Chicago Cubs 8, Dodgers 7: Who (and what) to blame for a bullpen meltdown?

Adrian Gonzalez

Adrian Gonzalez was surrounded by bubbles after hitting the first of his two home runs in the Dodgers’ 8-7 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. (Associated Press photo)

The Dodgers’ bullpen melted down in a big way Saturday, leaving everyone searching for an explanation. The box score is here.

The Dodgers could have used another blowout win. Beyond getting them closer to a division title, it presents a golden opportunity for a relatively old team to rest up.

Dodgers 14, Chicago Cubs 5: Clayton Kershaw wins his 20th game in odd fashion.

Yasiel Puig

A.J. Ellis high-fives Yasiel Puig during the Dodgers’ 14-5 win over the Chicago Cubs on Friday. Ellis hit two home runs in the game and Puig hit one. (Getty Images)

Clayton Kershaw was far from perfect in winning his 20th game of the season, and that was OK. The box score was kind to Dodgers hitters.

Also: tomorrow is a big day for Hyun-Jin Ryu and Sunday’s starting pitcher, who still doesn’t have a name.

Dodgers acquire Darwin Barney from Chicago Cubs.

Darwin Barney

Darwin Barney’s +46 defensive runs saved at second base from 2012-14 ranks first in the major leagues. (Associated Press photo)

According to multiple reports Monday morning, the Dodgers have acquired second baseman Darwin Barney from the Chicago Cubs. The 28-year-old veteran had been designated for assignment six days ago.

Update (12:30 p.m.): The trade is official. The Dodgers acquire Barney and cash from the Cubs for a player to be named later. Barney hasbeen added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster so there is no corresponding move at the moment.

Barney, 28, is hitting 230/.265/.328 in 217 plate appearances with the Cubs this season. Known for his defense, Barney’s Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games is +15.5. He’s got +7 Defensive Runs Saved this season and +46 over the past three seasons, first in the majors.

Prior to being designated for assignment by the Cubs, Barney had hit safely in eight of his previous 10 games, batting .385 (15-for-39) with two doubles, two triples and an RBI since July 1. He hit .230 with two home runs and 16 RBI in 72 games overall.

Update (2:06 p.m.): Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said via text message: “We added him because we believe he is a plus defender who can play second, short and third.”

Dan Haren has a curious explanation for why he’s better late in games.

Dan Haren

Dan Haren allowed six hits and four runs Tuesday, all in the first four innings. (Getty Images)

Dan Haren has some unusual pitching splits this season, and an unconventional explanation to go with it.

Opponents were hitting .299 against Haren the first two times through the batting order prior to Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss. His performance against the Chicago White Sox was true to form. Chicago scored all its runs the first two times through the order against Haren, batting .294 until the lineup turned over again.

Haren only allowed one hit after that. The White Sox went 1-for-7 in the fifth and sixth innings against Haren. That was likewise true to form; opponents were hitting .222 against him the third time through the order prior to Tuesday.

So, what gives?

“The velocity is kind of up and down for me. I thrown it a little bit harder (recently), which might be a bad thing actually. As the game went along today I backed off a little bit and got a lot of ground balls. That’s something I’ve got to look at, what my ball is doing at what velocities because it might be better for me to back off.”

Haren agreed that he typically gets less movement the harder he throws.

“That’s what I’m going to be looking at. I’ve just got to figure it out. It’s been a few starts now where it’s kind of been the same story. I can’t keep going like this. Something’s got to change.”

Haren hasn’t won since May 12 against the Miami Marlins, a span of four starts. Wins and losses are famously fickle, but the 33-year-old veteran confessed it’s getting frustrating. Though he had a fairly consistent month of May, Haren has seen his ERA rise from 2.03 in April to 3.50 after Tuesday’s loss:

We’ll check back with Haren to see what he gleans from the next video session.

Chicago White Sox 5, Dodgers 4: Clayton Kershaw stumbles to the finish line.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw gave up five runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings in his final Cactus League start. (Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A rough sixth inning ended Clayton Kershaw’s preseason and lifted the White Sox to a 5-4 victory over the Dodgers in the second game of a doubleheader at Camelback Ranch.

Avisail Garcia unloaded on a Kershaw slider, launching it just right of the center-field wall for a three-run home run. The longball followed singles by Jose Abreu and Marcus Semien and ended Kershaw’s night around the 80-pitch mark.

“It wasn’t great,” Kershaw said of his final Cactus League tuneup. “There was some improvement in the middle innings. Obviously that home run didn’t help but, you know, that’s part of it.”

The left-hander finishes baseball’s preseason with a 9.20 earned-run average in 14 ⅔ innings.

The Dodgers conclude the Cactus League season tomorrow at 1 p.m. against the Colorado Rockies.
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Chicago Cubs 5, Dodgers 4: Another Dodgers pitcher has another nagging injury.

Josh Beckett

Josh Beckett threw three shutout innings against the Chicago Cubs before leaving with a right thumb contusion. (Associated Press photo)


MESA, Ariz. — Josh Beckett was hoping for more out of his third Cactus League start than three innings and 44 pitches.

Because of a right thumb contusion that worsened as the game went on, Beckett was pulled Friday against the Chicago Cubs before reaching his four-inning, 65-pitch target. The veteran right-hander was already staying away from throwing curveballs, the pitch that gave him the most discomfort, before head athletic trainer Stan Conte and manager Don Mattingly decided to pull him altogether.

Beckett doesn’t think the injury is serious but said he’ll visit a doctor next week if needed.

“It’s frustrating but it could have happened at a worse time,” he said. “I think right now we’re dealing with it the best we can. If I need a couple days off, we’ll do that. I just don’t want to fall too far behind.”

The injury isn’t related to the right thumb ligament that bothered Beckett in Boston early in the 2012 season with Boston. That injury affected the inside of his right thumb; this one affects the outside, he said.

Eleven days ago, Beckett’s right thumb “got slammed on the outside of a door,” he said. “Somebody was opening the door and — you know how they have signs that say ‘in’ and ‘out’? Somebody came out the in.”

In spite of the injury, Beckett’s fastball and changeup were effective against the Cubs. He allowed one hit, an infield single by Emilio Bonifacio, walked two and struck out one in three scoreless innings.

Beckett and right-hander Zack Greinke have both been ruled out from making the trip next week to Sydney, Australia, leaving the Dodgers with four healthy starters — Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren and Paul Maholm — one week before the beginning of the regular season.

Fortunately, the schedule will allow the Dodgers to can get with on four starters until mid-April. Beckett shouldn’t need that long.

“It’s not getting worse but it’s not getting better,” he said. “I’m just going to evaluate, maybe see a doctor again next week.”

After Beckett and Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks were pulled with the score tied 0-0, both offenses came awake against the bullpens. Jamey Wright (four runs allowed in the sixth inning) and Javy Guerra (walk, single, RBI groundout in the fourth) allowed all the Cubs’ runs.

The Dodgers (5-9-4) clawed back to make the game close. Miguel Rojas doubled and scored on an RBI triple by Dee Gordon in the fifth inning. Alex Guerrero hit a two-run double off Jose Veras in the seventh inning. Drew Butera hit a solo home run to center field off Alberto Cabrera in the ninth inning to provide the final score.

The box score is here.

Some more notes and observations:
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Report: Chicago White Sox sign former Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario for one year, $3 million.

Ronald BelisarioAccording to the Chicago Tribune, Ronald Belisario is leaving Los Angeles to sign a one-year, $3 million contract with the White Sox.

Belisario, who is eligible for arbitration, was not tendered before the 9 p.m. Monday deadline. The right-hander led the Dodgers in appearances in 2013, posting a 3.97 earned-run average in 77 games.

Earlier Thursday, the Dodgers agreed to terms on a one-year contract with right-hander Brian Wilson.

The Tribune reported that Belisario’s contract will become official once he passes a physical.

Clayton Kershaw’s unusually bad start wasn’t all that bad.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw is visited on the mound by teammates and Dodgers assistant athletic trainer Greg Harrel after being struck by a line drive in the sixth inning. (John McCoy/Staff Photographer)

Clayton Kershaw dispatched the old “didn’t have my best stuff” line tonight, which is almost plausible.

The 25-year-old left-hander, in the midst of perhaps the best season ever by a Dodgers pitcher, did something he hadn’t done since April: He was pulled before he could complete six innings.

Some other Kershaw streaks of note ended in the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs:
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Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke aiming for a personal honor tonight.

Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke is in the early running for National League pitcher of the month for August. (Associated Press photo)


The Dodgers have a 9 ½ game lead on the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks entering their three-game series against the Chicago Cubs. Tonight’s pitcher, Zack Greinke, would like to give the Dodgers some more breathing room in the standings, not that they need much.

Greinke also has a personal milestone at stake, and unless the Diamondbacks can make things interesting in the next five weeks, the personal milestones will occupy much of this space.

Greinke was selected as the 2009 American League April Pitcher of the Month while with Kansas City. He hasn’t won the award in either league since. Through four starts in August, the right-hander is 4-0 with a 0.96 earned-run average (3 ER/28.0 IP). He’s allowed just one run in his last 21 ⅔ innings dating to August 10 and has won nine of his last 10 decisions since June 22, ranking fourth in the Majors with a 2.14 ERA (20 ER/84.0 IP) in 12 starts in that span.

No one will ever accuse the Dodgers of underpaying Greinke, whose six-year, $159 million deal signed last December was the richest ever at the time for a right-hander. (Felix Hernandez has since laid waste to Greinke’s claim.) However, when his ERA was at 4.30 back on July 3, Greinke certainly heard accusations of being overpaid — especially considering his month-plus on the disabled list following an ill-advised brawl with Carlos Quentin in San Diego.

That seems like a long, long time ago.

Today’s lineups:
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