LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers looked like a beaten-down team Thursday night.
Seven games in six days with rain following you all around the middle of the country can tend to make a team look a little soggy. So can landing at 3 a.m. and having to be at the ballpark 10 hours later. So can a heavy dose of young St. Louis Cardinals ace Michael Wacha, particularly when your pitcher puts you in a 5-0 hole by the time you bat in the fifth inning.
The Dodgers knew what they were up against – fatigue, a radically depleted bullpen and an unfavorable pitching matchup – going into Thursday, which made a 7-1 loss to Wacha and the Cardinals fairly easy to swallow, to put it bluntly.
The state of the Dodgers going into Thursday was pretty well summed up by manager Don Mattingly’s glowing praise for young pitchers Carlos Frias and Daniel Coulombe, who took all seven runs and 12 hits worth of abuse from the Cardinals lineup so that the remainder of the bullpen, used heavily in Colorado, could rest its arms.
Mattingly called Frias and Coulombe the “heroes of the game,” an interesting choice of words from the manager of a $270 million team after a six-run loss.
Granted, those two pitchers were able to help get the bullpen back into order, but the rest of the team is showing signs of going to shambles. Howie Kendrick has a sore, stiff knee from an awkward slide on a wet field late Wednesday night in Colorado and Mattingly hinted that, if Kendrick doesn’t improve overnight, he could be headed to the 15-day disabled list.
Kendrick would join Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Scott Van Slyke among Dodgers hitters sidelined by injuries. The pitching staff is in worse shape, down two starters and three relievers. But the Dodgers realize that nobody is going to care about their excuses if things start to go sideways because their front office has been talking about the team’s depth for months and nobody feels sorry for the rich teams anyway.
Plus, there could be help on the way. Puig figures to return next week and Hector Olivera, the 30-year-old infielder from Cuba who the Dodgers signed for $62.5 million, is at Double-A and might not be far from joining the major-league club. In his professional debut for Tulsa, Olivera went 1-for-4 with two walks Thursday night.
The Dodgers have gone 9-13 in their past 22 games. In their only games against winning teams, they are 3-10. Asked about the fatigue of the team and the mounting injuries, Mattingly said the only thing he could say without sounding like he was reaching for excuses.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “you win or you lose.”