With the Los Angeles Dodgers having only one day off over a month’s worth of games, two arduous extra-inning losses this week were not what they needed as they head into a jam-packed schedule that they have yet to be burdened with all season. Where as the rotation is proving durable, a struggling bullpen is certainly a product of these long games. Last week was defined by bullpen moves and outings that have left fans scratching their heads.
Dodgers Grade of the Week: C+
The good:Adrian Gonzalez has continued to be the golden child of the Dodgers lineup, as he’s recorded a hit in 15 consecutive games through Sunday. Gonzalez has five home runs and 20 hits in the hitting streak so far and he has been intentionally walked twice this week, with opposing pitching staffs recognizing the threat he poses. In other impressive offensive news, Juan Uribe came up clutch in the bottom of the ninth with a game-tying solo home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks, although it resulted in a loss.
The most impressive part of this week comes in the form of a pitching staff without its ace. Dodger starters gave up only four runs over the course of 36.1 innings pitched. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Greinke are solid as ever which is expected, and Dan Haren has also pitched well.
Paul Maholm and Josh Beckett, originally competing for the fifth spot in the rotation before Clayton Kershaw was put on the disabled list, are impressing the organization and fans alike. Maholm pitched six solid innings, allowing just one run and five hits in a win over the San Francisco Giants, and Beckett had two shutout starts this week, staying on the mound for five innings in each. Although Beckett is still working on his pitch count, he is proving to be a reliable asset to the rotation despite his track record of injuries.
As if the Dodgers starting rotation wasn’t good enough already, Clayton Kershaw threw three innings of full effort in a simulated game on Sunday and is hopefully set to return sooner than the initial June timetable. The Kershaw news is just icing on the cake.
The not-so-good:The move that shocked Dodger fans everywhere, Brandon League stayed with the team and and Paco Rodriguez was sent down to the minors. In wake of Brian Wilson’s return, everyone knew a reliever was going to be sent down, but no one, maybe even including Don Mattingly, guessed it was going to be Rodriguez. The Dodger manager seemed to half-heartedly explain this decision in saying that League is merely ‘one of our guys.’
Of course, one has to factor in that dropping League would cost the organization the remainder of his contract and that Rodriguez was one of three relievers with minor league options. The move seems slightly logical, that is, until one remembers Tuesday’s game. Who gave up the walk-off single to Hector Sanchez in the 12th inning? None other than Brandon League.
With Chris Withrow also one of the relievers that could have been optioned, many believed the 25-year-old right-hander was the more likely player to be sent down. Although he’s had an impressive season thus far, no one thought that Withrow would stay over the always solid and experienced Rodriguez. The questionable decision doesn’t appear to be a favorable one if looking at Friday’s game against the Giants when Withrow blew the tied game, starting with a wild pitch in trying to intentionally walk the batter that allowed a run to score.
Blunders from League and Withrow were inevitably responsible for two of the Dodgers three losses this week. Although Kenley Jansen seems to be back on his feet after a rough time last week, one has to wonder how badly the bullpen is hurting with just one left-hander in J.P. Howell.
Overall:Although the Dodgers remain at the top of their division and their starting rotation is on fire, the Giants are within a game. Going 3-3 this week, the Dodgers shortcomings came in the form of some inconsistent relief outings following Rodriguez’s departure from the bullpen. If the relievers can get their act together, the team is going to be unstoppable.
Dodgers News: A.J. Ellis Out, Knee Surgery, Clayton Kershaw Improving