Baez's struggles tough on Dodgers' bullpen

Right-hander yields 4 runs in decisive 7th against Phillies

September 19th, 2017
Pedro Baez allowed four runs on two hits and two walks over two-thirds of an inning Tuesday, taking the loss. (AP)

PHILADELPHIA -- For all that seemed to be improving for the Dodgers on Tuesday night, 's continued struggles led to a 6-2 loss to the last-place Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

As the club inches toward a fifth straight National League West title, the Dodgers, whose magic number dipped to two with the D-backs' 6-2 loss to the Padres, are dogged by a withering number of relievers who can reliably get games from the starting pitcher to closer .

Manager Dave Roberts gave Baez a 36-pitch rope to show his slump was over, but a bases-loaded walk was followed by ' 10-pitch bases-clearing double, exposing Baez's one-pitch arsenal and leaving Roberts waffling on whether the right-hander, a postseason participant the past four Octobers, will be one this time.

"There's a point -- am I there yet? -- where production has to come in, especially where we're at at this point of the season," Roberts said. "For a player to not believe the manager has confidence in him makes it that much tougher. Obviously, we have to make decisions here in the next week or two. Where Pedro is at a few weeks ago versus now, he's in a different spot.

"You've got to take your best 25 as far as the postseason roster. I don't think it's one isolated outing. He's still trying to get untracked. Certainly there's a lack of confidence to throw a strike at times. Coming in late in a game, you have to have the ability to throw a strike when you need to. He's been able to do that, but the last few weeks have been tough for him."

could be the setup man, as well as Josh Fields, whose spotty recent work pattern could just be a strategic freshening. Meanwhile, Baez's season has been much like his team's -- dominant for the most part, now wobbly.

"I try not to think negatively right now," Baez said. "I understand if I'm not on the roster I know why. If I am, I will continue to work hard. It hasn't been a good stretch, and I'm grateful they keep giving me the opportunities. Never been through a stretch like this."

Through the end of August, Baez had a 1.79 ERA. In seven September appearances it's 20.77, with a pair of four-run games. Roberts said he's sure Baez is healthy, but acknowledges that his reluctance to use secondary pitches has made Baez easier for hitters to wait out.

"You can see he's reluctant to throw anything secondary," Roberts said. "When you're a one-pitch pitcher, right now, which he seems to be, and you can't locate it, that's not a good combo. As a manager, you can run him out there and give him opportunities, but as a professional, this game is about production."

Roberts has continued using Baez hoping he can fight his way out of a slump, having the luxury of a big lead to balance winning with preparing for the postseason.

"If we were in a different situation in the standings, I think I might have acted differently," he said. "A lot of things we're doing, you're trying to win a baseball game, but you're also trying to figure out how you can win 11 games in October and how to construct a postseason roster."