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Dodgers Hurt By The Finish, But Burned By The Start

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 14:  Chad Billingsley #58 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium on April 14, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 14: Chad Billingsley #58 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium on April 14, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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The Dodgers dropped an extremely frustrating game Wednesday night, 9-7 to the Diamondbacks in 11 innings.  After using seven pitchers for the first 10 innings, including scheduled Saturday starter Charlie Haeger, the Dodgers were left with Russ Ortiz against the heart of the Diamondbacks' order for the 11th inning, a decidedly less than favorable matchup.  However, rather than pin all of the blame for this loss on Ortiz the younger, or even Joe Torre for his bullpen usage patterns, the key to this game was yet another poor outing by the Dodger starting pitcher.

Chad Billingsley was cruising into the fourth inning, having retired eight straight batters and throwing a total of 45 pitches to that point.  Billingsley struggled over the next two innings.  He threw 25 pitches in the fourth inning, allowing three runs that allowed Arizona to tie the game.  Then, after a Matt Kemp home run staked Billingsley to another lead, Billingsley threw 26 pitches in the fifth inning, allowing two more runs.  So beleaguered is the Dodger bullpen that Torre had Billingsley start the sixth inning, just trying to squeeze another inning out of his starter.  However, Billingsley couldn't finish the sixth, allowing another run, pushing his tally to six runs allowed on the night.

Yes, the bullpen has struggled so far this season.  A strong case can certainly be made that the Dodgers are carrying three pitchers -- Russ Ortiz, Ramon Ortiz, and Carlos Monasterios -- that probably shouldn't be in a major league bullpen.  But right now it doesn't matter who is in the bullpen, if the starters can't pitch six innings.  After watching the Dodgers issue nine walks, general manager Ned Colletti was disappointed in the club's lack of ability to throw strikes, reported Tony Jackson of ESPN LA:

"You can pitch with average stuff, but if you throw strikes, you can win. You can pitch with above-average stuff, but if you don't throw strikes, you're going to struggle."

Collectively, the starters and relievers have disappointed so far this season:

Starters 43.2 5.36 4.55 1.603
28.0 5.79 5.09 1.679

Jeff Weaver was unavailable tonight after pitching in six of the first seven games of the season.  Russ Ortiz was the eighth pitcher used, leaving only starters Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, and Vicente Padilla left, though not really available.  Down by two in the bottom of the 11th, Ortiz was pinch hit for by A.J. Ellis, the final position player used.  Chris Volk of was covering the game, and reports what Torre said would have happened had the Dodgers tied the game:

On who would pitch the 12th inning (if necessary): "It would have been one of those guys on the field…we would have found a volunteer in there somewhere…we may have gone lefty righty, back and forth."

We could have been this close to seeing former high school pitcher James Loney take the mound!

Other Notes

  • Jackson also reports that both Hong-Chih Kuo (who is throwing a 20-pitch rehab assignment in San Bernardino tomorrow) and Ronald Belisario could be activated during next week's road trip
  • Wednesday night was just the fifth time since the club moved to Los Angeles that the Dodgers lost a game in which they had 19 hits
  • Casey Blake's game-tying double off the left field wall in the ninth inning missed being a game-winning home run by what appeared to be two feet or less
  • Matt Kemp homered for the third time in four games
  • Rafael Furcal, Andre Ethier, and Manny Ramirez each had three hits
  • Russell Martin also had three hits, and a walk, improving his on-base percentage to an eye-popping .571
  • Ronnie Belliard smacked a double in his only at-bat, his fourth extra-base hit in 13 plate appearances this season.  Belliard is hitting .538/.538/1.077 this season
  • Ramon Troncoso got the final out of the sixth inning, pitching for the sixth time in seven games.
  • Jonathan Broxton retired all three batters he faced in the ninth inning, throwing 13 pitches
  • Mark Reynolds of the Diamondbacks made three wonderful throws from his knees that I can remember
  • The Dodgers have scored 52 runs in eight games, behind only the Phillies (64 runs) and Arizona (55) in the National League

Hiroki Kuroda and Dan Haren face off on Jackie Robinson Night, later tonight!

WP - Leo Rosales (1-0): 2 IP, 2 hits, 3 strikeouts

LP - Russ Ortiz (0-1): 1 IP, 3 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks

Box Score