PHILADELPHIA -- After Tuesday night's meltdown loss, reliever Pedro Baez was given a seat in the dugout by manager Dave Roberts to watch a few games, and on Wednesday night he watched bullpen mate Thomas Stripling have a meltdown himself.
So the Dodgers were beaten again by the last-place Phillies, 7-5, for a new losing streak of four. The Dodgers' bullpen has suffered back-to-back losses and has taken the defeat in four of the club's last five losses, which is no way to prep for the postseason. The Dodgers' magic number to clinch the National League West remained at 2 after the D-backs defeated the Padres in San Diego.
Asked to protect a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning, Stripling faced four batters -- walking the first and serving up home runs to two others. Luis Avilan came on in the eighth, also walked the first batter he faced, then threw the ball into center field after fielding a sacrifice bunt. Brandon Morrow, likely to inherit the setup role from Baez for the postseason, replaced Avilan and gave up a go-ahead two-run single off the wall.
"The walks got us," said manager Dave Roberts.
They usually will. When all was well and the Dodgers were streaking at record-breaking fashion, their bullpen was the best in the league. Kenley Jansen is still around to slam the door when a lead lasts long enough for him to get a chance.
Morrow and Josh Fields, who figure to make the October roster and take the innings usually handled by Baez, have been used sparingly lately to keep their arms fresh. Stripling has been given an extended tryout in high-leverage situations, and losses Sunday in Washington and Wednesday in Philadelphia are indications it hasn't gone well.
"I felt good with Ross coming in for that part of the order, his pitch mix really set up well," said Roberts. "But walk the leadoff batter, hang a breaking ball and it's a new ballgame. He's been victim of that -- look back at the last three or four outings. He understands he's got a job to do, it's just not going the right way. We still need him to get going and pitch those leverage innings."
That's not unlike the explanation Roberts was giving 24 hours earlier regarding Baez, who is serving a timeout in hopes he can regroup with a solid homestand and reclaim management's trust.
As with Baez, Roberts figures the recent rough outings have taken their toll on Stripling's confidence. He has allowed runs in each of his last four outings, the ERA soaring from 3.06 to 3.95.
"I don't think it's physical, I don't think it's mechanical," Roberts said. "As far as the mental, there is some bleeding. When you don't have success, it could bleed into the psyche. He's very competitive, strong-minded. We have all the confidence in him; we need him to get where we want to go."