JC's Dodger Line Drives | July 4: Coaches Nap While 'Pen Blows Game
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And now, for something completely different...
The Padres are to be commended for their clutch hitting in the seventh and eighth innings—They earned this victory. Closer Heath Bell extinguished the Dodger uprising in the eighth inning and earned his 23rd save of the season in fine fashion.
But it is the drastic mismanagement of the pitching staff in those late frames which put San Diego in position to claim that victory.
It was painfully obvious that Dodger reliever Ronald Belisario did not have his good stuff today. Hey, that happens in the majors. Some days you get the bear, and other days the bear gets you.
Still, it is proper to look at pitching coach Rick Honeycutt for failing miserably in his duties by not having someone backing up Belisario right away while he struggled with his control. Given his role as manager, Joe Torre is where the buck stops on all questions of player usage.
Only 10 of Belisario's 22 pitches were strikes. He gave up three hits, hit one batter, and walked one—while retiring only one batter, who gave himself up by laying down a sacrifice bunt.
Honeycutt and Torre don't even have the excuse of needing to rest an overused bullpen, as the recently activated Claudio Vargas is waiting for his first call to the mound as a Dodger hurler. James McDonald, Jeff Weaver, and Eric Milton were also on tap and waiting in vain for an opportunity to help the team.
Instead, they turned to the teams best set-up man, Ramon Troncoso, bringing him in out of his norm—with runners on and the team trailing by multiple runs.
This is not the time to call Troncoso's number. One shouldn't waste innings and pitches by putting your best set-up man in the game under such circumstances. This is how bullpens get burned out—by erratic and improper usage.
Yes, the Dodger pitching staff is the class of the majors, ERA wise. Brain cramps—such as what was witnessed Saturday—have been a rarity, but the fact it cropped up now is still troubling.
Honeycutt was a holdover from the Grady Little days. Torre didn't want to clean out the entire staff, and didn't have a ready set pitching coach in the lines of third base coach (Bowa) and hitting coach (Mattingly) to bring along—So Honeycutt was able to retain his position.
The Dodger's current pitching coach seems to do very well when it comes to working out pitcher's mechanics and other non-game time duties. However, he remains passive when a pitcher is struggling—often letting close games get away and saddling the team with unnecessary losses.
I have previously called for a change in the position. Greg Maddux would be a fine fit for the role if he is willing to take on the position. If not, there are other alternatives in the system, including bullpen coach Ken Howell.
In spite of their glossy numbers, the pitching coach is one of the greatest weaknesses the Dodgers have. It would be quite disappointing if his timidness during game time costs the team their shot at a championship season.
Manny Flexes Muscles
In the first inning, with two out and no one on, Manny Ramirez deposited a 1-2 changeup deep into the stands in left.
It was his only hit on the day, as the two other at-bats resulted in bang-bang plays that went against the Dodgers. In the fourth, Manny was called out on a very close play at first, and in the sixth, Russell Martin was ruled out on a force play that was extremely debatable.
Juan Pierre replaced Manny in left field during the middle of the sixth inning. He laid down a fine sacrifice bunt in the eighth inning, putting runners on second and third with one out.
Wolf Wasted Once Again
Dodger starter Randy Wolf continues to see his work wasted by his teammates. Wolf gave LA six innings of effective—if not efficient—pitching, allowing only one run and four hits. He struck out eight Friars and did not issue any walks. He did scuffle a bit with his control, throwing 62 strikes out of 100 pitches.
Wolf started his 18th game on the year and retains a 3-3 record with an 3.34 ERA, averaging a touch over six innings per start. The league has hit .235 off him and Wolf's WHIP is 1.15—a very respectable number for someone looked at for middle of the rotation support.
A very professional player, Wolf would not cast any aspersions towards his teammates. Still, the fact remains that they have not supported him in the fashion they should.
Clutch Hitting - MIA
The Dodgers were a feeble 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, which pretty much sums up the weak offensive performance the put forth. One run came across thanks to a wild pitch, and another via a ground out.
Matt Kemp singled home James Loney in the ninth, which accounted for the Dodgers' final run of the contest—but it was far too little.
Russell Martin singled twice, as did Casey Blake. The only LA extra base hit was Manny's blast, as the Dodgers were able to compile a total of nine hits.
Gloves Found Wanting
The Dodger defense was found wanting as well, committing three errors. Wolf threw away a comebacker, though it did not end up costing the team on the scoreboard.
The same can not be said for errors by Blake and Juan Castro. Both contributed the the three runs San Diego put on the board in the eighth inning to ice the game.
It is hard to end up victorious when you have major malfunctions in the pitching, hitting, and fielding aspects all in the same game. The best thing about a loss like the one the Dodgers had hung around their neck Saturday is that it helps keep a team humble, and realize they need to work hard every game—no matter who is in the other dugout.
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