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Frustrated Chris Hatcher takes the loss in finale with Braves

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LOS ANGELES -- The perplexing season of Chris Hatcher continued on Wednesday night with a loss to the Braves. The only two batters who faced him reached base in the eighth inning, and both scored, sending the Dodgers to a 3-1 deficit that would become a 3-2 loss.

He allowed a broken-bat pop fly single to Andrelton Simmons, then with pinch-hitter Todd Cunningham trying to lay down a sacrifice bunt Hatcher walked him on four pitches.

Both runners scored. His ERA is 6.91.

"I would say I'm executing my pitches, but I'm not getting results. It's extremely frustrating," Hatcher said. "That showed tonight. They were trying to give me an out and I couldn't throw a strike. I got no words for you, it's just really frustrating."

Hatcher isn't the only one frustrated. Just ask former Dodgers announcer Ross Porter.

Hatcher throws hard, averaging 96.84 mph on his four-seam fastball and 96.15 mph on his sinker this year, per Brooks Baseball, and both pitches have been faster in May than in April.

"We know his stuff is there, we know he's capable. You don't lose faith in him. It's been a little bit of a roller coaster," manager Don Mattingly said. "A few of the other guys out there got off to a really good start early, but it hasn't been quite as consistent lately. It's something we've talked about."

Hatcher's ERA in May was 3.00 entering Wednesday night (it is 6.00 now), after a 7.56 mark in April. But if there is one glaring difference in the two months, it's in strikeouts. In April Hatcher struck out 15 of 38 batters faced (39.5%), but in May just two of 31 batters he faced have struck out.

We are talking about all of 14⅓ innings on the season here, so take these numbers with a grain of salt. But peripherally Hatcher is having a fine season. Despite his 6.91 ERA, his 17 strikeout, five walks and no home runs allowed give him a 2.23 FIP and a 3.58 xFIP.

But waiting for the numbers to even out isn't a luxury most relief pitchers have, nor does it make giving up actual runs any less annoying.

"I feel like every ball put in play is a hit off me, recently," Hatcher said. "A couple of those were poor pitches. But what's frustrating is when you execute your pitch and somehow the ball still finds the ground or the guy ends up on first."

Stripping away Hatcher's walks and strikeouts (he hasn't allowed a home run), he has allowed 44 balls to be hit into play this year, and 18 have dropped for a hit. That's a .409 batting average on balls in play, which is 10th highest among the 378 pitchers to have thrown at least 10 major league innings this season.

With runners on base, Hatcher's BABIP is .565 (13-for-23).

Mattingly keeps using Hatcher is important spots, hoping the tide will turn. Wednesday was the 10th time in 11 appearances in May that Hatcher was brought in in the eighth inning or later, and in 10 of those 12 games the Dodgers either had a lead or were tied.

Hatcher entered Wednesday with an above average leverage index of 1.113 (average is 1.0), measured by Baseball-Reference.

Wednesday was Hatcher's fourth loss of the season. No other relief pitcher on the team has more than one loss.

"When you're going out there and letting the team down every time, it's a big knock to your own confidence. You have 24 other guys depending on you," Hatcher said. "I feel like I'm a pretty hard worker. I try to make corrections, but it's just not working. I'm glad they have confidence in me, but I don't know why."

Up next

The Dodgers on their off day Thursday will fly to St. Louis, where a three-game weekend series against the Cardinals awaits. The battle of division leaders begins with Mike Bolsinger on the hill Friday night, facing John Lackey.