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Then came the hell that was the series in San Francisco.
In a horrendous series the Dodgers fumbled away leads of 4-0, 5-0, and a rainy day, no-hitter that Ross Stripling took into the eighth inning. The previously untouchable bullpen proceeded to give up 12 runs in 10 2/3 innings.
When they returned home to face Arizona, the bullpen still stunk. At one point skipper Dave Roberts just tossed the other relievers and went straight to Kenley Jansen for a 5-out save when Pedro Baez came in with a 3-1 lead and immediately put the tying runs on base.
In their first eight games the Dodgers had leads in each, but managed to implode and lose half of them. Dodger starters had allowed 14 runs in 49 1/3 innings, but the bullpen allowed 16 runs in 21 2/3. That’s more runs than the starters in less than half the innings. The Dodgers went from a potentially dominating division leader, to a mediocre assembly of has-been’s and never will be’s.
Dodgers writers, fans, the blogging community, and Twitter-heads were up in arms. One could only imagine the hand wringing that was taking place behind the blue doors of the Dodgers’ clubhouse.
All of that has since changed. Slowly, one inning at a time – one batter at a time – the Dodgers bullpen has gotten up off of the mat and has gained new life as Blue Firemen.
Here’s the latest bullpen update: Dodger relievers have allowed one earned run over their past 26 1/3 innings (0.34 ERA).
J.P. Howell, who was earlier blowing up the curve for the bullpen’s stats with a personal ERA of 54 (!), has dropped it to 10.13. At least that’s traveling in the right direction. Since returning from the paternity list Chris Hatcher has retired 13 batters in a row.
And the big man, Kenley Jansen has been absolutely devastating for opposing batters. Through the ups and downs of this young season, Jansen has been solid from day one. There can be no discounting what his presence has meant to the bullpen.
Every time he steps through those bullpen gates and onto the field, everyone in Dodgers Nation, from the front office suits to the folks who still love the team despite not being able to watch them on TV, knows it’s settled. He’s human, but he’s sure been carrying the Dodgers bullpen like he aint.
Speaking of giving credit where credit is due, skipper Dave Roberts has managed the pen very well these past few games. He has taken a collection of smoldering and busted odds and ends, and coaxed new life out of them by skillfully inserting – and then replacing them – as needed.
As a result, the bullpen has emerged from the Dodgers doghouse, and it’s once again functioning as a well-balanced unit capable of getting the job done. I’m sure that plane flight to Colorado saw the Boys in Blue feeling like a complete team.
Of course, all of this feel good doesn’t fix the lousy bullpen construction brought to us over the past two years, or lousy starters who can’t go beyond 4 innings – courtesy of a front office more concerned with maximizing immediate profits than actually putting a credible pitching staff on the field that’s worthy of wearing the Dodgers’ name.
However, those are points for another column, on another day. Today the bullpen has earned the kudos that I bring. Bravo and well done, indeed.