Los Angeles Dodgers: Playoff Hopes Lie in the Hands of the Bullpen

James ShimCorrespondent ISeptember 5, 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 23: Reliever Ronald Belisario #51 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on July 23, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Dodgers, who have been neck-and-neck with the Giants all season long for the NL West divisional lead, have seen their gap widen in the past few days. The Dodgers are now 4.5 games behind the Giants with only 25 games left before the postseason, and a game and a half out of the second wild card spot in the National League. 

Even with a lineup that boasts Matt Kemp, Shane Victorino, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers can't seem to find a winning streak and catch up to the Giants. 

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, an overworked and injury-depleted bullpen have them losing close games. Asked about his bullpen, manager Don Mattingly said, "We're just at the point where we're kind of at the end of our rope after the last few days with guys unavailable in the bullpen," Mattingly said. "But we have confidence in the guys that are here."

Don Mattingly also knows the toll his bullpen has faced, as he has said, "Every day I feel like I'm down a guy, the way I'm having to use the back end right now."

 Truebluela.com shows a chart of the recent workload of the Dodgers bullpen.

As far as injuries go, the Los Angeles Times reports that closer Kenley Jansen is hoping to return to the bullpen in the middle of the month. 

Jansen, who struggles with irregular heartbeat and has not pitched since August 27, may look to a cardiac ablation, which is designed to deaden scar tissue and change the heartbeat rate. 

The Dodgers have also reported through Twitter that reliever Javy Guerra will be placed on the 15-day DL due to a left oblique muscle strain. 

In 45 games played this season, Guerra has struck out 37, and allowed 13 earned runs. 

In a crucial stretch of the season, the Dodgers must limit their losses to keep their playoff hopes alive. With an overworked bullpen, the Dodgers must find a way to conserve them, yet stay in position to win. 

With the clock ticking as the postseason draws closer, the Dodgers bullpen may be the deciding factor in the next few games. A few close wins here will keep their playoff dreams a reality, but a faltering bullpen with a few losses in the next few games will have the Dodgers' playoff chances slipping away.