Dodgers' early lead doesn't hold up against Giants
Volquez, bullpen can't protect two-run cushion in series finale
By Ken Gurnick / 9/27/2013 2:17 AM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- One week after clinching and one week to go before the playoffs start, manager Don Mattingly pretty much has had it with the roster questions and hypotheticals about the offense and the injuries and all the rest.
"I'd love to see us score 10 runs a night and throw a shutout and have every [reliever] get their outs, but to be honest with you, I don't think it matters one bit, not until Thursday," the manager said after the Dodgers lost to the Giants on Thursday night, 3-2, on Angel Pagan's eighth-inning homer off Paco Rodriguez.
"We can cut it up any way we want, until Thursday, it's just guessing. We can say we have to see this or see that, but honestly it's all BS. It's going to be Thursday, it's going to be how we execute and how we play."
With the four starting infielders back in the lineup Thursday night, the Dodgers scored half as many runs as they did the night before without them, so go figure.
The Dodgers most likely will open the playoffs on the road regardless of the opponent. The Dodgers would need to sweep the Rockies and have the Cardinals be swept by the Cubs in order to start the National League Division Series at home. If the season ended now, their Division Series would open in St. Louis.
Pagan homered on an 0-2 pitch leading off the bottom of the eighth inning, spoiling Rodriguez's first appearance in eight days. Mattingly also took Chris Withrow and Ronald Belisario out of mothballs for some work, an indicator that all three are on the postseason roster.
Mattingly insisted, and Rodriguez agreed, that there's nothing physically wrong with the lefty, that a suddenly reduced workload is the result of intentional freshening and game situations.
"Better now than four days from now," Mattingly said of the home run.
The problem is, Rodriguez was pitching in college 15 months ago. He's never come close to the 75 appearances or 53 1/3 innings that have been demanded of him this year as the primary left-handed reliever in a division-winning bullpen.
The stats seem to indicate a toll has been taken. Through Sept. 1, Rodriguez had a 1.85 ERA and had allowed one home run on the season. In 10 appearances since, he's allowed three homers and has a 7.71 ERA.
Rodriguez beat himself up pretty good after the Giants beat him.
"That's extremely frustrating," he said. "I haven't pitched in a week and I want to come in and do my job. Every time I mess up, I'm not doing my job. I can't let it happen. It's a long season, but I haven't thrown in a while, and I should be fresh and ready to go. It was a bad pitch at the wrong time."
Mattingly said he won't back away from using Rodriguez.
"You don't ever want to see him give up a home run, but I still have a lot of confidence in Paco and what he can do," Mattingly said.
Mattingly wasn't as forceful when reporters tried to pin him down on Edinson Volquez's role, if any, in the postseason. He allowed a pair of runs in the fifth inning of his start against the Giants, then was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the sixth. Volquez is the fifth starter in a rotation that needs only four in the best-of-five Division Series, and he would be out of position as a reliever.
Although fourth starter Ricky Nolasco is slumping, Mattingly has given no indication that Volquez could unseat Nolasco. In Volquez's last four starts, he's allowed nine earned runs in 23 innings for a 3.52 ERA, while Nolasco in his last three starts has allowed 17 runs in 12 innings for a 12.75 ERA.
"I'm not going to talk about roster spots," Mattingly said. "He's got good stuff. To this point, he's done what he's been asked to do, kept us in games with [Chris Capuano] hurt and [Stephen] Fife was struggling. He's been good."
Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Juan Uribe and Mark Ellis were back in the lineup after getting a break Wednesday night, and the offense presented Volquez a 2-0 lead he couldn't protect. The runs off Tim Lincecum scored on a Gonzalez sacrifice fly (his 99th RBI) and back-to-back doubles by Uribe and Ellis.
"It's kind of hard not to get up when you're playing that team," said Lincecum, a pending free agent who might have pitched his final Giants game. "The fans want it as bad as we do."
San Francisco tied the game with a pair of runs in the fifth on an RBI groundout by Pagan and an RBI double by Brandon Belt after a two-out walk to Gregor Blanco, the third walk in Volquez's five innings. Pagan's eighth-inning homer off Rodriguez hit the top of the fence down the left-field line and bounced over for a home run.
After reporters cleared the clubhouse, rookie hazing took place, with first-year players wearing costumes of cartoon characters. Among them -- Yasiel Puig as Gumby, Hyun-Jin Ryu as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and Onelki Garcia as a penguin.