A year ago, Mike Bolsinger would hardly have cause to complain about his stat line from Friday night. Five and one-third innings pitched, six strikeouts, five runs, four of which came because of one mistake to one of the game’s most dangerous hitters.
A year ago, that would not have been Bolsinger’s best start, but it certainly would not have been his worst while he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He went longer just four other times. He struck out more batters just once. He gave up at least four runs five other times. His ERA was 5.50.
But on Friday, that stat line was an aberration in an otherwise stellar start. Bolsinger entered the matchup with a 4-1 record and 2.25 ERA. The result was his worst run total on the entire year and his first loss since May 29.
And it all came from one fatal mistake in the third. After cruising through the first two innings, Bolsinger alternated two singles with a strikeout and lineout. Facing the Giants’ No. 3 hitter Angel Pagan, Bolsinger was trying to avoid two-time Silver Slugger Buster Posey on deck.
Instead, Pagan fought through a seven-pitch at-bat and drew a walk on a curveball, one of Bolsinger’s go-to pitches.
“Pagan gets away, that’s the kind of guy you really don’t want to let get away,” Manager Don Mattingly said. “You really don’t want to get to Buster. Always trouble. It’s not a spot you want to be in.”
Posey stepped to the plate and punished Bolsinger for that mistake, driving another curveball deep into the Dodgers’ bullpen for a 4-1 lead.
“I think I just got a little too lazy on that curveball and basically kind of just served it up to him,” Bolsinger said. “Maybe I could have thrown another pitch to him, but I wanted to go to my strength. I just kind of left it up.”
Bolsinger bounced back the next inning to strike out the side, but with an offense that had averaged 2.92 runs per game over the two weeks prior, the damage was already done.
The right-hander still has some of the best stats in the National League, with an ERA under 3.00 and a WHIP of 1.2. But this setback continues a recent stretch in which he has pitched more like he did with the Diamondbacks of old than the back-of-the-rotation star the Dodgers discovered early this year.
Against the Padres on June 14, Bolsinger went just 4 2/3 innings, giving up six hits and walking three batters. He only surrendered two runs and the Dodgers pulled out a 4-2 victory, but it marked his shortest start of the season.
“I see a lot of similarities from this outing to the last outing in San Diego,” Bolsinger said. “You know, just cruising along, really didn’t get hit this outing. I get put in the perfect situation, two outs, man on first and second, and I work my way to bases loaded. The good thing is it’s self-inflicted things, and I think it’s things that you can learn from.”
Specifically, Bolsinger said he needs to simplify his approach and not over-complicate his pitches against batters like Pagan, whom he said he normally feels comfortable facing.
A year ago, Bolsinger would have had plenty of time to work on these self-inflicted problems as the Diamondbacks puttered their way to a last-place finish, 30 games back in the division. But now, as the Giants draw to within 1½ games of Los Angeles and first place in the NL West, he needs to correct course, fast.