First-inning fundamentals … or lack thereof

A big reason why the Dodgers have struggled this week is that they are making far too many early-count outs. In the first inning tonight, San Diego’s Clay Hensley took exactly three pitches to record the first two outs, and he got through the inning on just nine — putting him briefly on pace to throw a complete game with just 81 pitches. Conversely, in the bottom of the inning, the Padres worked Mark Hendrickson half to death, making him throw 25. And although they didn’t score, they might have accomplished more by inflating Hendrickson’s pitch count right from the start, which could lead to an earlier exit for the big lefty. Grady said yesterday he could probably count on 90 pitches from Hendrickson in his second start since moving from the pen to the rotation, which is still at least 10 fewer pitches than the rest of the Dodgers’ starters are capable of delivering. The pitch counts evened out later in the game, but Hensley just got through a perfect fourth on EIGHT pitches — a four-pitch strikeout of Andre Ethier, a three-pitch K of Wilson Valdez and a first-pitch groundout by Hendrickson. Both teams have solid middle relief, so it might not matter anyway. But so far, the difference has been glaring. Dodgers 1, Padres 0, bottom 4

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