DODGERS BULLPEN FALTERS BIG TIME
Starter Bolsinger leaves because of illness and relievers can’t hold the lead.
PHOENIX — At first, the Arizona Diamondbacks hitters were the ones looking queasy. It is a look that Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal has grown accustomed to when Mike Bolsinger is pitching crisply, as he was for the start of the Dodgers’ 10- 6 loss Monday.
Curveballs tumbled in, up high, in the dirt, inside and out. It was familiar for Grandal. Most at- bats against Bolsinger, he says, the batter steps out and shakes his head. His shoulders slump.
“Shaking his head, things like that, trying to breathe,” Grandal said. “I’m like, why are you trying to breathe? You’ve got a guy throwing 85 mph. It’s not like [ Cincinnati closer Aroldis] Chapman is up there.”
The Dodgers led, 4- 0, and Bolsinger cruised into the fourth inning. Then he grabbed his side, looking ill. Dodgers trainer Stan Conte visited. Bolsinger f inished the inning but could go no longer. The Dodgers said he
was suffering from f lu- like symptoms.
After he exited, the Dodgers bullpen quickly imploded. Joel Peralta and Yimi Garcia yielded two runs in the f ifth and sixth innings to tie the score. After the Dodgers rallied to retake the lead in the seventh, Juan Nicasio gave up two runs to tie the score again. Then, in the eighth, Pedro Baez gave up a go- ahead double to Welington Castillo, plus three other runs.
It was unfortunate timing for Bolsinger, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks for cash in the off- season. At the time, the move seemed like a footnote. Bolsinger was 1- 6 in one season in Arizona. He’d never won at Chase Field.
In his first time back, Bolsinger held the Diamondbacks scoreless and threw only 48 pitches. Of three hits yielded, only one left the inf ield. Yet, he remains winless in Phoenix.
Monday was, f leetingly, the culmination of Bolsinger’s turnaround. Grandal remembers batting against Bolsinger last season and looking to sit on his sluggish fastball. His curveball had enough bite to catch Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly’s eye — “That’s his bread and butter,” Mattingly said — but he never f igured out how to leverage it. Bolsinger wallowed with a 5.50 earned- run average.
When Grandal heard the Dodgers had traded for Bolsinger, he watched the tape on all of his 2014 starts. His best starts, Grandal saw, came when he threw a cutter to keep hitters honest and leaned heavily on the breaking ball.
“So that’s what we did,” Grandal said. “We worked his curveball, whether it was in, out, down the middle, dirt. And then did the same thing with the fastball, in, out, up and down.”
In half a season, Bolsinger has been a savior for the back half of the rotation. He showed cracks two starts ago, when he gave up f ive earned runs against the San Francisco Giants, but has since stabilized. With another four scoreless innings, his ERA dipped to 2.76.
“You really don’t know what he’s made of until you give him a shot,” Adrian Gonzalez said. “He’s done great.”
Last week, Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, indicated the Dodgers are shopping for starting pitching. The question becomes, has Bolsinger been good enough to keep his rotation spot?
Mattingly said teams may have more success against Bolsinger when they face him for the second and third times. And there is concern that he doesn’t last deep into games. He has averaged 52⁄ innings per start.
Perhaps Bolsinger’s illness underscored his value. The Dodgers bullpen had the fourth- best ERA in the National League before the game, but four relievers couldn’t f igure out the Diamondbacks the way he had.
After the disastrous eighth inning, the Dodgers slumped off the field, almost as if, by the end, their stomachs were a bit upset too.
JUSTIN TURNER of the Dodgers is forced out at second base by Nick Ahmed of the Diamondbacks in the f irst inning.