Tonight’s game is/was important, and we’ll get to that in a second (even if you don’t want to), but first…
In the top of the fifth inning, Howie Kendrick led off with an infield single, just beating out a throw after Mike Morse was slow to field his grounder. Passing the bag, Kendrick hopped and grabbed his hamstring. He didn’t even try to stay in the game, leaving with Stan Conte immediately.
This, obviously, is bad news. The severity of Kendrick’s hamstring strain is currently unknown, but hamstrings usually take time. Luckily for the Dodgers, they have a lot of depth at that position. There’s Enrique Hernandez, of course, who has a lot of positional versatility and has been crushing left-handed pitching. There’s Jose Peraza, acquired from the Braves with Alex Wood, who has been hitting very well since arriving in Oklahoma City. Darnell Sweeney is having a down year but is still around. Alberto Callaspo can play second, opening up third base for Justin Turner when he comes back and for Alex Guerrero right now. Corey Seager can be called up to play third and Turner can play second when he comes back (seems unlikely). There are a lot of options to fill the void that Kendrick leaves. Other than corner outfield, this is where the Dodgers are prepared.
But, of course, this game. And… oh boy.
Through four innings, things were looking good. Alex Wood was looking like the guy the Dodger front office hoped they acquired. He was striking out batters and inducing a lot of ground balls. The Pirates managed to squeak one run across the plate in the third, but Wood looked great. The fifth is where things began to slowly become unglued, for both Wood and the Dodgers. Wood walked two batters and hit one and allowed an Andrew McCutchen two run homer on a hanging change-up. Wood’s command was clearly gone, so even though he had only thrown 91 pitches he was removed after the inning. That left 12 outs for the bullpen and… well, you see the image.
Juan Nicasio managed to make it through a high-wire sixth inning unscathed. Jim Johnson, though, was … scathed. The Pirates teed off for eight runs off of Johnson. Johnson wasn’t missing bats, so even though he wasn’t necessarily hit hard, at a certain point you can’t call it bad luck. Meanwhile, Don Mattingly stood by and watched the onslaught, with J.P. Howell ready for lefty Gregory Polanco. Joel Peralta came in and poured more gas on the fire, allowing a three run homer to Jung Ho Kang and a solo shot by Francisco Cervelli (on a night in which Mike Bolsinger pitched 3-2/3 innings of perfect relief in AAA). If Peralta is wearing a Dodger uniform tomorrow night, it’ll be upsetting.
The ugliness of the pitching masked the fact that the Dodgers did what everybody asked them to do, and manufactured runs. They scored five runs off of Charlie Morton without the aid of a longball (though Enrique Hernandez added a solo shot to dead center in the eighth). They even stole four bases. It’s hard to feel things about that though, after what happened at the end of the ballgame.
After all was said and done, the Dodgers were swept by the Pirates. The Cubs did their part and swept the Giants, but the Dodgers could have put the division away this weekend. All three games were, at one point, winnable. It stings.
The Dodgers will now return home (that flight is going to be miserable, I’m sure) to play the also-struggling Nationals. Brett Anderson will face off against Gio Gonzalez at 7:10PM PDT.