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Don Mattingly and Dodgers are still doing penance for sins of the 'pen

Don Mattingly and Dodgers are still doing penance for sins of the 'pen
The scoreboard tells the story of the struggle for Dodgers starterBrett Anderson, who faced six Nationalsbatters in the sixth inning but couldn't get an out before being replaced Monday night. (Harry How / Getty Images)

The Dodgers listed seven relief pitchers on their lineup card Monday.

This was of great interest to a fan base that expected change in the bullpen after the Dodgers were swept last weekend in Pittsburgh. In the series finale, two relievers from the weary bullpen combined to give up 10 runs in two innings. Surely someone would be gone — demoted, released, traded, something.

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The names of the relievers listed on the lineup card Monday were the exact same seven names listed there Sunday. No changes.

The composition of the Dodgers bullpen has become, like so much else in baseball, a day-to-day proposition. Manager Don Mattingly said changes could come Tuesday, if for no other reason than exhaustion, since the last three Dodgers starters — Mat Latos, Alex Wood and Brett Anderson — have thrown four, five and five innings, respectively.

What happened Monday at Dodger Stadium had nothing to do with the bullpen. Ian Desmond hit two home runs and Gio Gonzalez pitched eight shutout innings, leading the Washington Nationals to an 8-3 pummeling of the Dodgers. Carl Crawford hit a three-run homer — the first pinch-hit homer of his career — to get the Dodgers on the scoreboard with two out in the ninth.

The Dodgers have lost four consecutive games for the first time this season. Their lead in the National League West shrank to 21/2 games over the San Francisco Giants — who also have lost four consecutive games.

"There have been a couple scenarios this season where we could have really put a space between us and whoever," Mattingly said. "We haven't done that."

Anderson, who had not given up more than four runs in any of his 21 previous starts, gave up seven Monday. The first seven Nationals reached base against him in the sixth inning, before Anderson got booed and Mattingly finally decided he could protect his tired bullpen no more.

In their last five games, the Dodgers have given up 40 runs. Zack Greinke, who leads the majors with a 1.71 earned-run average, starts for them Tuesday. In his last appearance, he gave up a season-high six runs.

The Dodgers' bullpen entered play Monday with a 6.99 ERA since the All-Star break. The bullpen ERA this season is 4.16, the worst of any NL team that does not play its home games at Coors Field, and up from the 3.80 mark of last season.

Mattingly nonetheless saw Sunday's disaster as one bad day, not a microcosm for the season.

"Yesterday was bad," he said Monday. "The day before, we had four scoreless [innings from the bullpen]. We've got confidence in our guys. We've got guys with good arms and good stuff and good track records. We feel like they're going to get the job done."

The Dodgers lost in the playoffs last season because they had not identified a trusted reliever to bridge the gap from the starting pitcher to closer Kenley Jansen. What progress has been made since then?

"We'll see," Mattingly said. "You're talking about playoffs, and I'm thinking about everyday winning."

Mattingly does not assemble the bullpen, and it is not terribly fair to hold him to account for the decisions of the front office. Nonetheless, since the present issue is everyday winning, can Mattingly say the bullpen is better this year than last year?

"We have confidence in our guys. I'll say that," Mattingly said. "I don't need to compare this year to last year. I'll just say we have confidence in our guys."

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Greinke (11-2, 1.71 ERA) faces the Nationals' Joe Ross (3-3, 2.80 ERA) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Dodger Stadium. TV: SportsNet LA; Radio: 570, 1020.

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