SAN FRANCISCO – The Ricky Nolasco the Dodgers acquired from the Miami Marlins in July no longer resembles the Nolasco the Dodgers have seen over his past three starts.
That’s not good news. Nolasco is tentatively scheduled to be the team’s No. 4 starter in the playoffs behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, but he’s hit a rut that just doesn’t want to end.
In the Dodgers’ 6-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday, Nolasco didn’t get out of the sixth inning and took the loss. After starting 8-1 with a 1.89 ERA following the July 6 trade with Miami, he’s 0-2 in his past three starts and has allowed 24 hits and 17 earned runs in 12 innings, a 12.75 ERA.
“I just feel like I’m not catching a couple of breaks here and there that can change the game,” he said. “I still feel good (and) feel like I’m making good pitches. I’m just getting burned on some things here and there.”
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly insists it’s simply a matter of matchups, that Nolasco doesn’t match up well against the Giants. Maybe he has a point: The Giants knocked out the right-hander in the second inning on Sept. 14, scoring seven runs in a 19-3 win.
“You can look at flat-out results, but a lot of time when we look at stuff during the season, we’re trying to match teams up and match guys up,” Mattingly said. “These guys, the numbers are not a great matchup for him. For me, he’s throwing the ball the same way he’s been throwing it all year long.”
Mattingly has already said he’ll use four starters in the first round of the playoffs, meaning Nolasco would be the starter if a Game 4 is necessary. But if the Dodgers are down two games to one in the division series, they undoubtedly would give the ball to Kershaw on short rest rather than have the season hang on a shaky Nolasco. With a 2-1 playoff lead, however, Nolasco is a safer bet because Kershaw would be well rested for a deciding fifth game.
Mattingly insists he hasn’t lost confidence in Nolasco, but that would go only so far in the playoffs.
“Ricky’s shown us he can throw the ball really well, he can make good pitches,” Mattingly said. “I don’t think Ricky has done anything that’s going to change our minds that he’s a quality starter.”
Perhaps, but if the Dodgers want to build momentum heading into the postseason, Nolasco didn’t do that Wednesday night.