Johnson was hitting .244 with 11 runs batted in this season. Heyward has produced more runs than that since the All-Star break, a point after which he become the Braves' catalyst with a .305 average with 17 RBIs.
And forget that left-lefty stuff. Heyward's combined on-base and slugging percentage is actually 37 points better (.802) against lefties than righties (.765) this season.
It was a stunning move.
It was, then, not so stunning that an out-of-sync Rodriguez immediately threw Heyward two balls, then forced a fastball into
the strike zone that Heyward knocked into center field to score two runs that eventually proved decisive.
Afterward everyone tried to explain the decision, but nobody could really pull it off.
"We felt like Paco fits into Reed," said Mattingly slowly, meaning Rodriguez pitches into Johnson's strength. "[Rodriguez] is a guy we think gets Heyward out been getting those guys out all year long for us."
One more number: While Rodriguez has indeed held lefties to a .131 average, he holds righties to a .202 average, so is it that much difference?
Said Rodriguez: "No question in that situation I would have liked to face the righty. [But] you have to go by the numbers."
Said catcher A.J. Ellis: "I just kind of play the hand that I'm dealt, not my place to make the decision, these guys do a lot of work to find the right matchup, I'll take Paco against any lefty."
Like other missteps during Mattingly's tenure, this one will disappear with a couple of wins. But if the Dodgers don't get through this first round, this one could be like the sounds of all those Braves fans whooping into downtown Atlanta Friday night. This one could linger.