Generally speaking, the Los Angeles Dodgers have grown accustomed to strong pitching this season. The front end of the starting rotation has met its expectations and in some instances, exceeded them.
Josh Beckett and Dan Haren have pitched well at times but may now not be as dependable as initially believed. As for the bullpen, the success has largely been dependent on which pitcher takes the mound.
J.P. Howell has put together a strong season, Brian Wilson has come on as of late, but questions still remain. Tuesday’s game exposed the bullpen’s inconsistency as Josh Beckett managed to pitch just 3.2 innings.
Howell and Wilson didn’t enter the game and following the loss manager Don Mattingly said the Dodgers need to find other solutions so as not to wear down the relievers, according to the OC Register’s Bill Plunkett:
We’ve kind of had to make some decisions with that back end of our bullpen that we can’t go to them every day,” Mattingly said. “We can’t go to them at all times. If we’re down a run, at this point we just can’t do it every day. Our other guys have got to be able to hold them. Our 7th, 8th and 9th guys (Howell, Wilson and Jansen) we’ve got to protect.”
Paul Maholm was the first reliever to enter the game and he was charged for two runs in 1.1 innings — the runners scored on a single Jamey Wright allowed in the sixth inning. The two runs broke a tie and Wright went on to allow an additional two runs in what turned into a big inning for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Chris Perez exacerbated the issuing four consecutive walks in the eighth as the Pirates turned a one-run lead into a five-run lead before the inning was over. In the early stages of the season Kenley Jansen was on pace to pitch more than 100 innings.
His workload was eventually scaled back and he altered his mechanics, which led to better outings from the closer. General manager Ned Colletti stated the bullpen was an area he wished to address prior to the trade deadline and the latest rumors have the Dodgers targeting relief pitching.
While Mattingly wasn’t able to turn to his more reliable relievers on Tuesday, Wednesday may present a different story. After playing the series finale against the Pirates, the Dodgers have Thursday off before resuming their schedule Friday against the San Francisco Giants. In a rare occurrence, the team will have another off-day Monday.
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