Loss to O's provides valuable bullpen info

September 12th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- The first team to have locked up a postseason berth, the Dodgers can operate for the remainder of the season under an unfamiliar umbrella of comfort -- a far cry from last year’s Game 163.

Although his team still has home-field advantage left to play for, manager Dave Roberts’ concerns lie more with finding a group of 25 guys who can not just get Los Angeles into the World Series but finally end the 31-year drought.

Wednesday’s 7-3 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards was a perfect opportunity to do so. Roberts admitted earlier in the afternoon that pitching -- especially in relief -- is where more of the uncertainties lie, so perhaps it helped to get a look at seven different options during a bullpen game.

“I think if you look at who we have right now, I’d put them all in that bucket,” Roberts said regarding the members of the bullpen who are auditioning for a postseason spot. “There’s still a lot of baseball and a lot of decisions to be made.”

The six back-end performers who followed on Wednesday night were tagged for six runs (five earned), and although results matter, it’s not all that Roberts and his staff will be looking at.

“More the process; more the process,” he said. “And I think that when you are talking about the postseason and the game, the pressure -- execution matters. A flare, a bad walk -- that’s a big difference right there. Executing pitches -- those things matter when you get in the postseason.”

Here’s a look at what Roberts and the Dodgers learned on Wednesday:

Ross Stripling
Takeaway: Efficiency
Stats on Wednesday: 3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 K
Stats in 2019: 3.40 ERA, 4.32 K/BB in 84 2/3 IP (14 starts)

In short, Stripling’s outing was incredibly efficient, as he needed just 37 pitches to get through his three innings. The Dodgers have bounced Stripling, who missed all of August with injury, around both starting and relief appearances; the 2018 All-Star showed he could be an option in slightly prolonged bursts come October.

Takeaway: Stuff
Stats on Wednesday: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K
Stats in 2019: 4.55 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 4.2 K/BB in 27 2/3 IP

May followed Stripling with some dominance of his own. He set down his first three hitters in order -- twice thanks to nifty plays by -- and stranded a pair in the fifth.

His sinker was especially lethal, fooling hitters to earn five called strikes. One was nasty enough to sit down Chris Davis looking.

“We’ll see where [Stripling] lines up next, but I thought Ross was really good,” Roberts said. “With Dustin, I thought there were a lot of good throws in there. A little bit sprayed with the fastball, but when he needed to make a pitch, he did.”

Takeaway: Health
Stats on Wednesday: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 WP
Stats in 2019: 4.56 ERA, 11.13 K/9, .325 BABIP in 49 1/3 IP

Kelly made just his third appearance since Aug. 29, as he’s been dealing with a nagging lower body ailment. The results were rather mixed; a two-out single after a leadoff walk and a wild pitch made it a 2-2 ballgame a half-inning after hit a two-run homer. But confidence comes from his three punchouts and simply feeling closer to his old self.

“Talking to the training staff, they feel we’ve made strides,” Roberts said. “I think he’s in a stable, good place right now.”

Takeaway: Momentum
Stats on Wednesday: 1/3 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 HR
Stats in 2019: 5.13 ERA, 5.13 BB/9 in 40 1/3 IP

Ferguson’s night, while not ideal, was more of a blip on the radar. After Tuesday’s series-clinching outing, he entered play on Wednesday with a 1.59 ERA in his last 17 innings. He paid for a leadoff walk in a big way by allowing what would end up a game-winning three-run homer to Jonathan Villar that was also the MLB-record 6,106th long ball of the season.

“The walk to [Renato] Núñez, that just can’t happen,” Roberts said.

Takeaway: Bump in the road
Stats on Wednesday: 1/3 IP, 1 H, 2 R (1 ER), 1 HR
Stats in 2019: 3.42 ERA, 17 holds, 2.73 BB/9 in 52 2/3 IP

Kolarek conceded his first earned run since joining the Dodgers at the Trade Deadline. The homer bit him, too, but only after an error allowed the leadoff man to reach. Roberts wanted Kolarek to face Pedro Severino -- who hit the home run -- not just for the data against an opposite bat but also since it’s simply still not easy to match up for every at-bat in September. With two lefties on the docket around Severino, Kolarek was the man he wanted.

“I think a little bit of the intel, but you have a left-right-left situation,” Roberts said. “You’ve already kind of been into your ’pen, and every matchup can’t be perfect.”