Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the start of last season’s historic 42-8 run that propelled the Los Angeles Dodgers from last place to atop the NL West standings.
After dropping the first game to the San Diego Padres, the Dodgers rebounded with a win Saturday and found themselves in a tight game Sunday. Hyun-Jin Ryu turned in another solid six innings of work, exiting with a 2-1 lead.
Ryu handed the ball over to the Dodger bullpen, which as a group has had its share of struggles this season; most recently Kenley Jansen blowing a two-run lead and save opportunity Friday.
Sunday was a different story however, as J.P. Howell, Brian Wilson and Jansen protected the lead in three innings of relief.
Of the three relievers, Howell was on the mound the longest, throwing 1.1 innings before giving way to Wilson. Howell didn’t allow a runner to reach base and collected one strikeout as he tallied his 17th hold of the season.
Following the win, Howell discussed the bullpen’s growth, via Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times:
It’s a unit,” he said. “It’s hard to build that. We were a unit in April but it was still in the building process. Every year the bullpens change. The early part of the season is a process that has to happen, grow with each other, knowing who’s behind you.”
Jansen also added his belief the Dodgers will be carried by the bullpen, in part due to their importance:
Not because I’m a bullpen guy, but the biggest piece of this team is the bullpen.”
Howell leads Dodger relievers with 37 appearances; six ahead of second-place Brandon League. Despite appearing in the most games out of the bullpen, the left-hander also has the lowest ERA and leads the team in holds.
Boosted by the mid-season signing of Wilson, the Dodgers bullpen emerged as a dependable force for manager Don Mattingly to use at his disposal. The reliever’s effectiveness hasn’t been the same this season, but they’ve steadily improved as the Dodgers’ overall play has.
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