Alex Guerrero's single lifts Dodgers over Mariners, 6-5, in 10 innings

Alex Guerrero's single lifts Dodgers over Mariners, 6-5, in 10 innings
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, left, hugs Alex Guerrero as they celebrate Guerrero's game-winning single during the 10th inning. The Dodgers beat the Mariners 6-5. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Dodgers collected proven closers last season. That did not work out very well.

Under new management this season, the Dodgers have avoided the gathering of proven closers.


With Kenley Jansen and Brandon League on the disabled list, the Dodgers opened the season with a seven-man bullpen. Those seven pitchers combined for one major league save last year.

And, with Jansen expected to sit out another month, the bullpen is a work in progress. Chris Hatcher got the first shot to be Jansen's understudy, but the Dodgers shifted to Joel Peralta three games into the season.

The bullpen looked mighty fine Monday, delivering three hitless innings in the Dodgers' 6-5 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

Rookie infielder Alex Guerrero got his first walk-off hit, a two-out single in the 10th inning that drove home Andre Ethier with the winning run, and rookie Yimi Garcia worked a perfect inning for his first major league victory.

Dodgers starter Brandon McCarthy became the first pitcher in major league history to give up four home runs, walk none and strike out 10. McCarthy got in the record book but got no decision, leaving after seven innings with the score tied, 5-5.

Yasiel Puig had three hits, including a home run, for the Dodgers.

Jansen said Monday he expects to return in "mid-May." On Tuesday, David Huff makes his first major league start in 19 months, in place of Hyun-Jin Ryu, on the disabled list with what the Dodgers say is shoulder inflammation.

The Dodgers still hope Ryu can return in late May, but that timetable could be optimistic given that he is behind Jansen in the progress of his throwing program and that he would need to rebuild the stamina of a starter, which Jansen would not need to do.

The Dodgers' new front office clearly leans toward the concept that saves are overrated, and that the performance of relief pitchers varies wildly enough from year to year that it can be foolish to overpay relievers.

The corollary: just about any good relief pitcher can close a game. Three outs are three outs, and a guy making $1 million to pitch the eighth inning might be just as effective in the ninth as a proven closer making $10 million.

That line of thinking has been more popular in front offices than in clubhouses, where players and managers often talk of the ninth inning as the toughest inning, where there can be no margin for error, no chance for your team to rally and get you off the hook.

In the Dodgers clubhouse, though, the players appear to buy in.

Jansen, the Dodgers' setup man in 2011 and closer since then, said there should be no difference for a pitcher.

"In my opinion, sometimes pitching in the seventh or eighth, with a jam, is a whole lot tougher," Jansen said. "If you worry about 'it's the ninth,' you've already put extra pressure on yourself."

Hatcher thinks much the same way. To him, starting the ninth inning with a one-run lead can be less stressful than trying to escape a bases-loaded mess in the seventh inning of a tie game.

"When you're a closer, you get a clean inning," Hatcher said. "The only pressure you feel is the pressure you put on yourself. To me, the pressure of the inning, you allow that to happen."

Hatcher got the ninth inning on opening day, pitching a perfect inning for the save. He has pitched twice since then, facing nine batters and retiring one.

Mattingly said he has "a lot of confidence" in Hatcher and denied that he pitched his way out as closer.

"We've only used him one time in a save-type situation," Mattingly said.

On Sunday, the Dodgers handed him a 7-0 lead in the ninth, with two outs to go. He got one out, and he gave up four runs.

"Just overthrowing, I guess," Hatcher said. "I wasn't able to throw anything for a strike except fastballs. When they know that's coming, it doesn't matter how hard you throw it or how well-located it is. They can hit it."