PHOENIX -- Over the last few seasons, the Dodgers haven’t had to worry about their pitching staff. It’s been one of the best in the Majors, a massive reason why Los Angeles won 217 regular-season games over the last two seasons.
Though it is still early in the season, this year’s staff faces more questions than in recent memory. The rotation currently has some injury concerns and the Dodgers are banking on bounce-back seasons from pitchers like Noah Syndergaard. In the bullpen, performance is always volatile.
All those concerns were visible in the Dodgers’ 12-8 loss to the D-backs on Saturday at Chase Field. The 12 runs are the most allowed by the Dodgers this season, and it matches last season’s worst performance.
“I thought we swung the bats well, and when you score seven, eight runs, you expect to win a ballgame,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “But it seemed like every guy we were running out there, we couldn’t put up a zero. It doesn’t happen very often with our ballclub, but you’ve got to give those guys credit.”
The Dodgers’ offense came out swinging against D-backs starter Zach Davies. James Outman capped off a four-run first inning with a two-run homer, his third of the season, all against the D-backs.
In previous seasons, a four-run lead by the Dodgers in the first inning felt insurmountable. It wasn’t on Saturday.
After dominating Arizona in his first start of the season, Syndergaard wasn’t able to find the same success. The right-hander went with a sinker and slider combination in his first start against the D-backs, but he leaned on his four-seamer and changeup more in his second start. His changeup wasn’t nearly as effective as he wanted, and his velocity still didn’t see the uptick he’s been hoping for.
Syndergaard allowed a pair of two-run homers in the second inning, which erased the Dodgers’ early lead. He allowed six runs on eight hits over four innings. He struck out just two.
“Just poor execution with my pitches,” Syndergaard said. “They capitalized on just about every single one of my mistakes, and it was difficult to find a rhythm. And when I did, I wasn’t successful at shutting down their offense with two outs. Just a super disappointing outing, especially when the offense comes out like that in the beginning of the game and scores eight runs. It’s definitely one that I’ll want back.”
Though Saturday didn’t go as planned for Syndergaard, the Dodgers knew these outings were possible as he continues to work through his mechanics and perfecting his delivery. But the bullpen struggles are a new development and one the team hopes will return to its usual form sooner rather than later.
Alex Vesia, who has been the Dodgers’ best left-hander in the bullpen each of the last two seasons, has had a tough start to 2023 and allowed a run for the third straight outing against Arizona. Brusdar Graterol followed Vesia and allowed two runs in his one inning. Andre Jackson gave the Dodgers some length with two innings, but the right-hander gave up three runs on five hits.
The Dodgers’ bullpen has allowed nine runs over the last three games.
“They’re working through it right now, but the league’s not gonna wait for you,” Roberts said on his bullpen. “So you still need to perform while you’re trying to figure things out. … We got to work through some things.”
It hasn’t been the nine-game start the Dodgers were hoping for following a quiet winter and some key departures. It’s a long season and the Dodgers will continue to wait for key reinforcements that are currently on the injured list, including Tony Gonsolin and Daniel Hudson.
But after winning 111 games last year, the margin for error for this Dodgers team doesn’t appear to be as wide as it was during the last two seasons.
“We’ve been together, what, eight weeks now including when some of us were gone for a couple [of weeks],” said Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman. “You can’t really pinpoint anything right now. They just scored more runs than us tonight. That’s going to happen, but take a lot of positives out of it, go out tomorrow and try to salvage a series.”