White solid, but rotation questions remain

August 12th, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- and Co. did their job to pick up a shorthanded Dodgers' pitching staff on a bullpen day in Thursday's series finale against the Phillies.

Unfortunately, Los Angeles' bats couldn't do the same for a shorthanded lineup.

The Dodgers managed only three hits in a 2-1 loss at Citizens Bank Park. Their lone run came on a sequence in which the ball did not even leave the infield. Catcher Austin Barnes reached on an infield single in the fifth, then advanced to second on a walk and third on a wild pitch before ultimately scoring on a Trea Turner groundout.

Still, Los Angeles managed to take two of three from a Philadelphia team that had won eight straight before the Dodgers came to town. The series victory came without Mookie Betts and Justin Turner, the latter of whom was unavailable Thursday and will not play Friday. The Dodgers will make a decision on his status prior to Saturday’s game.

Betts’ and Turner’s bats were missed on Thursday afternoon, particularly in the ninth inning. Though the Dodgers didn’t record a hit in the final frame, they managed to load the bases on two walks and a hit batter. Yet with Turner unavailable to pinch-hit, Billy McKinney flied out harmlessly to left field to end the threat.

That resulted in Los Angeles’ 21st one-run loss this season. Only the Marlins and D-backs -- a pair of last-place clubs -- have more losses by a single run. It also spoiled a solid pitching effort on a day when White allowed two runs over four innings before turning it over to the bullpen. Four Dodgers relievers combined to allow just one hit over four scoreless frames.

“They're throwing the ball well. They gave us a shot to win today,” Barnes said. “They gave us every opportunity to win that game, we just didn't scratch enough runs across.”

White made his second career start to give Julio Urías (starting Friday vs. the Mets) and Walker Buehler (starting Saturday) an extra day of rest. Max Scherzer will take the ball in Sunday's finale at Citi Field. Of course, filling that fifth spot with White (and the bullpen) is only necessary to begin with due to fellow starters Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin both being on the injured list, alongside Betts. 

"I think we're in a good place right now,” White said. “Obviously, there have been a lot of injuries and guys have been going up and down, up and down. But it feels like guys are kind of starting to bear down and get ready for the push."

The Dodgers expect their rotation to have a different look at this time next month as they still try to overtake the Giants in the NL West. Los Angeles hopes to get Kershaw (left forearm inflammation) back in early September. Gonsolin (right shoulder inflammation) will be stretched out as a potential starter as he works his way back over the next couple weeks. Danny Duffy (left flexor strain) will be on the IL until at least Sept. 15. Cole Hamels is "still building up" at the team's facility in Arizona.

The 37-year-old Hamels has made just one MLB start over the past two seasons, but Roberts still sees him as an option to join the rotation down the stretch.

"That's the hope," Roberts said. "That's why we signed him."

Getting even one of those arms healthy and up to speed would potentially fill that fifth spot. Ideally, though, the Dodgers are hoping to get two starters out of that group, which would give them flexibility with David Price, who has rejoined the rotation because of the injuries to Kershaw and Gonsolin. The club would prefer to stretch out all of those options as starters, even if they won't all ultimately lock down a rotation spot.

"The goal is if you can stretch them out as much as they can be stretched out, you can always shorten them," Roberts said. "So just read and react."

At the same time, the club recognizes that time could quickly become a factor -- not just in terms of recovering from injuries, but also in terms of making up ground in the standings. With Thursday's loss, the Dodgers fell 4 1/2 games back of the Giants, pending the result of San Francisco's game Thursday night vs. the Rockies.

“We've got to get going, for sure,” Barnes said. “But we can't worry about the Giants. Obviously, we have to win baseball games. If we take care of what we're supposed to take care of, it should take care of itself.”

It’ll start with winning games like the one on Thursday -- and improving on that 13-21 record in one-run ballgames.

“This one hurts, but we're going to turn the page,” Barnes said. “We feel good about our team, feel like we're going to start clicking and hopefully go on a good little streak here.”