MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Bloom: Bolsinger's early exit taxes Dodgers' bullpen

Short start followed by more struggles for Los Angeles' relief corps

Bloom: Bolsinger's early exit taxes Dodgers' bullpen

PHOENIX -- It wasn't exactly the way Dodgers manager Don Mattingly mapped it out, with his club clinging to a first-place slot in the National League West almost halfway through the season.

The starting rotation has been a patchwork job. The bullpen has again been problematic.

And the last thing the Dodgers needed on Monday night was to lose another starter, this time Mike Bolsinger, after four innings of a 10-6 loss to the D-backs at Chase Field because of food poisoning.

Bad oysters in a Miami restaurant on Sunday, Bolsinger said.

Dodgers fan one, nab one

Because of that, Mattingly had to use six relievers. Not the best way to open a three-game series. The bullpen, which went into the game with a 2.93 ERA, seventh best in Major League Baseball, blew an early 4-0 lead and allowed all 10 runs. The 'pen came out of it with a 3.29 ERA -- 10th overall.

"It's not a good feeling. This is probably about the worst I've felt after a game all year," Mattingly said. "It was disappointing that we got a lead and we didn't hold on to it."

Imagine how Bolsinger felt. Mattingly knew as the game began that the right-hander was experiencing queasiness and cramps, the cramps reaching a crescendo as he worked through a three-up, three-down fourth inning.

Mattingly said he thought about sending Bolsinger out there again in the fifth, but he opted instead to pinch-hit Alex Guerrero with runners on the corners and two out in the top of that inning. Guerrero struck out. Bolsinger was replaced by Joel Peralta and thus began the cavalcade.

"It was tough, I feel bad, taxing the bullpen like that the first day of the series," Bolsinger said afterward. "You never want to do that. The bullpen has been so good all year. Not only tonight, but I feel like in past outings I've taxed the bullpen. I've got to figure out a way to go deeper into games. I know I can do it."

Bolsinger, a D-backs reject, wouldn't even have been out there if the Dodgers weren't already playing the entire season without Hyun-Jin Ryu (left shoulder impingement) and Brandon McCarthy (Tommy John surgery on his right elbow). They have used eight starters behind the big duo of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke and 23 pitchers total this season.

And only Greinke has pitched up to his advanced billing, with a 6-2 record and Major League-leading 1.58 ERA. Mattingly said he can't complain. With Bolsinger, Brett Anderson and Carlos Frias combining to win 13 games, the starters are fifth overall in the Majors with a 3.25 ERA.

"They've been pretty good," Mattingly said. "We're sitting here in first place, and we've lost Ryu and McCarthy for the season. Coming out of Spring Training without Kenley Jansen [foot surgery] for six weeks, we had a really young bullpen and end up losing four of those guys along the way. But so far we kind of just hung in there."

The Dodgers are 43-35 after 78 games and lead the defending World Series champion Giants (42-35) by a half game, which is far better than it could have been.

Last year after 78 games, the Dodgers were 42-36 and 4 1/2 games out, having been as far back as 10 games behind the Giants. Two years ago after 78 games, the Dodgers were 36-42, six games behind the D-backs, falling as far as 8 1/2 games back. Yasiel Puig came up from the Minors and had that monster month of June to save them. The Dodgers won the division both years.

This year, they're barely holding their own.

"I guess when you're in first, you've held your own," Mattingly said. "Obviously we're glad not to be [10] back and having fallen into that kind of hole again. I know the Giants played really, really well early last year. They were like the Cardinals this year, having just taken off and weren't losing. This year, we're both about seven or eight over. Nobody has taken off."

It's not the way Mattingly would have mapped it out, but so far it's working just the same. Go figure.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.