LOS ANGELES -- If you've found yourself underwhelmed by the names being bandied about in the early days of baseball's trading season, if Matt Garza and Ricky Nolasco and Joe Saunders don't get you fired up, consider Friday night instructive.
Pitching hasn't been the Los Angeles Dodgers' downfall this season, but it could be.
The Dodgers went into Friday with the eighth-best ERA in baseball, their starters with the fifth-best ERA. Those ranks are perhaps a bit disappointing given what they thought they had, but far from the reason they're stuck in last place.
What has doomed them, of course, aside from the injury-a-day plan, are underperforming hitters. Matt Kemp hasn't been Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier hasn't been Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig haven't been around enough.
But that doesn't figure to continue and neither, perhaps, does the good pitching. If you looked at the Dodgers' Nos. 2 through 6 hitters Friday night, you'd see the potential for one of the deepest, most dangerous lineups in baseball. It has begun to poke through in recent games.
Puig is sparking it, of course, but Kemp and Ethier have looked revitalized, Ramirez looks lethal and Adrian Gonzalez just keeps on trucking.
The Dodgers rank 27th in the majors in runs scored on June 28, but if they can keep their guys on the field (OK, use your imagination), they won't be ranked 27th on Aug. 28.
On the other hand, if Chris Capuano and Stephen Fife (or Ted Lilly) are in their rotation and Matt Magill is the backup plan, things could get a little dicey. If they have to rely on Brandon League, Peter Moylan or Matt Guerrier in tight games, they could get dicier.
Capuano can be forgiven for an occasional clunker like Friday night's, in which he couldn't get out of the fourth inning and gave up seven runs and 10 hits. He had pitched well in his past two starts and five of his past six. Fife has been perfectly serviceable as a No. 5 starter. But the Dodgers' depth has been tested all year and their Triple-A options are not good.
The Dodgers, if they are in contention, will look to add one starter and one reliever between now and the July 31 trade deadline. Assuming the selling teams really are open for business, there's no time like the present.