Bullpen of the Week: LA relievers deliver title

When starters have faltered, Dodgers 'pen has saved the day

Bullpen of the Week: LA relievers deliver title

On the night of June 26, when Clayton Kershaw made his final start before hitting the disabled list, the Dodgers trailed the Giants by eight games in the National League West.

Few would have predicted that night that Los Angeles would be celebrating its fourth consecutive National League West title just 13 weeks later. Injuries and inconsistency have ravaged the Dodgers' rotation all season long, but they are still division champs.

Much of the credit goes to the team's bullpen for keeping L.A. afloat. The Dodgers have won an incredible 38 games this season when their starting pitchers have gone five innings or less, which is already a single-season Major League record. Through Sunday, Los Angeles relievers had thrown a franchise-record 565 2/3 innings this season. So it is only fitting that the unit stepped up once again this past week in the team's biggest games of the year.

BULLPEN OF THE WEEK WINNERS
Week Team
April 3-10 A's
April 11-17 Twins
April 18-24 Nationals
April 25-May 1 Phillies
May 2-8 Angels
May 9-15 Yankees
May 16-22 Cubs
May 23-29 Astros
May 30-June 5 Dodgers
June 6-12 Yankees
June 13-19 Marlins
June 20-26 Tigers
June 27-July 3 Pirates
July 4-10 Dodgers
July 18-24 Yankees
July 25-31 Brewers
Aug. 1-7 Blue Jays
Aug. 8-14 Mariners
Aug. 15-21 Royals
Aug. 22-28 Pirates
Aug. 29-Sept. 4 Cubs
Sept. 5-11 Astros
Sept. 12-18 Pirates
Sept. 19-25 Dodgers
Sept. 28-Oct. 2 Mariners

The Dodgers' relievers put up a performance that helped propel their team to the playoffs. It also earned them the Bullpen of the Week Award presented by The Hartford.

As part of the MLB Prevailing Moments program, each Monday throughout the 2016 season, MLB.com is honoring the "Bullpen of the Week presented by The Hartford." An industry-wide panel of MLB experts, including legendary stats guru Bill James, constructed a metric based on James' widely renowned game-score formula, to provide a weekly measurement of team-bullpen performance.

Here's how the Bullpen Rating System is compiled for each week. For reference, a weekly score of 100 is considered outstanding:

• Add 1.5 points for each out recorded
• Add 1.5 points for each strikeout
• Add 5 points for a save
• Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed
• Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed
• Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed
• Subtract 1 point for each walk
• Subtract 5 points for a blown save

Los Angeles relievers allowed just six runs (five of them earned) on 19 hits over 29 1/3 innings, while pairing 30 strikeouts with only four walks. That added up to a score of 123, securing the Dodgers' third Bullpen of the Week Award -- tying them with the Pirates and Yankees for the most Bullpen awards won by a squad this season.

Here's one example of how Los Angeles' relievers withstood adversity and succeeded despite unexpected circumstances:

The unexpected:

Scott Kazmir's long-awaited return to the rotation Friday night was delayed even longer by a heartwarming farewell ceremony to Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully. But when Kazmir finally did take the mound, he did not last long. After just one inning and 19 pitches, the lefty's night was finished because of intercostal muscle spasms.

The Dodgers bullpen had already helped the team capture wins on back-to-back nights when the starter had failed to exceed five innings. Now they would have to record the final 24 outs of Friday's ballgame to do it again.

How they prevailed:

Rookie right-hander Ross Stripling spent his entire Minor League career as a starter. In April he posted one of the Dodgers' most memorable starting performances of the season when manager Dave Roberts pulled him in the eighth inning of a potential no-hitter. But Stripling has provided Los Angeles a lot of value out of the bullpen and did so again Friday when he held the Rockies scoreless from the second inning through the fourth.

"This role, he gives us a little bit of length out of the 'pen, which is great," Roberts said of Stripling after Friday's game. "He gives us the flexibility, and it really proved to be the difference tonight."

L.A. enjoyed a 4-0 lead when Stripling gave way to Luis Avilan, who had won the previous night's game in relief. Avilan pitched a scoreless fifth before right-hander Josh Fields had some trouble in the sixth, giving up two runs -- including a homer by the Rockies' Nolan Arenado -- to cut the Dodgers' lead to 4-2.

Those two runs ended up being the only signs of trouble, however, as Pedro Baez, Grant Dayton and closer Kenley Jansen allowed just one hit over the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. In front of a packed house at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles picked up an important 5-2 victory thanks to a dominant performance by their six relievers.

"It's tough for me to swallow," Kazmir said of his short outing, "but having the bullpen pick us up, pick me up. That's what they did. It's awesome what Strip and all those guys did today."

The Baltimore Orioles' bullpen finished second in the BRS standings with 118 points. Closer Zach Britton extended his successful saves streak to 48 on Sunday, which is the sixth-longest streak in baseball since 1969.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.