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At a time when starting pitchers across the majors are logging fewer innings every year, the Dodgers have proudly bucked the trend. Dodgers starters average more innings per start than any other group in the majors this season. The team’s success is built on starting pitching.
At the same time, the Dodgers are also particularly careful with their starters, making sure to give them extra rest whenever possible. “Regular rest” for five-man rotations — four days — has become irregular for the Dodgers.
So on Friday, despite having Dustin May available on four days’ rest, the Dodgers opted for a bullpen game against the Milwaukee Brewers during a stretch of 14 straight days of games, placing the burden on a relief corps bulldozed by injuries in the last week.
But the pitching wasn’t the problem Friday. The problem again was the offense in a 3-1 loss, continuing a two-week slump that has left the Dodgers (16-11) with nine losses over their last 12 games since starting the season 13-2.
“There’s a point you just continue to give guys credit for pitching and throwing good ballgames,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “But there’s a point where you just still got to find a way to scratch some runs across.”
The Dodgers, also held to one run in Thursday’s series opener, mustered just two hits, one walk and one hit by pitch. AJ Pollock produced their only run with a leadoff homer in the fifth inning. They had just one other runner reach second base and that came with two outs in the first inning. They went down in order in six of the nine innings.
Brewers right-hander Freddy Peralta recorded seven strikeouts, walked one and hit a batter in six innings. Two relievers then served as the bridge to closer Josh Hader, who struck out Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Max Muncy in a perfect ninth inning.
“I think we’re kind of going through a stretch where the at-bats aren’t as good, the quality isn’t as good,” Pollock said. “So we just got to get back to having quality at-bats. It’s tough, it’s frustrating.”
Mookie Betts was given Friday off to rest, leaving the Dodgers without him, Cody Bellinger (fibula) and Zach McKinstry (oblique). Injuries have undoubtedly affected the Dodgers. But no team in the majors has encountered more injuries than the Brewers.
Milwaukee has 14 players on the injured list, including outfielders Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, their two best position players. Catcher Omar Narváez, their No. 3 hitter Friday, left the game with a hamstring injury in the sixth inning. And yet the Brewers (16-10) have won seven of 10 games.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers, an organization that prides itself on depth, have scored three or fewer runs in nine of their last 13 games and are 6-8 against teams with winning records.
The frustration boiled over for Roberts with two outs in the top of the eighth Friday. His club trailed 2-1 when first base umpire Angel Hernandez had ruled that Chris Taylor went around trying to check his swing.
Roberts also disagreed with a balk Hernandez called on Jimmy Nelson in the top of the inning and let him know. Hernandez heard him from across the diamond and tossed him from the game, prompting Roberts to jog all the way from the third base dugout to voice his displeasure with Hernandez up close.
“I just think that we all need to be held accountable,” Roberts said, “and I thought he missed it.”
The Dodgers squandered Trevor Bauer’s strong eight-inning outing in Thursday’s series opener. On Friday, they wasted a stingy six-man effort.
Edwin Uceta was notified he would start the game for his major league debut when he arrived at the ballpark.
The diminutive right-hander — he’s listed at 155 pounds, at least 25 pounds lighter than everyone else on the Dodgers’ roster — hadn’t pitched in an official game since pitching for double-A Tulsa in 2019 because the 2020 minor league season was canceled. He spent last season at the Dodgers’ alternate training site until he was sent home for breaking COVID-19 protocols.
The Dominican worked around a walk in the first inning and recorded his first strikeout in the second. Jackie Bradley Jr. launched the next pitch for a two-run home run. Uceta then hit for himself and struck out in the third inning, but he didn’t return to the mound.
“I failed with a pitch and it cost us the game,” Uceta said in Spanish.
Scott Alexander replaced Uceta and the bullpen held the Brewers scoreless until Luke Maile’s RBI groundout off Blake Treinen in the eighth inning. It was an insurance run the Brewers didn’t need to beat a team limping into May on a sour 96-win pace.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.