Saturday, August 16, 2014

8th inning could be the Dodgers downfall

Remember last season when Brian Wilson was signed, and the Dodgers had the ultimate 1-2 punch with Kenley Jansen down the stretch and in the postseason?

Well, it sure was fun while it lasted.

The combination of Jamey Wright and Brandon League were the latest to not get the job done in the setup role, as they turned a 2-0 lead into a 5-2 deficit, and the Dodgers dropped one to the Brewers 6-3.  At least the Phillies had a comeback of their own in beating the Giants, so the lead in the NL West remains 5 1/2.

To say the eighth inning was ugly would be an understatement.  Here's the final tally: nine batters, four hits, five runs, one walk, one strikeout.  Most of that damage was done against Wright, who gave up four of those hits and one intentional walk.  Even his one out was a hard lineout by Jonathan Lucroy leading off.  Every ball hit against him was hard.

League was put in a tough situation of the bases loaded and one out, but he did get Rickie Weeks swinging for two down.  But, as has been the case over his three-year deal worth $22.5 million, he couldn't get a second big out, as Lyle Overbay's double cleared the bases and any hope of the Dodgers winning.  It was pathetic.

There's no doubt in my mind that the biggest issue the Dodgers face right now is bridging the gap to Jansen.  There certainly isn't a Wilson circa 2013 Don Mattingly can turn to.  Wilson, by the way, had an 0.66 ERA in 18 appearances last season.  Little did we realize just how much we'd miss that version of Wilson.

About the only reliable guy in the 'pen before Jansen is J.P. Howell, but he's not your prototypical setup man.  He relies on the soft stuff, and is very effective at it.  In 39 1/3 innings, he has a 1.37 ERA.  I think Mattingly should just ignore the lefty-righty stuff and pitch him more in the eighth regardless.  It certainly can't hurt.

But other than Howell... yikes.  It's just a whole lot of nothing to turn to.  Here's my breakdown of the other choices, and why they're.... well, not good choices:

Wilson - 5.26 ERA, and can't seem to pitch a clean eighth
League - Much better ERA at 2.32, but the bigger the pressure, the worse he gets
Wright - Had a chance to make a positive impression, and showed why he's much more suited to pitching earlier in the game
Chris Perez - Currently on the DL, and when he's back, has absolutely no business taking the mound in any inning
Pedro Baez and Carlos Frias - Too young and inexperienced to pitch in a big situation.  But then again, it's not like they can do any worse, so why not try them?

So like I said, there just aren't any solid options to turn to.  I actually liked it on Friday night when Donny gave Wright a chance to do the job.  It definitely backfired, but the other options are so bad, it was worth a shot.

This is definitely a big concern heading into the postseason.  The only positive is that the Dodgers have really good starting pitching in Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu (who hopefully can rest his sore butt!).  They can pitch deep into games, which would then limit the amount of relievers needed.  We hope.

If I'm Jansen, I'm making sure my arm is plenty rested and ready to go in October.  I absolutely think Donny will call upon him in the eighth for more than the traditional three-out save.  Donny really has no choice.  Might as well skip all the other bums and go with the Big Dog.

Will someone actually step up and finally claim that setup role over the final month-and-a-half?  That will be the major question facing the Dodgers the rest of the season.

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