"Never felt like that on a mound before," said McCarthy, whose first four starts were sharp, followed by one bad inning in a four-inning start, then Tuesday's three-run outing. "Coming back, there's a lot of ups and downs, but when the feeling was off, I was able to get through it. Tonight, just the opposite. There were just some horrific, bad pitches in there. I just felt very weird."
After walking the first two hitters of the fourth inning and reaching 85 pitches, McCarthy was removed with a career-high five walks. He was asked if his repaired arm hurt, and he gave a curious response.
"Doesn't seem like it. Hard to even evaluate," he said. "Just working through the ups and downs of a season, but don't have the usual checks and balances."
Assuming McCarthy is healthy, that makes three in the current rotation with Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir. The Dodgers were hoping Hyun-Jin Ryu could return from shoulder surgery this year, but after one start he went back on the disabled list with elbow issues. Alex Wood needed elbow surgery after being shut down for two months trying to avoid it. Brett Anderson threw four innings Tuesday night in a Minor League rehab start and the club hopes he can return in two weeks.
For that matter, ace Clayton Kershaw hasn't pitched in more than a month because of a herniated disk in his back, and at last check, he hadn't resumed throwing. Management is hopeful that either Bud Norris or newly acquired Rich Hill can start on Saturday, but Norris made it only two batters Sunday because of lat pain and Hill is still healing from a blister so severe he compared it to cutting off a fingertip.
Norris left the bullpen with 8 2/3 innings to clean up on Sunday. After a busy Monday of trades and Yasiel Puig's demotion, McCarthy left five more innings for the bullpen to polish off. And the relievers figure to be busy again on Wednesday, when rookie Brock Stewart makes his second career start, in Coors Field against the streaking Rockies.
One of McCarthy's pitches in the first inning -- which was interrupted for 38 minutes by rain -- sailed three feet behind batter David Dahl. McCarthy said he was told by other Tommy John patients to expect games like this, but that doesn't really make it any easier.
"I'm OK with knowing it, but it's still the big leagues and a pennant race and you've got to find ways to get deeper," he said. "I feel terrible. You think you're doing everything right and have to get it right. Today, more pitches just went haywire. Usually you miss and know what to do to fix it, and tonight, whatever you try to fix wasn't there. I've talked to lot of people and you just lose the feel and don't know where the ball is."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.