Bullpen works overtime after Nolasco's exit
Four pitchers combine for five innings against formidable Cards lineup
LOS ANGELES -- Ricky Nolasco's early exit on Tuesday night in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series meant the Dodgers needed to fashion five innings from their bullpen, and the Cardinals' hitters weren't about to make it easy on them.
St. Louis put at least one runner on base in each of the five frames thrown by Dodgers relievers, though Shane Robinson's insurance home run in the seventh off of J.P. Howell was all they had to show for it.
"They're good from top-to-bottom," said Dodgers right-hander Chris Withrow, who was called upon in the fifth inning of a 4-2 loss. "They've got guys that can hurt you deep. They've got guys that can put the ball in play and are not going to give up an at-bat."
The Dodgers, down, 3-1, in the series, take on the Cardinals in Game 5 on Wednesday at 1 p.m. PT on TBS.
Withrow said he started getting loose as soon as it became apparent that Nolasco's spot would be coming up in the batting order. Sure enough, with two on and one out in the bottom of the fourth, up came pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker in the pitcher's spot.
"You never know, especially when you're down there," Withrow said. "You never know when the call could come, so you try to prepare yourself and weigh every option that is a possibility."
The Dodgers' bullpen was by no means steady. On the night, the four pitchers -- Withrow, Howell, Ronald Belisario and Carlos Marmol -- combined to walk five hitters, and they allowed a total of nine baserunners.
But manager Don Mattingly had no complaints afterward.
"We got a game pitched well enough tonight to win," he said.
The lone blemish was a changeup that Howell left in the middle of the plate to pinch-hitter Shane Robinson, who hit a ball that even left fielder Carl Crawford didn't believe was gone until it landed in the pavilion section.
"The ball doesn't carry well here at night, so I definitely thought it was going to be off the wall or maybe I'd catch it," he said. "But it just kept going and it seemed to just float right over left field."
After recording a strikeout, Howell allowed a hit and a walk before ending the threat by fanning Matt Adams. Belisario then ran into trouble of his own in the eighth when he allowed a sharp single to center off the bat of Jon Jay before hitting Pete Kozma with a fastball.
Mattingly went to the often-erratic Marmol, who shut down the Cardinals -- his former archnemesis during his eight seasons with the Cubs. Marmol quickly ended that threat and kept the deficit at two in the ninth as well.
Despite five taxing innings in which the four relievers threw a total of 101 pitches, the news wasn't all bad for the Dodgers' bullpen. Both closer Kenley Jansen and setup man Brian Wilson received the night off -- an important night off, given that they pitched on Monday, and will likely be called upon in Wednesday's do-or-die Game 5, regardless of the situation.
Though the rest of the 'pen may be taxed, if the Dodgers can get a strong outing from starter Zack Greinke, they'll have their endgame strategy in place -- not to mention Clayton Kershaw set for a potential Game 6.
"Those guys are going to give us a chance," Withrow said. "And that's always a reassuring feeling, especially being in the situation that we are."