DODGERS BULLPEN FAL­TERS BIG TIME

Starter Bolsinger leaves be­cause of ill­ness and re­liev­ers can’t hold the lead.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Zach Helfand

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.

Ross D. Franklin As­so­ci­ated Press

JUSTIN TURNER of the Dodgers is forced out at sec­ond base by Nick Ahmed of the Di­a­mond­backs in the f irst in­ning.

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