Plaschke: Tyler Glasnow and the Dodgers' rotation are a midsummer mess in need of help



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The Dodgers have a starting pitching problem.

They might not want to admit it, they certainly dread the thought of addressing it, but on a sweltering Friday night at Dodger Stadium, there was no escaping it.

Facing the National League Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers in the opener of a statement weekend series, they needed their ace to be their ace.

For a second consecutive start, Tyler Glasnow failed them.

With their rotation fractured by injuries and frequented by recent ineffectiveness, they needed their $136.5-million offseason acquisition to begin answering career-nagging questions about strength and durability.

For the third time in his last five starts, there were only more questions.

None of it seemed to matter at the end of the night, the Dodgers using three home runs by the incredibly unsung Will Smith and a dramatic two-run, two-strike eighth-inning single by Freddie Freeman to steal a late 8-5 victory amid familiar postseason roars.

But those “Fre-ddie, Fre-ddie” chants?

For the Dodgers to overcome past October hauntings, in three months those cheers need to be, “Ty-ler, Ty-ler, Ty-ler.”

They need Glasnow to be better. They need their entire rotation to be better. And barring that, they have barely three weeks to make it better, the July 30 trade deadline approaching and Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman facing a task that for two years has been terribly left undone.

The Dodgers need to make the one deal that could make the other $1.2 billion in deals worth it. They need to trade for the one thing that has eluded them for two collapses.

They still need to find one more starting pitcher whom they can trust to take the ball in October.

No more ignoring it. No more Lance Lynn-ing it. No more counting on kids to suddenly grow up or injuries to miraculously heal.

As Friday night once again revealed, if Tyler Glasnow is The Guy, they might need a second guy.

Fighting through warm dead air and a pesky Brewers offense, Glasnow was an ace for five innings. Problem was, he pitched six.

Glasnow was near perfect for those five innings, allowing only one base runner on an error. Problem was, in the middle of it all, he made a perfect mess.

Clinging to a two-run lead in the fourth inning, Glasnow suddenly lost his grip and fell hard, giving up five runs in a span of six hitters.

His overall line will show only three allowed hits in six innings. But the way he fell apart in giving up those five runs was startling, and something that will get this team beat in the playoffs.

It started with an infield single to Brice Turang, Glasnow’s first allowed hit. It seemed to rattle him. He then walked William Contreras.

One out later, he gave up a 15-hop single through the right side by Willy Adames to ruin his shutout, and now he really seemed hurried and distracted, walking Garrett Mitchell to load the bases for Rhys Hoskins.

One pitch later, Glasnow grooved a fastball down the middle and Hoskins punched it over the center-field fence for a grand slam.

Glasnow settled down to throw two more hitless innings, but the damage had been done, both to the game and the perception that he can shoulder this heavy load.

Their starting pitching starts with him, and the Dodgers have to wonder, will he be there for them when it counts?

He has pitched 110 innings this season, only 10 shy of his most innings pitched in any season in his nine-year career. He’s never worked this much, this consistently, this deep into the schedule. He’s never been this healthy for this kind of stretch. He’s basically never been here before.

And is it showing? You decide.

In his last two starts he has given up 10 runs in nine innings. In his last five starts he has given up 16 runs in 29 innings. His ERA has climbed from 2.53 in early May to 3.47 after Friday night.

“I thought Tyler was great all night outside of that inning where he gave up a couple of seeing-eye grounders, the walks hurt us and obviously the Hoskins homer, but outside of that, he was good,” manager Dave Roberts afterward said.

Roberts won’t be so forgiving if this happens in October. It took Smith being only the fourth Dodger catcher in history to hit three homers in a game for the Dodgers to survive Glasnow, and chances are, that sudden power surge is not happening in October.

“I think the infield hit, the walk … I think he started getting a little frustrated, a little quick,” Roberts acknowledged. “I don’t know if it was losing command or just not making pitches when he needed to.”

Whatever it was, it will be tough to overcome in the playoffs, and, as Glasnow assuredly has learned by now, around here nothing else matters.

“That inning especially, the timing was a little weird and then not executing, kind of falling behind then just heater up and he put a good barrel on it,” said Glasnow.

Give him credit for calming down long enough to finish with two strong innings.

“I didn’t have a choice, I guess,” he said. “I just had to go throw.”

Admire that, but feel free to worry that in the playoffs, he’ll be out of the game after giving up a five-spot, with no chance for redemption, not for him or a rotation that has recently done a pretty good imitation of him.

In the Dodgers’ last seven games, their starting pitching has a 9.00 ERA, and all the Fre-ddies in the world can’t fix that.

Glasnow was pelted for five runs in three innings against the San Francisco Giants. James Paxton was pummeled for nine runs in four innings against the Giants. Gavin Stone allowed four runs in three innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Each of those three possible postseason starters have recently come up empty, and a fourth, Bobby Miller, has also struggled lately, sending the wrong message at the wrong time.

And those are just the healthy ones.

The Dodgers also can’t count on injured Yoshinobu Yamamoto, injured Clayton Kershaw, injured Walker Buehler or injured Dustin May.

You know who they are counting on for Sunday’s series finale? A prospect named Justin Wrobelski, who will make his major league debut after two triple-A appearances.

Which brings the issue back to Glasnow. If he’s right, everything behind him will seem right. But, barring a trade, if he’s not working, nothing behind him will work.

Shohei Ohtani might be this team’s most valuable player, and Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts their most inspirational players, but make no mistake.

As of this harried moment, Tyler Glasnow is their most important player.

Roberts acknowledged they will watch his innings moving forward.

“We’re monitoring it,” Roberts said. “I think more on the micro, in the sense of how he’s feeling, how he’s throwing the baseball, recovering versus a hard and fast, there’s a certain amount of innings that he can pitch this year. So I think that’s kind of the approach we’re going, but we certainly know he’s encroaching on that.”

Before Friday’s game, when I asked Roberts if he held his breath with each Glasnow start, he adamantly said no.

“I don’t think there’s been anything for me up to this point that I’ve been with him that feels that I hold my breath,” he said.

Better start.



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