It's been depressing, disheartening, and discomforting to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers (49-45), who have not won a game since the All-Star break (0-6).
Last night the Dodgers suffered a gut-wrenching loss to their rival San Francisco Giants when Andrew Torres hit a go-ahead, two-run double off the wall in the ninth inning off reliever George Sherill.
Don Mattingly then replaced Sherrill with Travis Schlichting, who gave up an RBI single later in the inning to the Giants' red-hot catcher Buster Posey.
Then in the bottom of the ninth, after the Giants had taken a 7-5 lead, the Dodgers last chance at recovery—Andre Ethier—stepped up to the plate with a man on second. After hitting a two-run home run earlier in the game, and notorious for producing in clutch moments throughout the season, Ethier had momentum on his side.
But what began as a hopeful 2-0 count evaporated into a demoralizing strikeout for the All-Star outfielder, sealing the Dodgers' sixth straight loss.
After manager Joe Torre was ejected earlier in the game, Don Mattingly took over, but made a potentially game-changing, managerial mistake in the top of the ninth. Mattingly approached closer Jonathan Broxton, who appeared just moments away from blowing his second save in three days, but then made the fatal error of stepping off the mound only to retreat a few steps back after hearing first basemen James Loney utter a question in the distance.
Rule 8.06(d) in the Major League Baseball rulebook states that only one visit can be made to the mound per inning by a manager or coach without removing the pitcher. Two visits to the same pitcher in the same inning means that pitcher automatically has to be taken out. The rule declares that "a manager or coach is considered to have concluded his visit when he leaves the 18-foot circle surrounding the pitcher's rubber."
Consequently, when Mattingly approached Jonathon Broxton on the mound two separate times, it forced the Dodgers' intimidating and experienced closer to leave the game and be replaced by Sherill.
The Dodgers handed the Giants a second victory in a row, but that was just the bitter topping on the cake for the slew of games the Dodgers have thrown away since returning from the All-Star break.
Being swept by the St. Louis Cardinals was a tough blow, but realistically they faced the stellar pitching of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, which completely shut them down.
But on the other hand, where was the Dodgers pitching?
Well, it's where it has been all season, mediocre and inconsistent.
While no team is flawless, the Los Angeles Dodgers most visible and detrimental issue has been their pitching staff. Other than Vicente Padilla, who has proven truly reliable on the mound, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Hiroki Kuroda continue to struggle and remain in a desperate search of their rhythm.
Even Broxton, a two-time All-Star, continues to underperform. After the Cardinals took two games from the Dodgers last week, Broxton let the third slip away last Sunday in a grueling 5-4 loss.
Neither Dodger All-Star has shined since the break. Other than last night's two-run home run, the powerful bat of Andre Ethier has been non-existent.
Aside from the burden of a capricious pitching staff, the Dodgers are without a leader. Ethier is too young, Loney too erratic, and Matt Kemp is too unpredictable. Though players like Rafael Furcal and Manny Ramirez have the experience, they have been plagued by injury.
In fact, in the midst of the Dodgers' despair, Ramirez was just put on the disabled list with a strained calf.
The Dodgers' bats need to be reawakened and rescue them from this bundle of losses.
A more consistent, dependable pitcher like Hong-Chih Kuo should replace the turbulent Broxton.
Finally, Joe Torre needs to come to the team's aid and revive it from this losing streak.
There is still a lot of baseball to be played and with an upcoming schedule that looks to be in their favor, hopefully the Dodgers can take advantage and regain their confidence and control.