Pitching lapses plague Dodgers again

Stripling exits early, Hatcher struggles in loss to Angels

Pitching lapses plague Dodgers again

ANAHEIM -- For the second consecutive game, a Dodgers starter got into a jam and exited in the fifth inning of a close game. And once more, the Angels left the inning with the lead, courtesy of the Dodgers' bullpen.

Thursday's 7-4 loss at Angel Stadium was the latest in a rough stretch for the team's relievers, who have allowed 13 earned runs in their last five games. The only game in which the unit didn't allow runs involved Kenley Jansen and eight innings from Clayton Kershaw.

Chris Hatcher was the one with a rough outing Thursday, allowing two earned runs, and two more baserunners inherited from Ross Stripling, to score.

"I feel like I have a decent outing, then I have a terrible one, for lack of better words," Hatcher said. "I'm trying everything. I thought I had caught onto a little something and it's helped a little bit. I'm actually throwing strikes now, but they're poorly executed strikes."

Hatcher entered the game with a one-run lead in the fifth with the bases loaded and two outs. His taks was to get Johnny Giavotella out. Hatcher fell behind with a first-pitch ball, then saw a 104-mph line drive blow by into left field to give the Angels the lead.

While a measure of responsibility falls on Stripling for creating the jam, Hatcher has been losing the benefit of the doubt since he began the season as the Dodgers' set-up man.

"It started off rocky for Hatcher. We had him in the back end," manager Dave Roberts said. "At that point in time after numerous outings, you want to change the mojo and put him in different situations. A little lower leverage to get his confidence going. The ball's still coming out well, but you find the big part of the plate with Major League hitters, the result is not going to be good."

A leadoff home run in the next inning from Carlos Perez, who entered the game slugging .221 for the season, cemented that it wasn't going to be an outing Hatcher would look back favorably on. He eventually left with one out and two runners on, one of whom scored with Joe Blanton on the mound.

With Hatcher's ERA now at 6.35, time is running out for the right-hander to fix what's causing his struggles before he is demoted even further in the bullpen pecking order. He can at least say he's been on this ride before and finished with his head above water. His first-half ERA in 2015 was even worse, a 6.38 in 27 games. His second half mark: 1.31.

"You have to have a short memory, but there's something going on to cause that execution. I know I can do it. I did it the end of the year last year. It's something you just have to keep going out and keep working."

Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.