Dodgers Bullpen Falters Down the Stretch
Hobbled and injured are adjectives best used to describe the Dodgers pitching staff. Chad Billingsley's return looks more and more doubtful as the days go by. Kenley Jansen will be out another 13 days while on blood thinners to treat heart arrhythmia, and Javy Guerra was just placed on the disabled list for a strained oblique.
The Dodgers went into the 11th inning for the third time in their last five games. The patchwork bullpen couldn't keep it together, John Ely on the mound as the Padres won it 6-3.
"We do have the two-run lead going into the eighth," manager Don Mattingly said. "Obviously we'd like to do more than that, but we weren't able to add on there."
Matt Guerrier gave up the game tying home run to Yasmandi Grandal in the eighth inning sucking the air out of the Stadium. After John Ely retired the side in order in the 10th inning, back-to-back singles by Cameron Maybin and Everth Cabrera to lead off the 11th inning spelled doom. Logan Forsythe hit the go-ahead two-run single and Chase Headley knocked another run in on a single to cement the game.
Mattingly distilled the Dodgers problems to one fine point: "We're having our troubles putting up runs."
For a line up that boasts Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Shane Victorino, the Dodgers only scored more than four runs four times in their last 15 games which mystifies Mattingly.
"I expected us to score a little more consistently," Mattingly said. "I definitely think we're better than this."
Where they were at on Tuesday was wasting another great performance by Clayton Kershaw. Through his seven innings, he gave up one run — a leadoff home run on the first pitch of the game to Chris Denorfia. Kershaw struck out nine hitters notching his 200th strikeout of the season in the process, joining the company of Sandy Koufax (1961-66), Don Drysdale (1962-65), Hideo Nomo (1995-97) and Fernando Valenzuela (1984-86) to have reached the milestone in three consecutive seasons.
"Obviously those guys are awesome pitchers, and I have a ton of respect for all of those guys," Kershaw said. You can feel the "but" coming. Kershaw told reporters that strikeouts just happen in the course of a game, something that he can't control."
"At the same time strikeouts don't really mean too much to me. It's not something I try to do. It's not something that is a big deal. Outs are outs."
Nonetheless they came in handy when Kershaw got in a jam in the fourth innning.
After Carlos Quentin struck out to lead off the fourth inning, Kerhsaw gave up a single to Yasmani Grandal and a double to Yonder Alonso to set up runners on second and third with one out.
After getting Cameron Maybin to a quick 0-2 count, Maybin took the next two pitches and fouled one off to increase the tension and a 2-2 count. Kershaw broke another slider in the dirt to get Maybin to swing for a strike three and got Everth Cabrera to whiff on a curveball to end the inning.
Thankfully for the Dodgers the Arizona Diamondbacks scored two runs in the top of the 11th to sink the Giants 8-6. So the Dodgers didn't lose any ground. But with only 25 games remaining, not losing any ground is no substitute to winning.
"We're in a little bit of a stretch," Mattingly said trying to put a positive spin on things. There is one stark reality that all of the guys in that clubhouse need to deal with. It is September 5, and the clock keeps ticking.