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It's another shell game for Dodgers bullpen in ugly 13-6 loss to Pirates

It's another shell game for Dodgers bullpen in ugly 13-6 loss to Pirates
Recently acquired starter Alex Wood, left, and reliever Jim Johnson have not been effective since joining the Dodgers at the trade deadline. (Keith Srakocic / Associated Press)

When the Dodgers pulled off their three-team trade-deadline deal last month, much of the focus was on Mat Latos and Alex Wood, the two starters they picked up.

But almost as significant to the front office was the addition of relievers Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan.

Neither end of that deal has worked out as the Dodgers planned, however, with Latos and Wood going winless and posting a 5.91 ERA in two starts each. Yet they look like Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale compared to Johnson.

Johnson came on to protect a two-run lead in the seventh inning Sunday and retired only two of the 10 batters he faced. He was charged with eight runs, allowing the Pittsburgh Pirates to rally for a 13-6 win and a sweep of the three-game series.

"I can honestly say it's probably one of the worst professional innings I have had," Johnson said.

And that wasn't even the worst news for the Dodgers because second baseman Howie Kendrick, hitting .389 in his last eight games, limped off in the fifth inning with a left hamstring strain. Kendrick, who made two lengthy trips to the disabled list in 2008 with strains of the same hamstring, will be examined Monday in Los Angeles.

His likely replacement would be the versatile Enrique Hernandez, who hit his second home run in as many days after coming on for Kendrick on Sunday.

Too bad Hernandez can't pitch because that's where the Dodgers need the most help.

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And help was available at the trade deadline, but the Dodgers opted for Latos and Wood over the pricier David Price and Scott Kazmir.

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Price and Kazmir have gone a combined 3-1 with a 0.51 ERA in five starts for their new clubs while Latos and Wood are 0-2, allowing 14 runs and 24 hits in 211/3 innings.

Bullpen upgrades at the deadline weren't as obvious or available so the Dodgers felt like they had gotten a steal by bringing Johnson and Avilan over from Atlanta.

Wood, also obtained from the Braves, started Sunday but lasted only five innings. Still, he was in line for his first win as a Dodger.

But two innings later Johnson gave up that lead — and quite a bit more.

"We couldn't get an out," said Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly, who searched for an explanation with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt but came up empty.

"I wish I could tell you," Mattingly said. "Rick and I talk as the game goes. Are we not using his mix right? Or is he just not getting the ball where he wants?

"But obviously we're not getting out."

Johnson started the inning by striking out Aramis Ramirez. But he hit the next batter and seven of the eight Pirates who followed reached base. The only out in that stretch was a sacrifice fly.

And with his bullpen taxed from an extra-inning game Friday and Latos' short start Saturday, Mattingly had little choice but to leave Johnson out there. When he finally did pull him, the results weren't much better, with Joel Peralta giving up a three-run home run on his first pitch.

Peralta gave up another run in the eighth, and by game's end the Dodgers bullpen was left with 21 losses and a 4.19 ERA, second-highest in the National League.

Wasted was a 14-hit attack that featured two-hit nights by five players — Kendrick, Hernandez, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier and Yasmani Grandal

Afterward, Mattingly refused to second-guess Johnson or the trade that brought him to the Dodgers.

"He was really good in Atlanta this year. Which tells you, you think he's going to be really good for you," he said. "We believe that. We still have confidence in that. This is just one of those games that got away totally.

"To me, we have to turn the page and be ready to go tomorrow. We don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves. Nothing that happened here in Pittsburgh changes our mind about our club."

Johnson agreed. "It can only go better," he said.

Up next

The Dodgers open a seven-game homestand Monday with left-hander Brett Anderson (6-6, 3.06) facing the Washington Nationals and left-hander Gio Gonzalez (8-4, 3.75). TV: SportsNet LA. Radio: 570, 1020.

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