Dave Roberts didn’t mind feeling “emotionally spent” on Friday afternoon.
Like most in the sports world, Roberts and the Dodgers have been through a mental ringer this week, from postponing a game Wednesday following the shooting of Jacob Blake to celebrating a Jackie Robinson Day unlike any other during Friday’s series opener at the Texas Rangers.
But the energy spent addressing systemic off-the-field issues, the conversations and ideas on how to cure inequalities in baseball and beyond, had been worth it.
“It’s supposed to be that way, because it’s meaningful,” Roberts said. “Our guys have done a great job of separating what’s going on, what’s really important in our lives, in our kids’ lives, but then focusing on baseball when the first pitch is thrown.”
In a 6-2 loss to the Rangers, however, it was timely execution that the Dodgers (24-10) lacked, becoming the last team in baseball to reach double-digit defeats on a night they left eight men on base and went two-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
The Dodgers’ squandered chances came early and often. They stranded a pair of leadoff singles in the first, two walks in the third, two more base hits in the fourth and a leadoff walk in the fifth.
Corey Seager and Justin Turner finally came through with clutch hits in the seventh, erasing a two-run deficit with back-to-back two-out RBI hits. But in the very next half-inning, Dodgers reliever Jake McGee conceded a four-spot to the Rangers (12-19) that put the game out of reach.
Even with minimal run support, starter Dustin May had kept the Dodgers within striking distance earlier in the night, working his way through an efficient six inning, two run, three strikeout start. His only blemishes came in the bottom of the third, when Choo lined an RBI double to left and Nick Solak drove in another on a single to right.
Turner nearly put the Dodgers in front in the top half of that frame, when his high fly ball initially appeared to be headed for a three-run home run. But at the wall, Rangers center fielder Leody Taveras leaped up and robbed the ball from clearing the fence.
Turner did record an RBI two at-bats later, following Seager’s two-out double to center in the seventh with a game-tying line drive to left, but was forced to leave the game after sustaining an injury while stealing second later in the inning.
The tie game didn’t last much longer either.
The first man out of the bullpen, McGee surrendered a leadoff home run to Derek Dietrich to open the seventh. After three of the next four batters singled, including another RBI from Choo, Dylan Floro was summoned to try and limit the damage.
Instead, he allowed an RBI double to Solak and sac fly to Jose Trevino. Mookie Betts almost made the throw home from right, but catcher Will Smith just missed a tag on Choo. Down by four, the Dodgers offense failed to muster another baserunner the rest of the night.
It wasn’t the Jackie Robinson Day performance Roberts, one of two Black managers in MLB, had hoped for. Before the game, Roberts reminisced on his own experiences playing with the No. 42 on his back, recalling how he would wear hiked up pant-legs and feel “like you’re trying to play as him, which is pretty cool.”
Amid the current societal reckoning occurring in baseball and beyond, however, this year’s commemoration of Robinson’s 1947 breaking of the color barrier struck a much more resonant tone.
On Friday morning, a video of Betts narrating famous Robinson quotes went viral on social media. And during his Friday afternoon video call, Roberts reiterated the changes he hopes to see his sport continue to make.
“The complete, consistent education by Major League Baseball organizations individually, the players most importantly, has been very good,” Roberts said. “I think in light of what’s going on, to raise more awareness to what Jackie meant for all of us and for the race movement is really important … I’m proud of the way our guys have kind of opened their hearts, minds and ears. It’s been good.”