Although the Dodgers took back-to-back shutouts and a 21-inning scoreless streak into Thursday’s game with the Washington Nationals, you knew they were going to give up a run eventually.
And Mark Hendrickson made sure it wasn’t a fluke when they finally did, getting pounded for five runs in 4 1/3 innings in an 11-4 loss to the Washington Nationals.
But he wasn’t the only Dodgers pitcher hurting afterward. The bullpen got ripped for five runs in one inning and reliever Yhency Brazoban threw only 13 pitches before leaving because of shoulder pain. He’ll have an MRI performed today in Pittsburgh.
All in all, it was a lost night for what had been the third-best staff in the major leagues.
“That happens when you have a team that’s not going to be 162-0,” Dodgers Manager Grady Little said. “But that’s not realistic and we’re realistic people.”
In that case, it’s realistic to think changes could be coming. Because while the top of the rotation -- Brad Penny, Randy Wolf and Derek Lowe -- combined to go 10-3 with a 1.97 earned-run average in May, Hendrickson and the recently demoted Brett Tomko are a combined 3-8 with a 4.58 ERA this season at the bottom.
The 6-foot-9 Hendrickson, whose outing Thursday was his shortest of the season, could be the next one banished from the rotation. The Dodgers are still in need of a fifth starter to replace Tomko, and left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo is among the candidates to fill that spot, a move that would give the Dodgers three lefties in their rotation. That could leave Hendrickson -- 0-3 with a 7.18 ERA in his last five starts -- the odd man out when right-hander Jason Schmidt returns from the disabled list this month.
“He’s one of our five starters right now,” was all the support Little could muster Thursday. “We spend every day and night trying to figure out how we can make this club better. And if there’s ever anything we can do, we’ll do it.”
Before Hendrickson took the mound Thursday the Dodgers hadn’t given up a run since the eighth inning Sunday -- and hadn’t yielded two in an inning in nearly a week. But the Nationals needed only 11 pitches to wipe away both those marks, getting a double from Cristian Guzman and a two-run homer from Ryan Zimmerman before many of the 20,982 had found their seats.
And when Austin Kearns scored Zimmerman with a third-inning sacrifice fly, it marked the first time in six days the Dodgers had allowed three runs in a game. The last time it happened, Hendrickson was on the mound. And that was also the last game the Dodgers had lost before Thursday.
“I wasn’t making quality pitches,” said Hendrickson, who said he’s struggling in particular with his changeup and cut fastball. “That’s just got to change. I’ve just got to make better pitches. And that’s going to be my focus between starts.”
The Nationals put the game away in the fifth, going up, 5-1, on Dmitri Young’s RBI single -- one of his four hits -- and a two-run single by Brian Schneider, then made it a rout in the eighth, scoring five times off Jonathan Broxton and Rudy Seanez.
The 11 runs equaled the most the Nationals have scored at RFK Stadium since moving there from Montreal three years ago. And for the Dodgers that was a sad goodbye to RFK, which the Nationals will abandon after this season for a $611-million, state-of-the-art ballpark along the Anacostia River.