A problematic victory
First the good news. Once Ryu went down and the Dodgers had to turn to the bullpen in the second inning, it seemed very unlikely they could pull out a victory. When they only managed to score two runs it seemed even unlikelier. Yet, baseball being baseball the bullpen shut down the Diamondbacks until Kenley Jansen entered the game, and luckily for Jansen, they hit three balls right at Dodger fielders and the team came away with a well earned 2 – 1 victory to break their four-game losing streak.
Dodger fans can rejoice for a brief moment with the improbable victory last night but it came with a cost. For the past thirty days, Ryu was neck and neck with Alex Wood for the best pitcher on the team and the beleaguered Dodgers could ill afford to lose him but that is what happened yesterday. Not only did the Dodgers lose Ryu, the offense continued to sputter tallying only two runs once again.
The Dodgers have played ten games starting with Monday, April 23rd. In those ten games, they have scored two runs four times, and three runs twice. In the midst of all that was the fifteen run outburst on Saturday but that outburst can’t hide the fact, this Dodger team, as it is currently constructed, is going to struggle to score runs.
If you have a team that is going to struggle to score, you need to have the pitching to offset that struggle. You need a bullpen to shut down the opposition so those meager runs can hold up for victory at least 55% of the time. Last night, for the first time in a week, the bullpen did the job and was fantastic.
The closer, not so much. Kenley Jansen got the save but it was not a save any Dodger fan can find solace in. Kenley had a two-run lead to work with. He gave back one of those runs and ended the game with the winning run on base. He faced five batters, and every batter struck the ball hard. He didn’t throw one swing and miss pitch. Not one. Out of nineteen pitches. Kenley Jansen cannot be successful if hitters make contact. The velocity seems back, but the wicked cutter is not so wicked. Time should solve this, but it has been a month and every Dodger fan is holding their breath when KJ is asked to bring home a save. Last year Jansen walked seven hitters in 68 innings. This year he has walked six in just twelve innings. I didn’t heave a sigh of relief last night after that effort. I won’t sigh that relief until I see Jansen throw unhittable pitches, and we have not seen that at all this year. This team is not good enough offensively without Turner/Seager to have a closer who can’t get it done. The next time, the lead may not be two runs.
This team can afford one hit to the rotation at a time. Walker Buehler is a fantastic option to replace anyone in the rotation, but beyond Walker, it could get dicey. Rich Hill is supposed to be back this weekend so Walker could slide right into Ryu’s spot as Ryu mends from his leg injury. Hopefully, they don’t have another pitcher go down.
But………..isn’t every Dodger fan wondering if Kershaw’s back is okay? He certainly isn’t pitching like Kershaw. Is it just the first step in a natural declining phase for a 30-year-old pitcher with almost 2,000 innings on his arm? Or is it more sinister, and a back issue? Given he has had two consecutive seasons with back issues it does seem reasonable to me, to worry about this issue.
The Dodgers didn’t have enough confidence in Brock Stewart to make the start this past Monday, giving that start instead to a pitcher who never pitched more than two innings in any game in 2018. Would they turn once again to Ross Stripling if they need another starter? Dodger fans have to hope they don’t find out the answer to that question.
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