August didn’t start exactly the way the Dodgers would have liked on Friday night. The Cubs snapped their six-game winning streak after a messy and injury filled game. Not only was Dan Haren hammered for seven runs during another disappointing start, but three Dodgers suffered injuries in the loss. Yasiel Puig was removed from the game for precautionary reasons due to mild left hamstring soreness. Adrian Gonzalez slid into home awkwardly and was removed with a right knee contusion. The most serious injury was to Paul Maholm who left on crutches after the game. Maholm, the Dodgers best option to slot into the rotation if they should finally give up on Haren, heard his knee pop after slipping while covering first base. A.J. Ellis and Dee Gordon are also banged up, but they were in the lineup on Friday. Did the Cubs bring the cursed goat along to Dodger Stadium on Friday evening?
Hyun-jin Ryu (12-5, 3.44) vs. Tsuyoshi Wada (1-1, 3.38)
Van Slyke CF
The Dodgers are still 2 1/2 games ahead of the Giants in the NL West, but the long season has begun to take its toll. If the Dodgers want to defend their divisional crown, they will need to pick up some help off the waiver wire to shore up the backend of the rotation and the shaky middle relief out of the bullpen. While ERA is not the end all to determine pitcher’s worth, these numbers aren’t pretty:
Dan Haren 4.76
Chris Perez 4.97
Paul Maholm 4.84
Brian Wilson 5.08
On the bright side: Hyun-jin Ryu will be going to the mound on Saturday evening, and the left-hander has been a solid reprieve out of the rotation for the Dodgers. Ryu’s start was pushed back to give him an extra day’s rest, and on five-days rest the lefty is 11-2 with a 2.80 ERA in 14 starts. Against the Cubs, Ryu is 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in one career start against them. The Korean superstar is in the midst of a four-start winning streak himself, and last time out against the Giants at AT&T Park, Ryu pitched 6 innings and allowed 3 runs on 6 hits with 7 strikeouts and 1 walk. With Ryu’s newly Kershified slider, he has another weapon to go to out of his pitching arsenal.
The Cubs will be countering with their own southpaw, 33-year old Tsuyoshi Wada from Japan. Saturday’s start will be Wada’s fourth
career start and first against the Dodgers. Wada won his first Major League game in his last start against the Rockies and went 7 innings while allowing 1 run on 5 hits with 6 strikeouts and 1 walk. Like Ryu, Wada isn’t exactly a rookie. Wada pitched seven seasons in Japan before working in the Orioles’ minor league system. With the NPB, Wada’s record was 107-61 with a 3.13 ERA with the Fukuoka Hawks.
Carl Crawford continues to struggle at the plate, but Hanley Ramirez finally broke through for a base hit during Friday’s game. Crawford, now batting .239/.276/.350 has not had a multi-hit game since May 26th. A.J. Ellis, who has missed time due to knee problems, is hitting .194/.335/.239 in 51 games. He’s only thrown out 17% of base runners (6 caught stealing to 29 stolen bases by the opposition). This is significantly lower than his 44% caught stealing statistic from last season.
Prediction: Hyun-jin Ryu shuts down Cubs and collects a base hit.
What are the Dodgers options for their rotation going forward? With Maholm likely heading to the disabled list, the first likely move would be for the Dodgers to bring back Paco Rodriguez to the bullpen. Aside from that obvious move, the issue with the Dan Haren and the backend of the rotation is a bit more murky. The Dodgers will likely stick with Hare unless they can pick up another starter off the waiver wire. The in-house options are slim. Zach Lee could see his first Major League game, but he has been mediocre in Triple-A this season. Red Patterson might get a few starts down the stretch, but Patterson is not a long-term solution as far as heading toward a playoff push. Stephen Fife is injured at the moment, and Chris Reed has not pitched above AA yet.
Zach Lee is 6-10 with a 5.22 ERA with a 10.1 H9 in 119 innings pitched for the Isotopes.
Red Patterson is 4-7 with a 5.70 ERA with a 10.4 H9 in 102.2 innings pitched for the ‘Topes.
Chris Reed is 4-8 with a 3.32 ERA in 130 innings pitched for the Lookouts.
While the numbers for Lee and Patterson are also influenced by Albuquerque’s environmental factors to a point, we can’t underestimate Lee’s mediocre pitching at this point in his career. It doesn’t mean he can’t succeed at the big league level, and he still is a promising prospect. The reality is that the Dodgers need a proven arm down the stretch in order to defend their division title and capture their rightful playoff berth. While Dan Haren’s continued struggles will not make things easier for the Dodgers to stay ahead of the Giants, unproven minor league pitchers may not be the answer either.
The Dodgers have four more days to decide on who they will start in Haren’s spot, but for right now let’s enjoy Ryu.