Monday, June 8, 2015

Despite trying virtually everything, middle relief is still a huge problem

Picture this scenario: Eighth inning, Dodgers beating the Cardinals 2-1, Adam Liberatore staying in the game after getting the last out of the seventh.

Do you have confidence that the Dodgers will hold on to win?

I certainly didn't, and guess what?  They sure as hell couldn't do it.

Alas, it's another frustrating end of the game, as the Cardinals scored three times, and the Dodgers had zero answers in dropping the finale of the four-game set 4-2.  Good thing Clayton Kershaw was masterful on Saturday, because the Dodgers lost all three of the other games.

We all know how lousy the offense has been, as they scored a grand total of six runs in the four games, and that was without facing the great Adam Wainwright, who's done for the season.  Hell, the Cardinals scored seven runs on Thursday, which has been practically unheard of for this damn team.

Rather, let's focus on the middle relief.  That is, the horrendous arms that are trying to bridge the gap to Kenley Jansen, and failing miserably.

Sunday night it was up to Liberatore and Juan Nicasio.  That's how desperate the Dodgers are - relying on a guy who wasn't with the club to begin the year, and another who was supposed to be there for long relief.  Liberatore did get Kolten Wong swinging to end the seventh, and should've been pulled right after.

Instead, Don Mattingly stuck with him to pitch to Matt Carpenter to start the eighth.  It didn't work, as a walk later, Nicasio came in.  To his credit, he did have a 1.48 ERA coming into this appearance.  But don't be fooled - those weren't against the Cardinals in the eighth inning of a one-run game.  This was a whole different animal in which he failed miserably.

To sum it up quickly, Matt Holliday ripped an RBI triple to tie it, Jhonny Peralta an RBI single to take the lead, and Mark Reynolds a deep RBI double to get some cushion.  Yimi Garcia got a double play to end the inning, but was lucky since it was a liner to short that Jimmy Rollins caught and doubled Reynolds off of second.

By the way, Nicasio's ERA shot up to 2.19 based off that one appearance alone.

I, along with many others, am kind of at a loss on what exactly the Dodgers can do.  They've tried everything under the sun the last couple of years.  The former closers (Brian Wilson, Brandon League, Chris Perez) and young arms (Garcia, Liberatore, Chris Hatcher) and it's just not working.  I'll give them this, at least they've tried a bunch of different options.

Right now, the Dodgers will probably just have to accept the fact that this is truly a trial-and-error process until somebody, ANYBODY, steps up and can pair himself with Jansen.  With Joel Peralta and Pedro Baez still out, then I wouldn't be opposed to giving flame throwing Josh Ravin a chance for holds.  He's only pitched 2 1/3 innings, but with two strikeouts and no walks.  Better than watching Hatcher screw things up, right?

From what I can tell, Baez could be back soon.  That would great news, and I'd immediately give him the ball in the eighth as well and see what happens.

As for J.P. Howell, who has an 0.63 ERA in 21 appearances, I wouldn't consider him as a major option in the eighth.  Perhaps sometimes he could, but he throws so soft, and with a 1.40 WHIP, I wouldn't totally trust him to be the guy.  He's better off earlier in the game for hitters here and there.

Maybe Andrew Friedman has a move or two up his sleeve, and we're about to find out.  Then again, maybe not, and the Dodgers are stuck with who they've got.  Which, um... isn't much.  But until this thing gets figured out, the awful middle relief will continue to hold them back from becoming a serious threat to come out of the National League.


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