ST. LOUIS -- Disbelief and skepticism lingered Saturday over Don Mattingly's eighth-inning strategy in Friday night's 3-2 loss in the National League Championship Series opener against St. Louis. But the Dodgers' manager remained cool and composed.
Mattingly's removal of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez for pinch-runner Dee Gordon prompted widespread media criticism after the 13-inning loss. Gordon's entry didn't make an impact, as he was erased on Yasiel Puig's fielder's-choice grounder. Moreover, the Dodgers lost Gonzalez, their valuable cleanup hitter, for the final five innings. Gonzalez's replacement, Michael Young, was retired with runners in scoring position to end the 10th and 12th innings.
After a short night's sleep and scant hours to reflect on the matter, Mattingly insisted that he'd implement the same changes if he had another opportunity.
"That's why Dee's on the team," Mattingly said. "We have a chance to win a game right there. You don't know if you're going to go 13, you don't know if Adrian's going to come back up, we don't know that Puig doesn't hit a ball in the gap right there and he scores. Or [if he] hits a ball, we go first to third and win that game right there. There are a lot of things we don't know. We know after the fact; we just don't know during the thing. ... There are a number of guys that if they lead off that inning with a hit, Dee's going to run. It's not just Adrian."
But Gordon didn't run.
"We know we're not going to bunt there with Yasiel. So it's not like [Gordon] has to go first pitch," Mattingly said. "Part of Dee being out there is the fact that the pitcher has to rush a little bit. He's got to be aware of Dee, and there are a number of plays that Dee affects. Even the [ground] ball that they got him at second, he's trying to basically run there and got caught. Didn't get quite the jump he wanted and then got stuck. If he has a regular lead there, he's probably safe at second on that ball."
Mattingly cited two deterrents to sending Gordon: the quick delivery of Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez, who pitched the eighth inning, and catcher Yadier Molina's penchant for throwing out would-be basestealers.
"So," Mattingly said, "we've got to get something in our favor that tells us [Gordon's] going to make that."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.