Dodgers Series Recap: Bullpen Falters As Atlanta Sweeps L.A.
The Dodgers had the lead heading into the sixth inning of all three games against the Atlanta Braves and lost every single one this weekend. The Dodgers’ bullpen fell victim to big innings at the hands of the first place Braves, including a Justin Upton grand slam on Friday night and a four-run eighth inning from the Braves on Sunday. The Braves are a tough team, no doubt, but getting swept just won’t cut it.
The Dodgers scored five runs in Friday night’s opener, led mostly by Scott Van Slyke. However, they scored only three runs the next two games, so needless to say, the numbers weren’t real impressive for the Dodgers infield. Adrian Gonzalez went 0-9 in the first two games of the series before going 1-3 Sunday afternoon driving in both Dodger runs. A.J. Ellis went only 1-6 in the series, although he doubled and scored a pair of runs Friday night.
Tim Federowicz went 1-3 in Ellis’s place Saturday. Nick Punto went 2-6 starting at second and third base. Skip Schumaker went 2-5 with a double Saturday starting at second base. Luis Cruz went 1-4 with a run scored starting at third on Friday night. Juan Uribe went 0-3 Sunday at third. Sorry for boring you with that. In a positive development for a change, Mark Ellis was activated from the DL on Sunday, he went 0-4, however, Ellis’s presence in the lineup will be greatly appreciated going forward.
I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but the struggles continue for Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. The Dodgers’ dynamic duo went 1-19 in the series, striking out nine times without a single walk or base hit. Regardless of how good Atlanta’s pitching staff is, the heart of the Dodgers’ order cannot continue to fail to get it done like this. The only reason the Dodgers managed five runs on Friday night was because Scott Van Slyke started in right field and went 2-4 with two solo home runs. Since being called up on May 10, Van Slyke is hitting .267 with three homers, four RBI and a .267/.312/1.179 line. Not too shabby for a guy who can fill in at either corner infield spot and first base too. Carl Crawford did not provide his usual spark going 2 for 12 with a double and a RBI in the series.
STARTING PITCHING: B-
If there was a bright spot for the Dodgers’ this weekend, it was the starting rotation. Chris Capuano pitched masterfully Saturday evening, going 7 1/3 innings, allowing only one run, while striking out five with no walks. Capuano exited the game with a 1-0 lead, but would not get his first win after Kenley Jansen gave up back-t0-back home runs to the Braves’ Evan Gattis and Andrelton Simmons. Capuano dropped his season ERA to 4.84.
Hyun-Jin Ryu was shaky on Friday night. Ryu pitched five innings and gave up only two runs, but he walked five Braves’ batters to go along with his five strikeouts. Ryu did not factor in the decision Friday. Matt Magill made a solid spot start for the Dodgers’ on Sunday going five innings allowing only one unearned run.
Magill struck out a career high eight batters and walked three. and left to a 2-1 lead, but also did not factor in the decision. Capuano appears to have regained some form and with the return of Zack Greinke, the Dodgers now have the formidable starting rotation that fans expected. Unfortunately, the bullpen wouldn’t be able to help out the team.
The Dodgers’ bullpen lost every single game of the series. L.A.’s bullpen has lost a league worst 13 games and the Dodgers’ ‘pen has a 4.61 ERA, second worst in the NL, ahead of only the New York Mets. Compare that to the 3.50 ERA of Dodgers’ starters, and it’s clear where there’s a problem.
Matt Guerrier entered Monday night’s game in the sixth inning in relief of Ryu. After striking out B.J. Upton, pinch-hitter Jordan Schafer singled and Simmons reached on an error by Luis Cruz. Paco Rodriguez entered the game and served up a walk to Jason Heyward to load the bases for Justin Upton.
Upton would proceed to drill his league-leading 14th home run deep into the stands in left field and a 4-2 Dodgers lead became a 6-4 Braves lead.
Kenley Jansen would enter Saturday night’s game in the 8th inning in relief of Chris Capuano. Jansen faced Braves rookie Evan Gattis with a runner on first. After fouling off multiple pitches, Gattis slammed a home run into the left field stands to give the Braves a 2-1 lead. Jansen’s countryman, Anderlton Simmons of Curacao (an island in the Caribbean), hit another home run to give the Braves an insurance run and a 3-1 lead.
Jansen would endure a similarly heartbreaking fate Sunday afternoon. J.P. Howell and Ronald Belisario pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief before things completely unraveled in the eight inning. Jansen closed out the seventh inning, but after a Freddie Freeman single and a walk to Brian McCann to start out the eight inning, Don Mattingly brought in Brandon League.
The results were not good, two singles and two sacrifice hits later, the Braves had scored four runs and taken a 5-2 lead. Juan Uribe committed a costly error, therefore Jansen got charged with two earned runs, while League was charged with two unearned runs.
Clearly, something is amiss in the Dodgers bullpen. Jansen is the teams best pitcher out of the ‘pen and ideally should be the closer. However, he’s Mattingly’s preferred pitcher in “high-leverage situations.” Something that baseball pundits often call upon is using a teams best bullpen pitcher in these situations rather than strictly in the ninth inning. Mattingly has utilized Jansen perfectly in these situations.
No question, League is struggling with a 5.51 ERA on the season, however, Sunday was only his second blown save of the season. For the most part, League has been effective with the lead in the ninth inning.
What’s wrong with the Dodgers’ pen? League and Jansen both look like they’re not making adjustments. When Gattis and Simmons hit their home runs on Saturday night, they were sitting on the fastball. Despite how great Jansen’s stuff is, is major league hitters know you’re going to groove the fastball inside and sit on it, they’re going to burn you.
The Dodgers will head to Milwaukee for a three-game series with the Brewers. L.A. took two of three games from the Brew Crew last month at Dodger Stadium. The Brewers are one of the few teams struggling more than the Dodgers as Milwaukee has only three wins in the month of May. Clayton Kershaw will take the mound Monday night and look to halt the Dodgers’ losing streak against Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo.