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.”

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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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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Daily Distractions: Starting pitching, the secret sauce in a series loss.

Jake  Peavy

Jake Peavy allowed only a solo home run in a complete-game win over the Dodgers on Sunday. (David Crane/Staff Photographer)


The Red Sox know they caught a break over the weekend, just like the Chicago Cubs know they will not in the coming days.

Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke never threw a pitch for the Dodgers against the Red Sox. That’s a huge reason why the Dodgers dropped a series for the first time in two months. The way the Dodgers’ aces have been pitching lately, avoiding Kershaw and Greinke is like playing the Chicago Bulls between 1990 and 1993 on a night when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were both hurt. (That never happened, for the record.)

After the Red Sox won the final game of the series Sunday — the Dodgers’ first series loss in more than two months — manager John Farrell complimented the performance of his starting pitchers. Jake Peavy threw a complete game Sunday, John Lackey threw a complete game Friday in a loss, and Jon Lester won the middle game with 7 ⅓ strong innings.

“The credit to our team is that we’ve stayed consistent, and the only way you can stay consistent is starting pitching and those guys have done it,” Farrell said. “Those guys have done a really good job. Even when a guy has a bad outing, the next guy picks him up.”

If that were Mattingly talking about the Dodgers’ staff, no one would be surprised.

Farrell also knows that it’s a double-edged sword, that he dodged a bullet by missing Kershaw and Greinke. Greinke, who starts against the Cubs tonight, has the majors’ lowest ERA since the All-Star break (1.41). Kershaw has the lowest ERA overall this season (1.72).

“Those are two very good pitchers, in those two guys,” Farrell said. “It’s just how the schedule unfolded.”

Meanwhile, MLB.com asked Cubs manager Dale Sveum about seeing Greinke and Kershaw the next two nights. His response: “Why did you have to bring that up? Let’s talk about something else.”

OK. Let’s:
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Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley was full of adrenaline in his rocky first outing.

Chad Billingsley sounded like a man who was just happy to be on the field Monday. At least, happy to be there and happy to be throwing strikes.

Billingsley didn’t really have a bad thing to say about his first appearance of the spring, even though his stat line said otherwise. The right-hander allowed five hits, two runs (both earned) and struck out one batter in two innings against the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs’ first four batters of the game hit a double, double, home run and single off Billingsley, putting the Dodgers in a 2-0 hole early in a 7-6 win.

But more importantly for the 28-year-old, he was pitching again and his elbow felt fine.

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Dodgers-Cubs Spring Training game will benefit Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation.

The Dodgers and Cubs announced they will play a Spring Training game at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium in Tucson on Thursday, March 21 at 1 p.m. with all proceeds going to the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation.

The foundation was established by the Green family in 2011 to receive gifts in memory of Christina-Taylor, the daughter of Dodgers scout John Green and granddaughter of former Cubs GM Dallas Green.

This will mark the Dodgers’ third annual benefit game in Tucson dating to 2011, when the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks played a similar benefit game in Tucson with all proceeds going to the Tucson Together Fund. In addition, The Dodgers Dream Foundation, in partnership with the Diamondbacks, dedicated a Dodgers Dreamfield in Oro Valley, Ariz. on a field that was re-named in memory of Christina-Taylor Green.

“We are very excited the Cubs agreed to play the Dodgers for this year’s game,” John Green said in a statement released by the team. “This game brings everything full circle for me since I played in the Cubs organization and my Dad (Dallas) was their General Manager.”

The mission of the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation is “to honor the life and memory of Christina-Taylor through charitable and educational projects that reflect and embody her interests, values and dreams.”