After the long weekend against the Rockies in Denver, following a pair of extra-inning wins in Alanta, the Dodgers were without the three pitchers in the back end of their bullpen on Monday, with closer Kenley Jansen and setup men Chris Hatcher and Pedro Baez all unavailable, per manager Dave Roberts.
Jansen had closed games the previous two days, and pitched in four of the previous five days.
Hatcher threw in four of the previous five days.
Baez threw in each of the previous three days.
Zach Lee was around, but really only if needed for long relief, if Stripling faltered early or if the game went into extra innings.
Stripling didn't falter early, though his pitch count was up. He didn't allow a run until Giancarlo Stanton homered off him in the fourth inning, then one inning later Stanton hit a laser double to the right field wall for another run.
With a limited bullpen and the bottom of the order due up, Roberts tried to coax another inning out of Stripling in the sixth. But it didn't work, with Stripling allowing two more hits and the go-ahead run.
"I just felt if we could get another inning, with the bottom of the order, and just kind of the state of our pen," Roberts explained. "We had a lot of guys down today, and we even extended Joe."
Joe would be Joe Blanton, who recorded the final four outs in his third consecutive day of work. He'll likely be unavailable on Tuesday, Roberts said, as will Adam Liberatore, who pitched Monday to two batters, his third appearance in four days.
It doesn't help that Dodger starters haven't been lasting deep into games, especially outside of Clayton Kershaw and Kenta Maeda. As a collective unit, Dodgers starters are averaging 5.88 innings per start, but Stripling on Monday marked the sixth time in the last seven games the Dodgers starting pitcher has failed to last six innings.
In fact, the last starter other than Kershaw or Maeda to last six innings was Stripling himself on April 14.
J.P. Howell, unused in Colorado, recorded two outs to keep the damage at bay in the sixth, and Louis Coleman looked great in the seventh, striking out two — including Stanton — in a scoreless inning fresh off bereavement league.
Both will be available tomorrow, and Roberts said the day off Monday should be enough for Jansen, Baez and Hatcher to be available on Tuesday as well, without needing a roster move to fortify the relief corps.
"That was big," Roberts said. "We have Kersh going tomorrow, and the big three in the back end getting a day, we're back on track."
Depleted and tired bullpen you say? This seems like a perfect time for Kershaw to take his turn in the rotation, which he will do on Tuesday night in the second game of the series. The Marlins will counter with right-handed pitcher Tom Koehler.
It is likely the bullpen will be officially back down to seven pitchers on Tuesday, since someone will have to be removed from the roster to accommodate the return of Carl Crawford. Lee remains the most likely to head back to Triple-A Oklahoma City.