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With Brian Wilson struggling, setup role unsettling for Dodgers

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers held on to win on Monday night, but the bullpen is still very much a work in progress. Brian Wilson allowed a two-run home run to Reed Johnson in the eighth inning to cut the Dodgers lead over the Marlins to 6-5, continuing a rough season for Wilson.

The home run to Wilson was supposed to be a fastball inside, but ended up more over the middle of the plate.

"The pitch to Reed is just not the right one. He's a guy that handles a ball in. You can't really get in there. I've never seen really anybody do that, throwing the ball by him inside," manager Don Mattingly said. "That's a bad area with him up there. [Johnson]'s an ambush guy."

Now with a one-run lead, Wilson was allowed to stay in the game, and retired both Giancarlo Stanton and Casey McGehee before Mattingly brought in J.P. Howell to face the switch-hitting Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who struck out to end the inning.

"Brian bounces right back. He gets two good hitters in Stanton and McGehee," Mattingly recalled. "I just couldn't let Saltalamacchia hit left-handed there."

Wilson has a 10.32 ERA through 15 games, with 30 baserunners allowed and just 34 outs recorded. The ERA is 9.58 since returning from the disabled list on April 17, compiled in a mix of low-leverage situations and tight games.

The saving grace for Wilson is his 21.5 percent strikeout rate, and that the club is convinced he is healthy, pleased with his velocity (92.4 mph average fastball entering Monday) but not always the execution and pitch location.

For the foreseeable future though, Wilson might continue to get those setup opportunities.

"We're going to keep trying. We want to get ourselves settled out there. We haven't had anybody really take everything over. We're still searching," Mattingly said. "We'll keep working towards it. We have a lot of guys back there who can do it, and [Wilson]'s going to keep getting better."

Up next

The Dodgers try for a modest two-game winning streak on Tuesday night, sending Josh Beckett to the mound to face Jacob Turner for Miami.