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Four Innings From Brazoban and Gagne
2004-09-23 09:30
by Jon Weisman

When you consider that the Dodgers can essentially lock up any game that they lead after five innings by going to Yhency Brazoban and Eric Gagne to get the final 12 outs, the Dodgers' current condition is both frustrating and tantalizing.

From this point of the season on, Los Angeles should not hesitate to turn to its two most reliable relievers as early as the sixth inning - particularly against San Francisco.

Because the Dodger starting pitching has become so particularly unsteady, because my dream of two good starts each from five pitchers might remain, however realistic, just a dream, there is even less reason than ever to think that Los Angeles will need Brazoban and Gagne in a hold or save situation on consecutive days. The Dodgers simply can no longer afford the risk of their best weapons remaining on the sideline when there is a lead at hand.

Of course, who knows if Los Angeles will get an early lead? For whatever reason, the starting rotation of the Giants has suddenly become a strength. Their bullpen, while better than it has been, remains a weakness. So the Dodgers might have to consider rolling the Brazoban-Gagne dice even in a game in which they are tied or trail after five innings.

In any case, by going 4-2 against the Giants, the Dodgers would take care of eight of the 11 games needed for their magic number to win the National League West. The Dodgers don't need sweeps. A concentrated effort on just two of three games in each Giants series would do it. That means bypassing the Dodgers' uncertain middle relief - not hopeless, just uncertain - and going straight to the firemen.

The notion that has been floated of starting Gagne and hoping to get five innings out of him is more radical than it is necessary or even useful. Blowing out Gagne in one game a week won't solve the Dodger problems, and there is no reason to give up on the idea that Los Angeles can put together a streak of good performances from their starting pitchers, any more than there is to assume that Brett Tomko will never have another bad start again.

But the Dodgers need to plan for the possibility that quality starts from their starters will remain rare. So they need to make sure Gagne and Brazoban get in the remaining 11 games early and often.

Oh, and yeah, it wouldn't hurt the Dodgers for their offense to KO a pitcher a few times, either.

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