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Depleted Dodgers bullpen implodes late in loss to Brewers

Harry How

LOS ANGELES -- The Brewers touched up Jamey Wright and Brandon League for five runs in the eighth inning, the crowning blow a three-run double by pinch-hitter Lyle Overbay off League, turning a 2-0 Dodgers lead into a deficit and an ultimate 6-3 Brewers triumph on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers bullpen on the whole is shaky enough when at full strength, but Friday night it the holes became more apparent when two of its three preferred relievers were unavailable.

With Kenley Jansen it is understandable with his four-out save and 31 pitches thrown on Wednesday afternoon. Same for Brian Wilson, who pitched in three of the last four games. Both were down for manager Don Mattingly on Friday.

But for Mattingly not to use J.P. Howell to face the left-handed Overbay in the eighth inning was a terrible mistake. Mattingly said he was saving Howell for the ninth to close out the game, but that opportunity never came. Mattingly's rationale for not using Howell earlier in the eighth was reasonable, until Overbay, the only remaining left-handed threat the Brewers had, was called upon.

"That section there in the eighth was not a good spot for him," Mattingly rationalized. "We didn't feel it was the right spot for him."

The right spot for Howell was to face Overbay in a 2-2 game, with two outs and the bases loaded. Howell has held lefties to hitting .145/.263/.174 this season with two extra-base hits (both doubles) in 82 plate appearances, and 218/.301/.312 in his career. Lefties were hitting .306/.405/.323 against League this season, and .283/.351/.427 in his career.

Overbay in his career was hitting .250/.298/.381 against southpaws (5-for-26 this year), and .271/.362/.446 against righties (.233/.330/.347 this year).

Mattingly said using Howell for a four-out save wasn't an option.

"At that point, we don't have Kenley. We're still in the eighth," Mattingly said. "I guess I could have used [Howell], but then basically we're out of guys."

Mattingly said if he could do one thing differently, he would have started the eighth inning with League instead of Wright.

The one bright spot in the bullpen on Friday was Pedro Baez, who pitched two scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh as a bridge to the patchwork late-inning crew.

League has allowed 11 of 22 inherited runners to score this season.

Baez was needed so early because Zack Greinke had one of his wildest and weirdest games of the season, and only lasted five innings.

Greinke allowed a couple of singles in the first inning but worked out of the jam. He cruised through the second inning but then issued five two-out walks over the next three innings.

In the fourth inning, Greinke uncharacteristically walked Khris Davis, Mark Reynolds and Jean Segura in succession, though Segura may have been more of a pitch-around with the pitcher Nelson on deck. Greinke did strikeout Nelson with the bases loaded to end the threat, but the tax for his efforts was a 30-pitch fourth inning.

Greinke was pulled after five innings. He said he felt strong enough to pitch another two or three innings, but understood the decision to remove him.

"I walked four guys in the last two innings," he said. "Maybe I wasn't feeling as good as I thought i was. No matter how good I felt, I wasn't pitching that great."

Before Friday, Greinke had walked three or more batters in only two of his 24 starts this season.

The last time he walked three in a single inning was July 3, 2013 at Coors Field, when he walked four in the second inning of a win over the Rockies. Greinke tied a career high with seven walks that night.

The last time Greinke walked three straight batters was Aug. 8, 2012 with the Angels in the second inning against the A's. Greinke walked five in that inning.

Greinke's five walks on the night tie his season high, set on July 19 in St. Louis.


The first inning Friday in Los Angeles began the same way as the first inning Thursday in Atlanta. Gordon led off the frame with an infield hit, then stole second base, advanced to third on a throwing error by the catcher, then scored on a Puig single.

Gordon reached base again on a fielder's choice in the fifth and stole another base, his major-league-best 56th steal of the season, then Puig drove him in again with another single. The duo tried to repeat the feat again in the seventh, but this time after another Gordon single he was caught stealing. Relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler it seems was harder to run against that starter Jimmy Nelson, against whom the Dodgers stole four bases on the night.

Trailing 5-2 in the eighth inning, Puig doubled and ultimately scored on a sacrifice fly by Matt Kemp, but that was it.

The Brewers tacked on an insurance run in the ninth against Carlos Frias, then Francisco Rodriguez slammed the door in the ninth to close out Milwaukee's third win in four games against the Dodgers this season.

To make matters worse for the Dodgers, third baseman Juan Uribe left the game after six innings with right hamstring tightness. More information will follow on that after the game.

Friday particulars

Home runs: none

WP - Brandon Kintzler (2-3): 1 IP, 1 hit

LP - Jamey Wright (4-3): ⅓ IP, 4 hits, 5 runs, 1 walk

Sv - Francisco Rodriguez (37): 1 IP, 1 strikeout