Los Angeles Dodgers in State of Flux After Chad Billingsley Injury
General manager Ned Colletti must really be regretting not acquiring a starting pitcher at the non-waiver trading deadline.
I still contend that Ian Snell would have been a cheap buy and an easy fit for the Los Angeles Dodgers and right now they could certainly use an extra arm in the rotation, as ace right-hander Chad Billingsley aggravated his left hamstring on Friday night against the Atlanta Braves.
Just one start earlier, he left the game with a strain to his right hamstring in a game where he earned the victory against the Braves.
Manager Joe Torre announced that due to the recent injury, Billingsley would miss his scheduled start on Wednesday against the rival San Francisco Giants, leaving a hole in the rotation for the series finale. It appears that since the waiver wire has very little to offer, Jeff Weaver will most likely step up to be the in-house replacement for Bills.
If Weaver steps up to fill in, he will have to go toe-to-toe with defending Cy Young-winner Tim Lincecum (12-3, 2.20).
The injury to Billingsley also comes just days after the Dodgers lost fifth starter Jason Schmidt to the disabled list to another shoulder injury and leaves the club with an important week of games in the absence of their No. 1 starter.
Fortunately, the Dodgers finally get an off day on Thursday, which will allow Torre to skip the fifth starter in the rotation. That means Eric Stults will not take the hill this week.
That off day will also put an end to a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, in which the National League’s best team has gone just 7-11 so far.
Stults threw five innings and gave up three runs in a loss in Sunday’s series finale against the Braves. While he looked decent for the last man in the rotation, Stults didn’t display anything remarkable and leaves much to be desired. To even make the start, Stults had to have a few things fall in place for him to start the game in the first place.
Scott Elbert was notched to pitch the finale against the Braves on Sunday, but ended up appearing in extra innings on Friday night and receiving the loss. The Dodgers held a lead going into the ninth inning, but Jonathan Broxton blew his first save in 13 opportunities at Dodgers Stadium to send the game to bonus frames.
Elbert proceeded to allow two runs in just two-thirds of an inning, and was optioned down to triple-A Albuquerque the next morning. The Dodgers then planned on Jeff Weaver possibly making the start, but finally decided on Stults as the most reasonable option. In order to make room for Stults, they sent down infielder Tony Abreu, who was brought up just days earlier, to complete a weekend-long fest of roster transactions.
The skipped fifth starter also means that Clayton Kershaw (8-6, 2.73) will match-up with Dan Haren (11-7, 2.57) on Friday night in Arizona. It will surely be a dandy of a pitching duel, as Kershaw leads the Majors with a .196 opponents batting average against and Haren ranks second with a .202 average against.
Randy Wolf (5-6, 3.55) will pitch tonight against Joe Martinez (2-0, 5.87) as the Dodgers will be in search of a series win after losing back-to-back series for the first time this season during the past week against the Milwaukee Brewers and the Braves.
A win against the Giants for Wolf tonight would assure the Dodgers at least a five and a half-game lead when they exit town after Wednesday afternoon’s rubber match. It would also be a pivotal victory for the Boys in Blue to send a message to the chasing Giants and the Colorado Rockies that last week’s losing ways are a thing of the past.
The Dodgers are glad to be embarking on a lot of games within the NL West; they have 49 games remaining in the regular season and 30 are against opponents in the West division.
"I am looking forward to [NL West games], because we've played these guys," Torre said. "A lot the teams we've been playing like the Braves, we hadn't played them, and now we play them two weekends in a row."
Entering the San Francisco series, the Boys in Blue had played 30-straight games outside of the division. They went just 15-15, so Los Angeles is happy to return to the familiar faces of the NL West, where they have the best record inside their respective division in all of baseball, at 31-12.
They won 4-2 last night in the series opener behind six and a third strong innings by Hiroki Kuroda. He surrendered just one run, which came on a solo home run by Travis Ishikawa, and induced 12 ground ball outs on a night when he dominated the Giants lineup.
Unfortunately, the St. Louis Cardinals loom shortly ahead after a weekend series with the Diamondbacks. They issued a beat down to the visiting Dodgers, taking three of four at Busch Stadium two weeks ago. The good news is that Torre anticipates that Billingsley will be able to make his scheduled start on Monday against the Cards at home.
Trainer Stan Conte watched Billingsley’s bullpen session and was pleased with his progress. Billingsley threw 32 pitches but felt an increasing grab in the hamstring with each mounting pitch.
If the team can just take two of three from both the Giants and Diamondbacks, it will bridge the gap between Bills missed outing and maintain their lead in the division amidst marked uncertainties in the rotation.
PJ Ross is a Featured Columnist for the Los Angeles Dodgers
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