In the 9-4 win over the New York Mets Tuesday, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bullpen combined to pitch four shutout innings and allowed just three hits. Four relievers were called on, none of which was Brandon League, who has evolved as one of the more dependable arms.
Instead, the task was left to, in order of appearance, J.P. Howell, Chris Withrow, Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen. The struggling Wilson recorded one strikeout and allowed just one hit in his lone inning of work as he continues to search for the location and velocity that made him so effective last season.
Wilson hasn’t been the only disappointment this season, as Jansen has already reached half of 2013’s blown save total in substantially less number of appearances. While the bullpen’s collective numbers certainly aren’t anything to write home about — they hold the third-highest ERA (4.38) and are tied for the most losses (11) in the National League, manager Don Mattingly offered perspective on his relievers poor perception, via OC Register’s Bill Plunkett:
Our whole bullpen – they’ve taken the flack or they’ve taken the brunt of some things. But it’s really been a funny season as far as getting those guys on track,” Mattingly said. “We’ve asked them to pitch in roles – the last two times Chris Perez pitches, for instance, nothing’s on the line and he’s pitching in a total blowout. Those are just not good situations for guys that are used to pitching late in games.
The Dodgers found themselves in two lopsided games last week, first at home against the Miami Marlins, then on the road against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Both times, backup catcher Drew Butera was called on to pitch in effort to preserve the bullpen.
In the two games, the relievers combined to allow 12 runs as the Dodgers lost each game by 10 and 11 runs. The situation has been exacerbated by Dodger starters failing to pitch deep into games on a regular basis. Normally reliable Clayton Kershaw managed to go just 1.2 innings in his latest start and it further added to what’s been a taxing season for the bullpen.
The bullpen has been but one of multiple issues that have kept the Dodgers from resembling the team that took the NL West and postseason by storm in 2013. Fortunately for the Dodgers, there’s plenty of baseball left to be played as they try to evolve into a complete team.
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