Injury riddled Dodgers staying afloat
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly's first year on the job has been bumpier than most.
His team can't score. Can't stay healthy. Can't put together more than two solid games at a time.
And that's just the on-the-field stuff. The team's ownership situation remains in flux as Frank McCourt's quest to keep the team has cast a shadow over the entire organization.
Yet the Dodgers have found a way to stay afloat. They headed home Thursday night just 3 1/2 games behind first-place San Francisco in the National League West after the final game of their four-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates was rained out. The rainout was the 22nd this season, surpassing the total from last season.
''It could be worse, that's for sure,'' Mattingly said. ''But I think we've played better than our record to be honest with you. I think there are some games we should have won, 2-3 games in there and it flips it in the opposite direction.''
The team's margin for error is as thin as the injury list is long. The Dodgers currently have six players on the disabled list, including closer Jonathan Broxton, first baseman Casey Blake and shortstop Rafael Furcal.
All three are expected to return at some point, with Blake (left elbow infection) and Furcal (fractured left thumb) in the process of making their way back.
Then again, their problems are physical. The team will be without All-Star reliever Hong-Chih Kuo indefinitely after he was placed on the disabled list Wednesday because of anxiety disorder.
Still, Los Angeles has persevered. The Dodgers won back-to-back road games for the first time since early April on Tuesday and Wednesday and were ahead 1-0 when the sky opened up Thursday.
No makeup date has been announced.
A night off might not be the worst thing for a tired team at the end of a weeklong East Coast trip.
Though right fielder Andre Ethier's 30-game hit streak grabbed headlines, it didn't exactly lead to a steady stream of Dodgers crossing the plate.
Los Angeles is batting .258 as a team, not bad in a season dominated by pitching, but has scored just 140 runs, among the fewest in the National League.
Still the Dodgers have stayed competitive behind solid pitching. Four of the five starters have an ERA under 4.00.
''When you get that every day, your team knows every time you go out there you're in a game,'' Mattingly said. ''That's a good feeling for a team to know you're not getting past (Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley) and going 'oh boy, where do we go, now we've got three days to get back to those guys. You can put a run together.''
The bullpen has found an unlikely closer in veteran Vicente Padilla, who has assumed the role since Broxton went down because of a bruised right elbow on May 4.
Padilla is a perfect 3 for 3 in save opportunities, the first saves he's had since pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2000.
''We're down a few pitchers there in the bullpen right now, so whatever I have to do,'' Padilla said. ''It's a new role, but it's a good role, and it's working. I guess it'd be easier on everyone if everyone was healthy, but we just have to get through it right now.''
Mattingly said the decision to move Padilla as the interim closer was easy, pointing to Padilla's ability to throw strikes. The structure of the role also helps the longtime starter prepare mentally for the job.
''You know it's the eighth inning and you've got the lead and it's a save situation, he starts getting ready,'' Mattingly said. ''In a sense it limits (his opportunities). If there's a save situation every day, we're not going to be able to (pitch him) but that's a good problem to have.''