Dodgers squandered plenty of opportunities against the Braves

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Despite making it close, the Dodgers had plenty of opportunities to score but came up empty plenty of times following Hanley Ramirez’s RBI double in the first inning. They couldn’t get the big hit against Braves starter Mike Minor from the second through the sixth innings, nor relievers Luis Ayala or Luis Avilan in the seventh.

Second inning: Juan Uribe lead-off single followed up by Skip Schumaker grounding into a 4-6-3 double play.

Third inning: Carl Crawford lead-off single followed up by Mark Ellis grounding into a 6-4-3 double play.

Fourth inning: Adrian Gonzalez lead-off single, followed by three consecutive unproductive outs.

Fifth inning: Nothing

Sixth inning: Hanley Ramirez one-out double, advances to third on Yasiel Puig’s infield single, but does not score.

Seventh inning: Skip Schumaker leads off with an infield single, then advances to second on a sacrifice bunt. Michael Young reaches on another infield single. Carl Crawford ends the threat by grounding into a 1-6-3 double play against reliever Luis Avilan.

Ninth inning: A.J. Ellis draws a one-out walk. Dee Gordon pinch-runs for him and immediately attempts to steal second base, but is thrown out by catcher Gerald Laird. To Gordon’s credit, replays showed that second base umpire Bill Miller got the call wrong.

Manager Don Mattingly made things worse in the bottom of the seventh being too mindful of the platoon advantage. With two Braves runners on first and second with two outs, Jose Constanza came to the plate to pinch-hit for Avilan. Constanza finished the regular season with a .516 OPS, not exactly the type of hitter you fear in a big spot. Nevertheless, Mattingly came out to the mound to replace right-handed reliever Chris Withrow with lefty Paco Rodriguez for the platoon advantage. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez countered by pinch-hitting Reed Johnson for Constanza. Mattingly countered by intentionally walking Johnson to bring up Jason Heyward — yes, Jason Heyward — for the platoon advantage. Heyward worked the count to 2-0 in his favor, took a slider for a strike, then drove a second slider back up the middle for a two-run single to put the Braves up 4-1. Bad managing strikes again.

This is not to take anything away from Braves starter Mike Minor, who made pitches when he had to and wasn’t hit particularly hard. Nor is this to take away from the Braves’ bullpen as Avilan made a heck of a play to start that double play in the top half of the seventh and Craig Kimbrel was his usual dominant self. But the Dodgers were their own worst enemy tonight and now send the NLDS to Los Angeles knotted at 1-1.

Rays’ Erik Neander named Executive of the Year

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At the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona on Monday, Rays GM Erik Neander was named the recipient of Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year Award for the 2019 season. The Yankees’ Brian Cashman was the runner-up while the Athletics’ Billy Beane and the Twins’ Derek Falvey tied for third place.

Neander has worked for the Rays since 2017 but has operated in his current role since November 2016, taking over for Matthew Silverman who was promoted to president of the Rays alongside Brian Auld.

The Rays had, by far, the lowest payroll in baseball at $53.5 million, according to USA TODAY. Neander’s peers voting him Executive of the Year on the same today the league had to curtail its awarding of a prize belt to the team that suppressed salaries the most in arbitration is… certainly interesting timing.

At any rate, Neander’s Rays went 96-66 in 2019, finishing in second place in the AL East behind the 103-59 Yankees. The Rays claimed the second AL Wild Card and defeated the A’s to earn entry into the ALDS where they lost in five games to the Astros. It was the Rays’ first playoff appearance since 2013 and their regular season win total was second-most in franchise history behind the 2008 team (97).