A lot went right for the Dodgers in taking down the Braves in the NLDS. Carl Crawford hitting three home runs. Hanley Ramirez hitting .500. Juan Uribe's series-clinching two-run shot. Clayton Kershaw's one earned run in 13 innings. Kenley Jansen being untouchable.
But for all that went right, one thing definitely needs improvement against the Cardinals in the NLCS: middle relief.
It wasn't all doom and gloom, at least. Brian Wilson pitched three scoreless innings in three appearances. J.P. Howell was also scoreless over three appearances covering 2 1/3 innings. Chris Capuano relieved an ineffective Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 3 and didn't allow a run in three innings, though did have control problems with three walks. But hey, no runs is no runs.
As for the rest of the 'pen (minus closer Jansen)... yuck. Chris Withrow took over for Zack Greinke in the seventh inning of Game 2 and only got two outs, getting charged with two runs. Paco Rodriguez relieved Withrow, gave up a huge two-run single to Jayson Heyward, then was yanked. Ronald Belisario walked Justin Upton, then he too was yanked.
In Game 3, Capuano, Howell, and Belisario were effective, but Rodriguez was not. All he had to do was get the final three outs with a nine-run lead, and three hits and a walk later, including a massive two-run bomb by Heyward, Jansen had to get the last out. It was very disappointing.
Then there was Belisario in Game 4, who was horrible. After taking over for Kershaw in the seventh, he got the first out, but then allowed a triple to Elliot Johnson and an RBI single to Jose Constanza. And just like that, he was done.
All in all, here are the ERA's for the following: Belisario - 9.00, Withrow - 27.00, Rodriguez - 27.00. UGLY.
A case can be made that those are small sample sizes, but in the playoffs, everything is. There's really no way of spinning those numbers into something positive at all. They all pitched only 2 1/3 innings, yet gave up five runs, seven hits, and four walks.
At this point, I'm sure Don Mattingly will use Howell, Wilson, and Jansen in the late innings with a lead. But what happens when they need innings if they're losing or the game is tied? That means more of the guys with the ballooned ERA's. Advantage, Cardinals.
However, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Dodgers make some roster changes for the NLCS. I think Belisario will stick around, mostly because he never seems to go away. But Withrow and Rodriguez could get ousted in favor of guys like Carlos Marmol and/or Brandon League. I was a little surprised Marmol wasn't on the NLDS roster, so I would lean towards him making the championship series round.
Friday night is Game 1 in St. Louis, so keep an eye out for the final 25-man roster. The Dodgers know these games will be tight, so the boys in the bullpen will have extra importance. Getting a fresh arm or two in there can only help.