The Dodgers’ depth has been tested in an uncommon fashion this season, and on Wednesday night the depths of their patience was tested while getting routed 12-2 by the Rockies, who have won the first two games of this three-game series at Coors Field in Denver.
Clayton Kershaw last pitched on June 26, and while the club has performed admirably in his absence, the toll on the rest of the pitching staff has been enormous.
On a day the Dodgers confirmed what most assumed or feared, that Kershaw would not return until Aug. 27 at the earliest, the club also lost two of its most trusted members of the bullpen, with Adam Liberatore and Louis Coleman also hitting the disabled list, extending the Dodgers’ own National League record with 25 players in the infirmary in 2016.
After the Dodgers were able to survive with four starters for two weeks thanks some well-timed off days, Brock Stewart was asked to fill in on Wednesday with his second major league start.
It did not go well.
Staked to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, Stewart allowed two singles to open the bottom of the inning then left a pitch over the plate to Nolan Arenado, who crushed a ball into the seats to give Colorado the lead.
After a single, Mark Reynolds followed with a home run to center field, one that Joc Pederson had a beat on but couldn’t quite catch, and lost his glove over the wall trying to make the grab.
The Dodgers have allowed five or more runs in a single inning eight times in 107 games in 2016, and Stewart was on the mound for two of them, one in each of his major league starts.
Though Stewart was able to settle down after the rocky first inning, he ran into more trouble in the fifth. After getting a combined 11 outs out of their starting pitchers in the previous two games, the Dodgers desperately needed length from Stewart, but it wasn’t to be.
He faced five batters in the fifth and retired none, allowing two more home runs as Colorado broke the game open.
Stewart allowed 9 runs on 10 hits while recording 12 outs on Wednesday, becoming just the fourth Dodgers pitcher in the last 104 years to allow five or more runs in each of his first two major league games, and the first since Terry Wells.
By all accounts, Stewart has had a wonderful 2016 season, climbing both the prospect list and the Dodgers organizational depth chart. He has a bright future and that hasn’t really changed. But his first two major league starts have been mostly terrible.
Dodgers starting pitchers have failed to finish five innings 10 times in their last 23 starts, averaging just 4.82 innings during that span, with a 5.59 ERA.
Meanwhile, Julio Urias pitched three innings of mop-up duty. He allowed three runs of his own so obviously isn’t beyond reproach, but if there is some rhyme or reason to his usage pattern I certainly haven’t figured it out yet.
And I’m not alone.
Julio Urías will be good (great) but I don't agree with the way the Dodgers are handling him this year.— Alex Cora (@ac13alex) August 4, 2016
The Dodgers head into the weekend hoping to have Rich Hill ready at some point with his blister, and hope to have Bud Norris and his tight lat ready too.
Whether the Dodgers need to dip deeper into the pitching well remains to be seen, but whoever is on the mound will need to do better than what the Dodgers got in the first two games of this series.
Then again, San Francisco does seem to want to cooperate, falling 5-4 in Philadelphia on Wednesday night to keep the Dodgers still just two games out in the National League West.
The Dodgers try to avoid the sweep with Kenta Maeda on the mound on five days rest. Tyler Chatwood starts for Colorado in a 5:40 p.m. PT start.
Home runs: Justin Turner (19); Nolan Arenado (27), Mark Reynolds (12), D.J. LeMahieu (7), Carlos Gonzalez 2 (23)
WP - Tyler Anderson (4-3): 7 IP, 6 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts
LP - Brock Stewart (0-2): 4+ IP, 10 hits, 9 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts