After the Dodgers won on Carl Crawford‘s 11th inning homerun Saturday night, the series wraps up Sunday morning with an unlikely pitching match-up. Hyun-jin Ryu was the original starting pitcher slated to go up against phenom Jose Fernandez, but after landing on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, the Dodgers have called up Stephen Fife to make a spot start in his place. In a corresponding move, Jose Dominguez has been optioned back down to AAA-Albuquerque. Dominguez struggled mightily in his last relief appearance on Friday versus the Fish when he allowed 2 runs on 3 hits in just 1 1/3 innings of work.
The entire Dodgers bullpen has been struggling, and everything came to a head during the late innings of Saturday’s wild bullpen battle in Miami. It wasn’t the Dodger offense which sputtered out this time which was fueled by clutch homeruns by Puig and Crawford as well as a huge career night for Dee Gordon who picked up five hits and three stolen bases. It was the bewildered bullpen which narrowly lost the game for the Dodgers as Brian Wilson, Chris Withrow, and Chris Perez all had bad nights. It was actually Brandon League who ended up with the win and the thanks of all the Dodger fans who were frustratingly watching the game slip away.
Hopefully Stephen Fife can give the Dodgers a solid start since the bullpen is seemingly overtaxed right now. Fife will be making his first start of the season for the Dodgers this year, but overall he has appeared in 17 games for the Dodgers in 2012 and 2013 including 15 starts. He is 4-6 with a 3.49 Major League ERA in 85 innings pitched with the Dodgers. This year in AAA, the 27-year old right-hander has pitched in 6 games for the Isotopes and started 4 games. He is 1-2 with a 7.08 ERA in just over 20 innings. The last couple of seasons, Fife has been used as both a starter and a reliever in AAA which may have disrupted his rhythm, and he has suffered shoulder bursitis off and on. He seems to be improving this season, and in his last start at Fresno on Saturday, Fife threw six scoreless innings. He also pitched a scoreless inning in relief on Wednesday for the ‘Topes. Fife has never faced the Marlins in a Major League game.
The Dodgers will have their work cut out for them when they face the reigning National League Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez on
Sunday morning. The 21-year old right-hander is one of the most dominating young pitchers in the game today. He not only won the Rookie of the Year Award for 2013, but he placed third in Cy Young voting and was a All-Star. His remarkable rookie season saw him finish with a 12-6 record and 2.19 ERA in 28 starts. He struck out 187 batters while walking 58 in 172 2/3 innings pitched. This season, Fernandez has continued where he left off last year. In his 6 starts, he has already struck out 55 and he has only walked 8! He hasn’t allowed an earned run in 4 of his 6 starts, but he did have one clunker of a start against the Phillies last month when he allowed an uncharacteristic 6 runs on 8 hits over 4 innings. He won two games in a row against Atlanta, and last time out he beat the Braves over 8 shutout innings while only allowing 2 hits and striking out 8.
Fernandez has faced the Dodgers twice during his rookie season, and he is 2-0 against them with a 3.00 ERA. He beat the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium last May and in Miami last August. Juan Uribe has 4 hits in 4 at-bats against Fernandez, and Carl Crawford has 3 hits in 5 at-bats against him. Yasiel Puig remains hitless against the fellow Cuban.
Fernandez is 12-0 at home with a 1.00 ERA. Yes, you read that right. He has never lost at Marlins Park in 19 starts. The cards are stacked against the Dodgers for this one, but perhaps they can pull out a miracle?
The Dodgers have the offensive weapons to work with, but it won’t be an easy task. As we saw from Saturday night’s frustrating game, even if the Dodgers collect 9 runs on 16 hits, the defense and bullpen cannot be overlooked. They will need to have all the puzzle pieces fit together perfectly in order to win on Sunday morning plus a little luck thrown in.
The Marlins are an improved team from last season, and they are the best in the league at home. The Dodgers are a good road team, and they will look to their spark plug Puig to create some more fireworks while also relying on the incredible redefinition of Dee Gordon. They will need to play aggressive yet not lose focus in the field. Runs will be at a premium on Sunday, and the Dodgers will not be able to afford to allow any runs from the bullpen.
- Side Note: Fernandez mildly bruised his left shoulder on Friday during warm-ups when he collided with strength and conditioning coach Ty Hill. They both went down, but Fernandez is reportedly okay.
Prediction: Carl Crawford’s 11th inning homerun helps break his slump as Mattingly rewards him with a start on Sunday.
Grab a cup of coffee and tune in to SportsNet LA at 10:10 a.m. PT on Sunday. If you can’t watch the Dodgers on TV, check back here for a detailed recap of the game.