Well, that was a disappointing set of circumstances. After taking a 5-0 lead in the top of the first inning, the Los Angeles Dodgers only scored one run after that and ended up losing 9-6 to the San Francisco Giants. There was good and bad from this game, though, so we definitely do need to discuss it.
The loss was the first time since September 20, 2014 that the Dodgers blew a lead of at least five runs. So, we’re talking about a major turn of events that had not happened in roughly 18 months. Fun times. Maybe it was just meant to be, though. We’ll never know. Either way, here are my major takeaways.
Takeaway #1: Scott Kazmir pitched poorly, but this start doesn’t define his season to come. If Scott Kazmir’s start against the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night was exceptional, then this start was everything but that. However, it also doesn’t define his season or what is going to happen. Fans took to twitter to lambaste the left-hander for blowing the team’s 5-0 lead. Sure, he didn’t pitch well, but this game doesn’t tell the story about how his 2016 season will go. Neither did his season-opening start in San Diego. After all, every pitcher is due for a bad day here and there. The velocity was still there. He averaged 90.5 miles per hour on his fastball today, which was nearly identical to the 90.6 miles per hour he posted in San Diego.
The main issue that Kazmir was having all day was that he was leaving stuff up in the zone and he was not getting the same type of movement on any of his pitches. His changeup was coming out three miles per hour hotter today than it did on Tuesday, and maybe that was part of the problem. Kazmir’s release point was spotty all game long, and it ultimately led to him getting hit and getting erratic at times. Still, there isn’t enough reason to worry yet. It’s one game in April after he was fantastic during the same week. If you’re freaking out about this one start, then you should have went bonkers over his other start. Kazmir gave up six earned runs in a start in early May of last season, and then had a 1.80 ERA over his next 14 starts. Pump the brakes on the worry for now.
Takeaway #2: Dodgers are going to have an interesting decision when Howie Kendrick returns. Chase Utley has been fantastic, but Howie Kendrick is returning on Tuesday. Through 33 plate appearances so far this season, Utley is putting up a slash line of .310/.394/.448. While he is unlikely to keep up that level of play all season long, he’s still producing well for the team right now and is their primary leadoff hitter. The Dodgers are slated to play against the Arizona Diamondbacks during Los Angeles’ home-opening series, and Arizona will be throwing two left-handed starters out there in Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray. That might be the time to give Utley some rest since Howie Kendrick is rumored to be back by Tuesday.
However, the start by Utley should have some people wondering what might happen. The injuries to Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and Scott Van Slyke have left a major hole in left field for the time being, and someone like Howie Kendrick, or even Kiké Hernandez, could be manning left field against left-handed pitchers. By doing so, it could open up the possibility that Chase Utley could still bat in the leadoff spot against lefties. Even though Utley is just 1-for-6 against lefties to start the season, he could get a chance here and there. Utley’s great start to the season must have the coaching staff wondering what to do, though, when Kendrick is able to play nearly every day. This really is not a bad dilemma to have.
Takeaway #3: Despite the series loss, you still have to like a few of the things that happened. Even though they lost the four-game series, the Dodgers have to like some of the things that happened. They pounded Jake Peavy for 10 hits and four runs in five innings during the first game, watched a rookie pitcher have 7.1 no-hit innings in the second game, got Madison Bumgarner out of the game early enough to stage a comeback against the Giants bullpen before stealing the third game, and then had six runs on 10 hits against Johnny Cueto. The losses definitely stink, but there had to be some positive stuff to take out of everything.
The Dodgers were either in every game or playing well for stretches. If things go just a little differently, the Dodgers sweep this series. They had a 4-0 lead in the first game, a 2-0 lead in game two, and were up 5-0 today. This was a series that could have easily been a sweep or 3-1 victory for either side. Unfortunately, because of how cruel things can be sometimes, this was a 3-1 Giants series and you have to accept that. It wasn’t like the Dodgers got outplayed all series long and that’s why they lost. They had leads in each game but couldn’t win them all. Sometimes that’s the way it goes. Take the bad with the good. Still, the positive stuff was there.
Takeaway #4: The bullpen has some issues, but we knew that already. In terms of things that can wrong, everything seemed to go wrong for the bullpen in this four-game series. In the 10.2 innings that they pitched over this stretch, they gave up 17 hits and 12 runs. They only struck out nine batters while walking five. It was brutal to watch. The only reliever who made an appearance this weekend that managed to not give up a hit was closer Kenley Jansen. That was it. It was just not an ideal performance for the bullpen. However, we knew there would be ups and downs with this specific cast of characters.
The bullpen issues have come under fire, both justified and unjustified, early on in the season. The front office has taken a lot of heat for the way they decided to upgrade the bullpen, which was by bringing in Joe Blanton and Louis Coleman. Some people wonder why they ever backed out of the Aroldis Chapman trade, but they had their reasons and it’s not like Chapman would have been available today anyways since he is serving a 30-game suspension. Anyways, this will be a roller coaster affair. In 2015, the Dodgers bullpen was 5th in FIP but just 19th in ERA. The front office was banking on their ERA catching up to their peripheral stats. That takes time. It won’t happen over the first week of the season. It might not happen at all, but try to be patient and let everything normalize.
Takeaway #5: Keep everything in perspective early in the season, especially because of injuries. Earlier today, I sent out a tweet that compared the 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers to The Walking Dead. Go ahead and look at the list of injuries that the team is dealing with. It’s quite expansive. Carl Crawford, Carlos Frias, Scott Van Slyke, Howie Kendrick, Brandon Beachy, Mike Bolsinger, Brett Anderson, Andre Ethier, Yasmani Grandal, Alex Guerrero, Hyun-jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, and Frankie Montas are all injured. And those are just the guys who could have made an impact during the 2016 season. A lot of those guys will be back, some sooner than others, so help is on the way.
The point of all of this is that you have to keep everything in perspective. The Dodgers were never as good as opening the season with a sweep of the Padres by outscoring them 25-0, and they’re not as bad as losing a series to the Giants after blowing three leads. You have to keep it all in perspective. The Giants aren’t dealing with any injuries right now, but the Dodgers are dealing with a ton of them. At full strength, when they do indeed get there, the Dodgers are still the class of the National League West. But the first month or two will be an exercise in patience and perspective. It’s best to remember that as this team will surely lose another game from now until October.