At this time last season, the Dodgers were in third place, so it’s not as though Los Angeles needs to panic about an even slower start in 2018.
Still, the defending National League champions are having their depth tested.
Corey Seager is out for the season . Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, Rich Hill and Yasiel Puig are among the other Dodgers on the disabled list. Los Angeles has sputtered to a 15-19 mark, and that’s only part of the problem. The Dodgers also have to contend with an Arizona team that has raced out to the NL’s best record and leads Los Angeles by eight games in the NL West.
Last season, the Dodgers strolled to a division title with 104 wins, and at times they seemed to have more starting pitching than they needed. Kenta Maeda won 13 games and wasn’t even part of the postseason rotation. Hyun-Jin Ryu made 24 starts and posted a 3.77 ERA — and didn’t pitch at all in the playoffs or World Series.
Now Ryu is on the DL, and Kershaw joined him there Sunday. Hill hasn’t pitched since April 14. With the Dodgers leaning on their depth, young right-hander Walker Buehler has been impressive through three starts, and Ross Stripling has had to make two starts after being primarily a reliever last year.
The Dodgers have still gotten a 3.34 ERA from their starters this season, one of the top marks in the NL. But star closer Kenley Jansen has been unusually shaky, and now the lineup has to deal with the absence of Seager. The Dodgers have outscored their opponents 151-141 on the season, so perhaps they’ve played a bit better than their record indicates — but they also have a very real hole to climb out of, with a roster that right now is nowhere near full strength.
Some other developments from around the majors:
The Pittsburgh Pirates are 19-16, two games out of first place in the NL Central. It’s been an encouraging start after the team traded stars Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole in the offseason.
McCutchen has hit well over the past couple weeks, and Cole has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year, but some of the players Pittsburgh received in those deals are already contributing. Kyle Crick came over from San Francisco in the deal for McCutchen, and he has 13 strikeouts in 10 appearances out of the bullpen. Michael Feliz — acquired from Houston for Cole — has been solid in relief as well.
The Astros also sent Colin Moran to Pittsburgh in the deal for Cole, and he’s hitting .278 for the Pirates and playing regularly at third base.
And then there was another trade Pittsburgh made during the offseason, acquiring Corey Dickerson from Tampa Bay. Dickerson is hitting .315, and even without McCutchen, the Pirates’ outfield seems to be in good shape with Dickerson, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco.
Between Mike Trout’s brilliance and Shohei Ohtani’s uniqueness, it has been an exciting start to the season for the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels. Those two took a back seat to Albert Pujols on Friday night when he reached 3,000 hits with a single to right at Seattle.
LINES OF THE WEEK
It has been a sensational week of individual performances.
Domingo German of the Yankees pitched six hitless innings in his first major league start . Buehler also went six innings without allowing a hit for the Dodgers, and his relievers closed the game out for a combined no-hitter against San Diego.
Max Scherzer struck out 15 for Washington on Sunday in only 6 1/3 innings.
A.J. Pollock of the Diamondbacks, Edwin Encarnacion of the Indians and Mookie Betts of the Red Sox each hit three homers in a game — it was the second time this season Betts has pulled that off.
The most impressive performance of the week probably belongs to Cole, who struck out 16 in a one-hit shutout Friday night against Arizona. But Milwaukee reliever Josh Hader deserves a mention as well. In a 6-5 win over Cincinnati on Monday night, he went 2 2/3 innings for the save, striking out eight of the nine hitters he faced. He became the first reliever to strike out eight in under three innings, according to information the Brewers received from the Elias Sports Bureau.
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