The Los Angeles Dodgers close out their season's longest road trip, 10 games, Sunday against NL West rival Arizona.
As always, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will be mixing and matching, calculating who is healthy enough to play and who has the best chance to be effective. The Dodgers have placed 28 players on the disabled list this year, most in MLB history.
How has he done it?
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Roberts fumbled for an answer Saturday. “I think it's just a matter of not trying to, uh, I don't know. It's a good question.”
Then, after thinking the matter through, he said, “I think a lot of it is the players just understanding that there are certain circumstances we're presented with and we've got to find a way to make it work.
“So I think it's not ideal or traditional some of the things that's we've done. But we've had to make it work.”
Saturday's 6-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks was a great example.
In addition to such high-profile youngsters as Corey Seager and Joc Pederson, Roberts started a pitcher, Brock Stewart, who began the season at Class A Rancho Cucamonga.
Stewart proceeded to outpitch the D-backs' Shelby Miller, giving the Dodgers five solid innings in his fifth MLB start.
Then there was another rookie, Andrew Toles, who made a perfect throw from left field to home to save a run and choke off a Diamondbacks' rally.
“A huge play,” Roberts said.
Next rookie up for the Dodgers is right-hander Jose De Leon (2-0), who will make just the third start of his major league career. In 11 innings pitched for Los Angeles, he has given up six runs (five earned) on eight hits, including three home runs. He has 12 strikeouts and two walks in his first two starts.
It will be the 65th game started by a rookie this year for the Dodgers.
Roberts was asked to reflect back to spring training, and if he would have been scared to see some of these names in the lineup in a pennant chase.
Probably so, he replied.
“There were some games where, you look at the lineups we've run out there in September, it kind of looks like a split-squad (spring training) game. But these are major league players playing on a playoff-contending team.”
“You look at our roster and you project. This is not the way obviously we would have seen it playing out.”
Roberts praised the Dodgers' scouts and player-development staff.
“The common factor with these young players is the pulse and the head. They don't scare off. They're really unshaken.”
The Diamondbacks will counter with Robbie Ray, who is 8-13 with a 4.55 ERA this season. He became one of just four pitchers in franchise history to record a 200-strikeout season when he beat the Rockies on Tuesday, allowing four runs over five innings with seven strikeouts.
Ray is 3-3 in seven career starts against the Dodgers.