The Dodgers bullpen woes reached a nadir in front of a national television audience, with Jim Johnson taking the brunt of the whooping stick in a nine-run seventh inning in a stunning 13-6 loss to the Pirates to complete a three-game sweep at PNC Park.
The Dodgers once led Sunday's contest 5-1 but held a 5-3 lead as late as one out in the seventh inning, with Johnson on the mound making his fourth appearance since joining the Dodgers. He faced 10 batters and retired two of them, allowing eight runs.
There was a time in the inning when the game still seemed winnable by the Dodgers, when Johnson had faced just four batters, hitting a batter and allowing two singles after a strikeout, holding a 5-4 lead with runners at the corners and the switch-hitting Neil Walker due up.
Walker is hitting .275/.333/.447 against right-handed pitchers this season, and just .254/.309/.317 against left-handers, and J.P. Howell was warming up during the inning.
Howell was not brought in, presumably with manager Don Mattingly expecting his new setup man to be able to get such an out.
Johnson got an out, but it was a sacrifice fly to left that tied the score at 5-5.
Then Johnson remained in the game and walked the left-handed Gregory Polanco to load the bases.
Then Starling Marte hit a 75-foot single up the third base line to give the Pirates the lead.
Johnson remained in the game and allowed singles to Andrew McCutchen and Aramis Ramirez to give Pittsburgh a 9-5 advantage.
Finally and mercifully, Johnson's 33-pitch nightmare outing was done. But the Pirates weren't.
Jung Ho Kang greeted white flag Joel Peralta with a three-run home run to make the score comically lopsided.
Johnson's start with the Dodgers has been spectacularly bad. He has allowed 12 runs on 11 hits and three walks while recording 11 outs. He allowed 12 earned runs and two home runs in 48 innings with the Braves.
Johnson's ERA as a Dodger is 29.45.
Peralta allowed another home run in the eighth inning, this one to Francisco Cervelli.
Is there a solution buried somewhere in the bullpen rubble? I really don't know, but just about everyone has been bad at some point in the last month or so, and at some point some of these very same pitchers will need to be the ones that are part of the solution instead of the problem.
But for now, the doubt is as high as it has ever been for the Dodgers bullpen, and with good reason.
Oh yeah, and second baseman Howie Kendrick has a left hamstring strain.
Howie Kendrick getting an MRI tomorrow.— J.P. Hoornstra (@jphoornstra) August 10, 2015
I can't imagine the flight home will be fun.
Men of steal
The Dodgers stole four bases, with four different players swiping a base - Andre Ethier, Kendrick, Joc Pederson and Carl Crawford - including three against starter Charlie Morton. The Dodgers' previous season high for steals in a game this season was two, done four times including Friday night in the series opener.
With six steals in the three-game series, the Dodgers matched their total for their previous 26 games before arriving in Pittsburgh.
The Dodgers return home in the wee hours Monday morning, then begin a seven-game homestand on Monday night against the Nationals. Monday night's starter, Brett Anderson, flew back to Los Angeles early so he will be nice and rested. Washington will start southpaw Gio Gonzalez in the series opener.
Home runs: Kiké Hernandez (5); Andrew McCutchen (17), Jung Ho Kang (9), Francisco Cervelli (6)
WP - Arquimedes Caminero (2-1): 2 IP, 2 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts
LP - Jim Johnson (2-5): ⅔ IP, 6 hits, 8 runs, 1 walk, 1 strikeout