Why did Dave Roberts leave Lance Lynn in the game? Dodgers manager explains

One manager pulled a starting pitcher who gave up only two hits and threw 42 pitches in 4 ⅓ scoreless innings Wednesday night. The other left his starter in long enough to give up four solo homers that traveled a total of 1,626 feet in the third inning.

Guess which one was the manager who said he was going to approach Game 3 of the National League Division Series in Chase Field like it was a Game 7? Hint: it wasn’t the guy who pulled his starter after 4 ⅓ innings of shutout ball.

Dodgers field boss Dave Roberts said he was in “fight mode” with his team in danger of being swept by Arizona, but it was the Diamondbacks who threw all the haymakers and their manager who took the fight to the Dodgers, pulling all the right levers in a 4-2 victory that sent Arizona in the NL Championship Series.

The night unraveled quickly and loudly in the bottom of the third when Dodgers starter Lance Lynn, who allowed a major league-high 44 home runs this season, gave up solo homers to Geraldo Perdomo, Ketel Marte, Christian Walker and Gabriel Moreno to put the Dodgers in a 4-0 hole.

Lynn retired the side in order in the first, but there were indications in the second that the aggressive Diamondbacks were beginning to measure the veteran right-hander, as Lourdes Gurriel Jr. smoked a two-out 105-mph single and Alek Thomas lined a 107-mph single before Evan Longoria struck out.

Perdomo, the No. 9 hitter, led off the third with a homer to right. Corbin Carroll grounded out. Marte destroyed a 1-and-0 cut-fastball, sending a 428-foot homer to right for a 2-0 lead.

Tommy Pham grounded out. The right-handed-hitting Walker and Moreno were due up, but none of the Dodgers’ top right-handed relievers were warming.

“You’ve got two outs, nobody on base and a low pitch-count, and you figure that this run of right-handed hitters, you’ve got to be able to navigate it somewhat,” Roberts said of his decision to stick with Lynn. “Then two homers later, you’re down 4-0.”

It was only after Walker sent a 113-mph missile into the left-field seats for a 3-0 lead that left-hander Caleb Ferguson began warming.

After Moreno crushed a 420-foot drive into the left-center-field seats, punctuating the homer with an epic bat flip in front of the Dodgers’ dugout, Roberts summoned Ferguson, who got Gurriel to ground out.

“I try not to be reactionary and get ahead of things,” Roberts said. “I just can’t predict the future. The way [Lynn] was throwing the baseball, I didn’t expect that.”

Catcher Will Smith went to the mound after the third homer. Did Roberts consider sending pitching coach Mark Prior out for a lengthy visit to give Ferguson a little more time to get ready and to get Lynn out of the game sooner?

“No, because Caleb’s run was essentially going to be at [the left-handed-hitting] Thomas,” he said. “If there was anything, if I could have predicted the future, it would have been to have a right-hander the second time through. To have Caleb come in to face Pham or Walker or Gurriel or Moreno, that wasn’t going to happen.”

Ferguson, Michael Grove, Alex Vesia, Brusdar Graterol and Evan Phillips combined for 5 ⅓ scoreless, two-hit innings, but the damage was done.

While Roberts didn’t seem to manage with enough urgency early, Arizona’s Torey Lovullo managed as if his team was on the brink of elimination.

Starter Brandon Pfaadt retired 12 of the first 13 hitters before Smith smoked his 42nd pitch of the game for a one-out double to left in the fifth. Was Lovullo about to leave a rookie right-hander in to face the left-handed-hitting Jason Heyward with a deep and versatile bullpen rested and ready?

Pfaadt chance.

Lovullo summoned left-hander Joe Mantiply, who struck out pinch-hitter Chris Taylor with an 85-mph changeup and got Kiké Hernández to fly to the wall in left-center.

Right-hander Ryan Thompson retired the side in order in the sixth and got two quick outs in the seventh before consecutive singles by Max Muncy, Smith, Taylor and Hernández pulled the Dodgers to within 4-2.

Lovullo summoned left-hander Andrew Saalfrank to face David Peralta. Roberts countered with .180-hitting backup catcher Austin Barnes, the last right-handed bat on his bench. Barnes swung at the first-pitch, a down-and-away sinker, and grounded weakly to third to end the inning.

Setup man Kevin Ginkel issued a four-pitch walk to Kolten Wong before retiring the next three batters in the eighth. Closer Paul Sewald allowed one hit in a scoreless ninth for the save, and the pool party was about to begin for the Diamondbacks.

“He was at [42] pitches in 4 ⅓ innings, and I was the dope that took him out of the game,” Lovullo said of his decision to pull Pfaadt. “I just needed to bridge it at that point once we had the lead, because the team was in very capable hands with our bullpen.”

The tone for Game 3 might have been set during Tuesday’s off-day, when the Diamondbacks held a spirited full-squad workout while only a handful of Dodgers, including Mookie Betts, Muncy, J.D. Martinez and James Outman, attended an optional workout. Even Roberts remained at the team hotel.

“You know what? I was going to stay away,” Roberts said on a video call. “There was a meeting [with front-office officials] over at the hotel, so I stuck around here.”

The Dodgers have talked all season about their team chemistry, how cohesive they’ve been as a group, which was reflected in the entire club participating in an optional workout during Sunday’s off-day in Dodger Stadium. How did Roberts balance not being with the team on Tuesday with being with the front office?

“There were a lot of guys that wanted to stay away, too,” Roberts said. “For some people, they need to be there, and some guys, I think, it’s great they stay away. That’s why it’s optional. I think as much time as we spend together, some guys need to be away. I welcome that. There’s no cookie-cutter [approach], one way to do things.”

The Diamondbacks won the first two games of the series in Los Angeles, but Lovullo thought it was important that everyone practiced Tuesday.

“I just wanted to get the guys in one place at one time to keep that momentum going,” Lovullo said before Game 3. “I don’t want anybody to take a day off right now. I want guys to come in, still keep that rhythm and that flow and that feel. That’s really important. I talked about that competitive focus [Tuesday]. I think that’s a real thing.”