St. Louis Cardinals 3, Dodgers 1: ‘Terrible’ strike zone, bullpen blowup, season on the brink.

Scott Elbert

Dodgers pitcher Scott Elbert reacts after giving up a two-run home run to St. Louis Cardinals’ Kolten Wong (background) during the seventh inning of the Dodgers’ 3-1 loss in Game 3 of the NLDS on Monday. (Associated Press photo)

ST. LOUIS >> The Dodgers find themselves in a familiar position after a 3-1 loss in Game 3 of the NLDS. As Mark Whicker writes, we all know how it ended last year. Clayton Kershaw acknowledged the gravity of moment after being officially named the Dodgers’ Game 4 starter.

Matt Kemp called home plate umpire Dale Scott’s strike zone “terrible,” but the Dodgers’ bullpen was at least as bad.

The box score is here.

Why the Dodgers will carry 12 pitchers, not 11, in the National League Division Series.

On the eve of the National League Division Series, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had a choice. He could keep 14 position players and 11 pitchers on the roster, like he did a year ago, or acknowledge the reality of his unsettled middle-relief situation and his Game 3 starter.

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Dodgers announce NLDS roster; Paco Rodriguez, Joc Pederson, Darwin Barney cut.

The Dodgers will carry 12 pitchers and 13 position players on their roster for the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Among the final cuts were left-hander Paco Rodriguez, outfielder Joc Pederson and infielder Darwin Barney.

The Dodgers will carry four starting pitchers and eight relievers, including two left-handers: Scott Elbert and J.P. Howell.

Here is the complete roster:
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Dodgers activate Paco Rodriguez, are flush with left-handed relievers.

SAN FRANCISCO >> One day after Scott Elbert gave the Dodgers two left-handed relievers, Paco Rodriguez made it a threesome. He was activated Saturday from the disabled list, where he’d been mired since August 4 with a strained left teres major muscle.

Rodriguez has appeared in 13 games for the Dodgers this season, firing scoreless relief in 10 of those appearances. He’s 3-5 with two saves and a 2.52 ERA (20 ER/71.1 IP) in 100 career games.

Left-hander J.P. Howell has been the Dodgers’ southpaw workhorse, appearing in 64 games this season. Only eight lefties have appeared in more games in the National League this season. However, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has no plans on changing the Dodgers’ late-innings mix:

Dodgers add left-hander Scott Elbert for San Francisco series. Update.

Scott Elbert

Scott Elbert (left) and A.J. Ellis (right) were drafted by the Dodgers in 2004 and 2003, respectively. (Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO >> Scott Elbert rejoined the Dodgers here Friday, two years and 17 days after throwing his last major-league pitch. Elbert joins J.P. Howell as the only left-handers in the Dodgers’ bullpen.

Elbert began the 2014 season on the 60-day disabled list following Tommy John surgery in June 2013. He was further set back by appendicitis earlier this year.

The Dodgers opted to designate Elbert for assignment in June once his rehab at Triple-A Albuquerque was complete. Elbert went unclaimed and remained in Albuquerque. In 18 games with the Isotopes, he allowed 17 hits and eight earned runs in 14 ⅔ innings, a 4.91 earned-run average.

Elbert will wear number number 57, the same number he’s worn since making his major-league debut with the Dodgers in 2008.

To make room for Elbert on the active roster, the Dodgers designated pitcher Red Patterson for assignment.

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Scott Elbert throws a scoreless inning for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

Dodgers pitcher Scott Elbert threw a 10-pitch scoreless inning Friday for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

The left-hander induced an infield popout, a groundout and a flyout to center field against the Lancaster JetHawks.

It was the seventh minor-league game Elbert has appeared in since his rehabilitation began June 18. Elbert began the season on the 60-day disabled list as he attempts to return from Tommy John surgery last year.

Scott Elbert is ‘on the move and feeling good,’ Onelki Garcia not so much.

Remember Scott Elbert?

Left-handed pitcher. Had Tommy John surgery in June of last year. Had his appendix removed earlier this year. Stuck in extended spring training ever since, out of sight and out of mind.

Scott Elbert threw two bullpen sessions in extended spring training recently and hasn’t had any setbacks since, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. His fastball, which has averaged 92.1 mph in 120 career games, touched 90 mph on the radar gun during a recent live batting practice session.

“Scottie’s on the move and feeling good,” Mattingly said.

Could a minor-league rehab outing be next?

“I would think that he’s heading that way,” Mattingly said. “There’s been no talk about it. I think he’s a little bit behind Bills.”

Billingsley said Sunday that he could make five rehab starts, starting Saturday, before returning to the majors.

The news wasn’t as good on Onelki Garcia, another left-handed pitcher taking up space on the Dodgers’ 60-day disabled list.

Garcia underwent a procedure last November to remove bone spurs from his left elbow, and another in February to repair torn cartilage in his left knee.

Of Garcia, Mattingly reported “a lot of setbacks, one after the other.”

Reports: Dodgers to re-sign J.P. Howell for two years, $11.25 million, plus option.

J.P. HowellJ.P. Howell will return to the Dodgers for at least two years, according to multiple reports Monday, with the two sides compromising on a third-year option that would pay Howell more than any left-handed reliever on the market this year.

The contract reportedly guarantees Howell $11.25 million through 2015. The third-year option, worth $6.25 million, vests if he makes 120 appearances over the next two seasons. It’s a realistic benchmark for Howell, who appeared in 67 games in 2013, going 4-1 with a 2.18 earned-run average.

In total, the 30-year-old has the potential to earn $17.5 million over the life of the contract – $1 million more than the Rockies gave lefty specialist Boone Logan over the next three years.

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Daily Distractions: Tender deadline looms at 9 p.m. tonight.

Ronald Belisario

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis (left) and pitcher Ronald Belisario (right) are both arbitration eligible. (Associated Press photo)

By 9 p.m. tonight, A.J. Ellis, Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen will have been tendered a contract by the Dodgers. That much we know. The deadline for teams to tender a contract to their arbitration-eligible players is fast approaching, and the Dodgers won’t leave Kershaw, Ellis and Jansen behind.

We don’t know how much the Dodgers will offer each player, how much they’ll ultimately sign for, or if Ronald Belisario — the final remaining member of the Dodgers’ arbitration-eligible class — will get an offer at all. made some predictions here.

So far, the Dodgers have only dipped into the free-agent market for a starting pitcher, Dan Haren. But they had enough interest in adding a right-handed reliever that they were among the first teams to offer a contract to Joe Smith. Smith ultimately signed a three-year, $15.75 million contract with the Angels.

Did the Dodgers hope to replace Belisario with Smith, a sinker/slider pitcher who rarely exceeds 90 mph on the radar gun? Or do they still see a need for a power arm to complement Brandon League, Chris Withrow, Jose Dominguez, and any other right-handers who might be in the mix for 2014?

Belisario’s lousy September (7.94 ERA, .842 opponents’ OPS) obscured what was previously a solid year. Statistically speaking, the Dodgers had one of the National League’s better bullpens in 2013. Bringing back everyone, or attempting to, isn’t out of the question.

Three other arbitration-eligible Dodgers already agreed to contracts for 2014. Scott Elbert signed for $575,000 for 2014 with up to another $100,000 in possible incentives on the table. Drew Butera and Mike Baxter both signed for $700,000.

That’s three down, three (or four) to go.

Some bullet points for a Laotian National Day:
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Daily Distractions: Persisting in the argument against Juan Uribe’s evil ninth-inning bunt.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp swings and misses at Brad Ziegler’s final pitch in the Dodgers’ 2-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday. (Associated Press photo)

Last night in my postgame thoughts I didn’t delve too much into the first out of the ninth inning. (Neither did columnist Tom Hoffarth in Phoenix.) Speaking for myself, it was reasonable to assume the first out of the ninth inning would get the attention it deserved elsewhere.

It did.

The first out, you may recall, was recorded at third base. Juan Uribe was ordered to lay down a sacrifice bunt attempt and pushed the ball just a little too hard, enough to result in lead runner Michael Young getting gunned down by the Diamondbacks’ infield while a frustrated Uribe touched first base safely.

Dodgers manager Don “Mattingly … voluntarily hobbled the Dodgers by ordering hot hand Juan Uribe to sacrifice with runners on first and second and nobody out,” wrote Jay Jaffe at

“Makes perfect sense if you’re into age-old rationales, and even if you’re not, it just might have worked if Uribe WOULD HAVE ACTUALLY GOTTEN THE JOB DONE,” wrote Tony Jackson (among his many less-than-flattering odes to the sacrifice bunt).

But if you read anything this morning about the bunt and its history, and why there’s such a loud furor over Mattingly’s decision, head over to BuzzFeed (and just try to resist the allure of “18 Animals Who Got the Last Laugh”). The age-old anti-bunting argument, presented by author Erik Malinowski, can be summed up in two points:

1, Baseball history — we’re talking a huge sample size here — shows that trading an out for 90 feet decreases a team’s odds of scoring a run.

2, Executing the bunt strategy usually requires a fast runner, a skilled bunter and another hit after the bunt (a sacrifice fly or an opponent’s error would have worked in this particular case, too). The Dodgers had none of these in the ninth inning Monday.

The argument is about as old as me — born in the early 1980s — so to convince bunting advocates against their position in 2013 reeks of dragging tobacco executives before the House of Representatives in 1994. I don’t have the power to levy a bunting tax, though I do have the power to point out its illogic. That doesn’t seem to be enough.

So what would convince Mattingly and the Dodgers to stop bunting at this point?

Malinowski hints — and recent history suggests — that it might simply require some more progressive thinking in the Dodgers’ front office, and some people who can present the data in a convincing manner. A little desperation would help, too.

Take the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates, for example. They had an old-school manager (Clint Hurdle) and a fairly desperate circumstance. Their payroll was maxed out. They were competing in a tough division. And they were giving away outs — not by bunting, but in the way they played defense. So with the help of a few progressive front-office officials, the Pirates turned a little conventional baseball wisdom on its head and changed the way they played defense. It’s been an important factor in their success this season.

If the Pirates can do it, maybe the Dodgers can turn some (quasi-conventional) baseball wisdom on its head and change the way they advance runners. It will take desperation and progressive thinking.

Some bullet points for a Roberto Clemente Day:
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