Roberto Hernandez wasn’t particularly sharp today, which is becoming a usual trend. The Dodger offense was certainly active and gave the team a big lead, but depending on the bullpen this much was going to backfire at some point, and the Dodgers ultimately fell 8-7.
Hernandez only lasted four plus innings, allowing two runs while striking out four and walking two. He has not gone past 4-1/3 innings in each of his last four starts, which will be a big problem if Hyun-jin Ryu isn’t ready to go for the playoffs. Focusing on today, though, Hernandez allowed a leadoff home run by Chris Coghlan (who the Dodgers did not get out at all today). Hernandez was very deliberate as batters were able to foul off most of his pitches, routinely working deep into the count. He was really lucky that things didn’t get even worse. After a double and a walk to start the fifth inning, he was done.
Hernadnez’ line would have been even worse if Yasiel Puig didn’t do this, which secured the final two outs of the fifth:
He landed a bit hard on his shoulder, which led to this hilarious reaction. There’s a sniper in the ivy!
GIF link (via Chad, including the sniper joke)
The real story today is the bullpen, but Adrian Gonzalez had himself an afternoon which should not be overlooked. In the first inning, Puig surprised the Cubs’ infield with a bunt, beating out the throw for a single. Gonzalez came to bat and worked a 2-1 count against Felix Doubront, then deposited a cutter into the stands in right field. He came up again in the third, this time behind a Dee Gordon hit and a Puig walk. Doubront threw Gonzalez another cutter on the first pitch and Gonzalez hit this one to the opposite field, giving the Dodgers a 5-1 lead. Yasiel Puig and Scott Van Slyke almost hit home runs of their own, each hitting doubles near the top of the right field and left field walls, respectively. It didn’t seem like that would matter at the time, but we know how the game ultimately went. Dee Gordon singled twice, his eighth consecutive multi-hit game, tying Duke Snider‘s LA Dodger record (Pee Wee Reese has the franchise record with nine).
But, yes. You know it, I know it. The bullpen is a complete mess. Asking them to pick up 4+ innings every day for a week was going to backfire at some point. Paco Rodriguez cleaned up Hernandez’ mess, then Pedro Baez cleaned up Daniel Coulombe‘s one inning later, and that’s when things went downhill in a hurry.
J.P. Howell had a nightmarish seventh inning, walking one and allowing two singles before Arismendy Alcantara took him deep. It was the first home run Howell has allowed all year, and it drove in the second, third, and fourth runs of the inning. Howell has been batting with his control for awhile, and it has really caught up to him in the past couple of days. That’s concerning as the Dodgers frantically audition other lefties to accompany Howell on the playoff roster. Rodriguez seems like the logical choice at this point, though I’m a bit concerned about his lower velocity.
Brandon League got the final out of the seventh, which brought the Dodgers to the eighth inning leading 7-6. Brian Wilson was called upon and responded with absolutely no stuff. He was averaging about 85 with his cutter, touching 86 if he was lucky. I wrote about his declining velocity two weeks ago and he looks like he has nothing left in the tank. After allowing a hard single by John Baker and the Cubs foolishly bunted to force out the lead runner, Wilson hung an 85mph cutter to Coghlan, who hit his second home run of the day. Wilson continued floundering and allowed two more baserunners before Carlos Frias (?) recorded the final out.
The bullpen is a mess and we all know it. But until Brian Wilson looks like he has anything left he absolutely cannot pitch the eighth inning anymore. Howell obviously faltered too, and the replacements aren’t obvious, but Don Mattingly‘s status quo is not acceptable. Maybe that means Rodriguez, maybe that means Baez, maybe that means playing that day’s particular platoon matchups, but Wilson looked absolutely done out there today.
The Dodgers’ magic number will remain at six for the time being. The Giants will pitch Yusmeiro Petit against the Padres and Andrew Cashner at 5:40. The Dodgers are still up by three games, but today’s loss is certainly a bit deflating.
The Dodgers just announced that Jamey Wright will start tomorrow (oh joy), so we’ll get another game which will depend heavily on the bullpen performance. Wright and a collection of other Dodger relievers will face Jacob Turner at 11:20am Pacific Time.