Saturday, August 16, 2014
Injuries are unsettling Dodgers' plans
By Mark Saxon
LOS ANGELES -- No matter how cushy their lead appears or how reassuring it is that the San Francisco Giants remain stuck in the mud on their heels, this is certainly not a comfortable moment for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The latest moment was nice, sure, but this one is filled with anxiety.
How can you be entirely comfortable when your No. 3 starter just joined your No. 4 starter on the disabled list, your No. 2 starter admits he hasn't been feeling all that great at times and your starting third baseman just felt something in the same hamstring that caused him to miss five weeks earlier this season?
Zack Greinke had an erratic outing and admitted he has had a tough stretch recently and trying to "not get too out of whack."
How quickly things can change in a pennant race, even when they don't. The Dodgers lost 6-3 to the talented and scrappy Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night, but their lead remained 5 1/2 games because the Giants blew a lead at home and then lost in extra innings to the Philadelphia Phillies.
But what makes things so tense, all of a sudden, for the Dodgers is a mounting array of injuries. The team put Hyun-Jin Ryu on the disabled list again, this time because of a pair of strained muscles in his right buttock. Josh Beckett was already on the DL and probably will stay there the rest of the season.
Juan Uribe left the game midway through it because of tightness in his right hamstring, the one that kept him on the DL for all of June. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly admits he's concerned about Uribe, who has been one of the Dodgers' most unheralded contributors, particularly with his glove.
"A little bit, because it's the same leg," Mattingly said. "We've seen hamstrings, and they're pretty finicky."
But all those concerns would pale in comparison to something being wrong with Zack Greinke. After laboring through five innings -- scoreless though they were -- in 99 pitches, Greinke admitted he has been dealing with something lately. His command wasn't sharp Friday. His five walks would usually have been three games' worth for him. In his previous two starts, both mediocre by his standards, he had admitted to some fatigue and, at times, trouble throwing his slider.
"I'm starting to feel better now," Greinke said. "Hopefully, I start pitching better in the coming starts. The last month and a half has been a tough stretch. A lot of good teams, a lot of good offenses and just not getting the wins pitching, but trying to keep it together and not get too out of whack."
That last phrase is a pretty good description for what happens when the main pitchers in the Dodgers' bullpen aren't available: Things get out of whack. After throwing 31 pitches in a stressful four-out save Thursday in Atlanta, closer Kenley Jansen wasn't available to Mattingly on Friday. Neither was Brian Wilson. That sent a trickle-down through the bullpen, and you don't have to trickle far before you find a soft spot.
Things got a little messy. Wright gave up four straight hits, and the Brewers tied it 2-2, then League's sinker to pinch hitter Lyle Overbay didn't sink. What it did do after Overbay took a whack was careen into the left-field corner and clear the bases to give the Brewers a three-run lead and wipe out the good vibes of the Dodgers' 6-3 trip.
They have lost three of four games so far to Milwaukee, a team they very well could run into in the playoffs.
Afterward, Mattingly said his one regret was not starting the inning with League to face the heart of Milwaukee's order and reserving Wright for a situation such as Overbay pinch hitting. Wright, though right-handed, has been more effective against left-handed batters than righties this season.
With a limited deck, Mattingly might have played the wrong card, but the bigger concern is the deck seems to be shrinking by the day.