The Los Angeles Dodgers began their seven-game road trip with a bullpen that ranked first in the National League in ERA (1.33), opponents’ batting average (.169) and second in strikeouts (66). What’s more, Dodgers relievers had combined to lead the Majors in WHIP (0.87), opponents’ on-base percentage (.225), opponents’ slugging percentage (.236) and FIP (1.48).
But a 13-5 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks that evening served as an ominous sign of what was to come. The Diamondbacks routed the Dodgers a second time, 11-5, and on Wednesday, the San Francisco Giants erased a three-run deficit against the Los Angeles bullpen.
Alex Wood had held the Giants scoreless over six innings, permitting just one hit and issuing one walk. Sergio Romo was first out of the bullpen. He retired just one of three batters faced and surrendered a two-run home run to Christian Arroyo.
It was Arroyo’s first homer of his young career. Luis Avilan got an out in the seventh, and Pedro Baez finished the inning. Baez remained in the game in the eighth and was tagged for a game-tying home run by pinch-hitter Michael Morse, in his first at-bat this season.
The run was the first Baez allowed this season, and only his second hit permitted. The Giants loaded the bases on Ross Stripling in the 10th with nobody out, and won a Hunter Pence sacrifice fly.
Although the bullpen stumbled, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was content with how his relievers were deployed, per Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times:
“Up 3-0, we’ve got to close it out,” Roberts said. “I liked the guys in the spots that they were in for the last nine outs of the game. It just didn’t work out.”
Stripling allowed a leadoff single in the bottom of the ninth but erased by inducing a double play. He faced the minimum that inning. While Roberts didn’t overtly criticize Stripling’s pitch sequence to Pence, he noted the oddity that the at-bat only featured high fastballs (10 total pitches).
The Dodgers leaned heavily on their bullpen last season, and to plenty success. Roberts has essentially relied on the same strategy thus far in 2017, but to mixed results. While Wood was dominant in his start, he was working on a pitch count. He finished the night having thrown a season-high 77 pitches.