With less than three weeks to go before the start of the postseason, the Dodgers’ starting rotation is falling apart.
The Dodgers won two of three in their series at Chase Field with their 5-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday night. But they lost a starting pitcher in two of the three games.
Walker Buehler lasted just 2 2/3 innings Tuesday and went back on the injured list Thursday with a blister on the index finger of his right hand. At the earliest, he would return with eight games left in the regular season, giving him time to make two starts at the most before the start of the postseason.
Dustin May’s start Thursday was even shorter. Diamondbacks leadoff man Josh Rojas lined May’s second pitch of the game back at him, hitting May in the left foot. May finished out the inning and started warming up for the second inning before Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and a trainer came out to the mound. Roberts pulled May before he threw a pitch in the second inning.
Initial X-rays on May’s foot were “inconclusive,” according to Roberts and May will undergo a CT scan on Friday.
“We’ll know significantly more after the test tomorrow,” Roberts said.
Indeed, a good deal of the Dodgers’ October fate could hinge on the results of that examination and the healing pace of Buehler’s finger.
“I think we’ll know more tomorrow with Dustin,” Roberts said. “With Walker, yeah he’s on the IL, but I feel that once the days are served we’ll get him to where he needs to be. So with him there’s not a level of concern. … I think it’ll be more telling with Dustin tomorrow. But I still feel very confident.”
With May done, the Dodgers’ bullpen once again put in a long night’s work. Over their past 11 games, Dodgers relievers have thrown 52 1/3 innings including at least three innings each game.
Despite winning the series, the three games in the desert were not a great advertisement for the Dodgers’ standing as the best team in baseball. They committed seven errors in the three games, stranded 35 runners on base, ran themselves out of an inning Thursday and allowed 18 runs in the series to a Diamondbacks offense that had produced just 2.7 per game while losing 16 of 18 before this series.
“It just wasn’t a crisp, clean game by us — all the way around. You’re going to have those games,” Roberts said.
Back-to-back home runs by Corey Seager and A.J. Pollock in the third inning were the Dodgers’ only runs in the loss. They loaded the bases in the fourth but Seager bounced into an inning-ending double play.
They had the makings of a rally in the sixth inning when Kiké Hernandez walked and went to third on a Will Smith single. But Smith was caught rounding first too aggressively and was thrown out when shortstop Nick Ahmed cut off the throw from center fielder Daulton Varsho.
After a walk to Austin Barnes, Hernandez made another out on the bases when he couldn’t beat the return throw to home plate on a double steal. The Dodgers had just one more hit in the game, an eighth-inning infield single by Smith (his fourth hit of the game).
With the Dodgers’ bullpen taxed, Tony Gonsolin was moved out of the rotation and into the bullpen. Gonsolin was told to expect to pitch multiple innings even before the game Thursday — perhaps a foreshadowing of the Dodgers’ plans to “piggyback” May and Gonsolin for postseason starts. But Roberts had to turn to him in the fourth inning and ride him for five innings.
Gonsolin had given up three runs in 23 2/3 innings over his five starts — and matched that total in a three-batter stretch of the sixth inning against the Diamondbacks. Ahmed started it with a single and scored when Hernandez mishandled Varsho’s triple off the right-field fence. Carson Kelly followed with a two-run home run.
With Buehler and possibly May out of action, Gonsolin is likely to return to the rotation on Tuesday. Alex Wood pitched just one inning out of the bullpen Thursday and could make a spot start on Sunday when Roberts acknowledged a “bullpen game” is likely.