The Los Angeles Dodgers’ bullpen blew a final-inning lead in consecutive losses over the weekend. Despite another late breakdown in their last outing, the Dodgers avoided a third consecutive defeat and didn’t seem overly concerned about the bullpen’s recent struggles.
After overcoming another shaky performance from their relievers, the Dodgers look to put their bullpen problems behind them and make a move on first place in the NL West as they continue a four-game series against the NL East-leading Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.
Los Angeles (59-59) took a 2-1 lead in the 10th inning against San Francisco on Saturday before fill-in closer Jonathan Broxton surrendered two runs while recording only one out in the bottom half of the inning to suffer the 3-2 loss.
The following day, Hong-Chih Kuo coughed up the lead, giving up two ninth-inning runs in a 5-4 defeat against the lowly Giants.
Broxton, who has replaced injured Takashi Saito as the team’s closer, returned Monday and allowed two runs in the ninth before closing out the Dodgers’ 8-6 victory over the Phillies to pull Los Angeles within one game of division-leading Arizona.
“We were coming off a couple of heartbreakers ourselves, so I think guys were a little determined to finish this one,” second baseman Jeff Kent said.
Dodgers relievers still lead the NL with a 3.10 ERA, and the club appears convinced that their recent late-inning struggles are a fluke.
“What happened in San Francisco is in the past,” said outfielder Manny Ramirez, batting .475 (19-for-40) with four homers and 13 RBIs since joining the team in a July 31 trade. “We’re gonna move on.”
The Phillies (64-54) won five of six on their last road trip before opening this seven-game trip with Monday’s loss. They missed an opportunity to increase their lead over fellow NL East contenders the New York Mets and Florida Marlins, both of whom lost earlier in the day. Philadelphia’s cushion over the second-place Mets remained at two games.
The Phillies hope to build on that lead by turning to Cole Hamels (9-8, 3.35 ERA), who’s mired in the longest winless streak of his three-season career. Since beating Atlanta on July 3, the left-hander is 0-3 over his last six starts despite a 3.79 ERA and 37 strikeouts over 38 innings in that stretch.
Philadelphia’s usually trustworthy offense hasn’t provided him with more than three runs of support in any of those six outings.
“I’m aware of the lack of support,” Hamels said after giving up three runs - two earned - in 6 1-3 innings of a 3-0 loss to Florida on Thursday. “Sometimes it puts pressure on me. Sometimes you get wins with your eyes closed and sometimes there are games like this.”
Hamels, a San Diego native, has never faced the Dodgers.
Los Angeles will hand the ball to its own young left-hander in Clayton Kershaw (2-3, 3.71), who is 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA in his last three starts. He has allowed 11 hits and struck out 15 over 19 innings in that stretch.
The 20-year-old rookie lasted a season-high seven innings in his last start Thursday, holding St. Louis to one run and three hits while fanning seven in the 4-1 victory.
“He’s growing up out there and maturing and the results are starting to come,” Dodgers catcher Danny Ardoin told the team’s official Web site.
Kershaw has never faced the Phillies, who have hit 57 homers against left-handers this season - 12 more than any other team in baseball.