As Dan Haren searches for answers, the Dodgers are presumably searching for his replacement.
Haren made his most recent start Wednesday night and he didn't pitch any better than he did the last time or the time before that. He pitched five innings and gave up five runs in a 6-1 defeat to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. He lost for the fourth consecutive time, this setback dropping the Dodgers to two games back of the first-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West.
For most teams, a stretch like this from their No. 5 starter would be acceptable, especially if that pitcher has won eight games, as Haren has. But the Dodgers aren't most teams. They have their sights set on October and if Haren continues to pitch like this, he could prevent them from getting there.
The Dodgers are known to be in the market for a pitcher who could be an upgrade from Haren or Josh Beckett, who is pitching with a torn labrum in his left hip. When Haren was asked whether he felt he had to impress the organization to hold his place in the rotation, he replied, "It's too late to say that now."
That's because Haren might not start again before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. The Dodgers have days off Thursday and Monday, which would allow them to skip his next turn in the rotation.
"I understand it," Haren said. "The likely scenario is probably that I won't pitch for a while."
Mattingly wouldn't say if that was the case.
A three-time All-Star, Haren wondered how it came to this. Through his first eight starts, he was 5-1 with a 2.84 earned-run average.
"It's just really gotten away from me the last four times out," he said. "I don't know what to say. I was having a great year. I was feeling great about everything, the way I was throwing the ball. It's just kind of snowballed. I feel like everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. Early in the year, I was having a lot of success, I wasn't striking anybody out. Now, I can strike guys out, but anything they touch is a hit or a home run or something."
Haren has failed to complete six innings in seven of his last nine starts. His previous two starts lasted a combined 82/3 innings. He has a 6.04 ERA over his last 10 games.
Most of the trouble he has encountered has been in the first inning and that was the case again Wednesday. His ERA in the first inning is 7.29.
Haren gave up four first-inning runs against the Pirates, who led off the inning with hits by Gregory Polanco and Travis Snider. The first out was on a hard-hit ball, a line drive by Andrew McCutchen to third baseman Juan Uribe.
Haren proceeded to walk Neil Walker and Russell Martin in succession, with the walk to Martin forcing in the first run. The Pirates' lead went to 2-0 on a sacrifice fly by Ike Davis. Two more runs scored on a double by Josh Harrison.
In the second inning, Haren served up his 21st home run this season, a solo shot by Snider that soared to the top of the right-field stands. The Dodgers were down, 5-0.
To his credit, Haren recovered to pitch three scoreless innings, which spared Mattingly from having to empty his bullpen in a lopsided loss.
Still, Haren's latest defeat, coupled with Beckett's 32/3-inning start Tuesday, emphasized why General Manager Ned Colletti is looking outside of the organization for a reinforcement. Their best in-house option might be right-hander Red Patterson, who has only one career start in the majors and has a 5.40 ERA with triple-A Albuquerque.
Whatever the Dodgers do with Haren will affect them next season. If Haren pitches 180 innings this season, his $10-million team option for 2015 will become guaranteed. Haren is 572/3 innings short of that mark.