We can start with Russ Ortiz, who gave up the deciding runs to the Snakes and was tagged with the official loss. He had some bad luck, and threw some bad pitches. Two walks, half his pitches out of the strike zone. No strikeouts. Pretty typical stuff from him. He'll have better games; he'll have luckier games. But he'll also have a lot more games exactly like last night. The moment he took the mound in the eleventh the game seemed lost.
We need to shift our perspective, because Russ Ortiz may be the technical answer but he is not the answer that matters. If not him it would have been someone else from the back end of the bullpen giving up runs. It's just not a very good 'pen right now. Broxton is good, and the Troncuilizer is steady, and Weaver seems to get the job done more than one would think, and then? The Ortizes and the Rule 5 guy and Sherrill the peril. It's not a bullpen you want to see a lot of, and yet they're always needed, and often early, because the starters usually don't go deep into games. And that brings us to Billingsley.
If any pitcher really deserved this loss it was Billingsley. What happened to him? He was so great through three innings, and then --- what? I notice that he threw everything low, especially late in the game. Keep the ball down in the zone, analysts often say, and I think this is probably good advice, but maybe the hitters just got locked into all this low stuff. Maybe his pitches lost their bite later in the game. I wonder if his fastball got straighter as he tired? There must be some explanation. Billingsley has the ability to dominate, as the first three innings show. The answer isn't just that he's not a good pitcher. But something happened. Maybe it is mental, but what changed in the fourth inning to turn him into a mental wreck? I just don't see it. The mid-game fade has become standard for Billingsley, that is clear, but less clear is an explanation, a reason. For all his ability it appears to me his career is in peril. Early stage peril.
The offense is in peril too, peril of being wasted. 2010 may be the opposite of 2003, when the Dodgers squandered brilliant pitching because they just couldn't score any runs. The 2010 offense looks so good, but it just can't keep up with the awfulness of the pitching. The pitching will probably get better, but the offense will also get worse. The Dodgers aren't going to score 6.5 runs a game all year. As much as the offense can blame the pitching last night, the offense is not without blame; they left plenty of chances unfulfilled. That will happen, though. Seven runs in nine innings is enough. The blame must go to the pitching. But how did the pitching get into this state? That, perhaps, is where the true blame must lie.
There is a malaise around this team. It comes from ownership, from the divorce. There was, perhaps, nothing sensible for the Dodgers to do this offseason, but if there was, if you think there was, would the Dodgers have been in a position to do it? What about now? Is there any chance that the team would pay any money to improve the pitching staff in the middle of this year? This is the team we get in 2010, it seems. No ace is going to join the team. The pitchers will have to improve, or the Dodgers will finish around 0.500.
At least, if the Dodgers end up losing 80 or more games, I hope they don't all take four hours.