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Say it ain't so: Now even starting pitching is letting Dodgers down

June 18, 2011 |  9:00 pm

Photo: Dodgers starting pitcher Chad Billingsley during a 6-5 loss in Colorado to the Rockies on June 10. Credit: Jack Dempsey / Associated Press No, not that. Not the last vestige of team respectability. The one thing that is supposed to be a Dodgers’ strength.

So sorry, right now, it’s true. In addition to their woeful hitting and cover-the-eyes bullpen, now the Dodgers must add -- lousy starting pitching.

Coming next: Dodger Stadium swallowed by earthquake!

There are only so many struggling elements to the game that one team can squeeze into a season, though the Dodgers keep trying to add to their unattractive resume.

From the very beginning of the season, starting pitching was the one area in which the Dodgers had confidence. Their rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly and Jon Garland was expected to give them a chance to win every night.

Early on, they were pretty much as solid as advertised. Since June rolled around, though, they have been going in the wrong direction. And not coincidentally, so has the team.

In their first 15 starts in June before Saturday, the Dodgers' rotation had combined to go 4-8 with a 5.47 earned-run average. In those 15 starts, only one starter went as many as seven innings.

"We’re having a little stretch," Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said. "Our [starting] pitching and defense have really been our strengths. This small portion of time, we really haven’t pitched as good as we can. I think you’re concerned to the point where you don’t expect it."

The starters have not been helped by a beleaguered bullpen. Relievers entering games with runners on base have hardly proven a team asset.

"Then unfortunately whoever we’ve had come in, haven’t been able to put the fire out," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. "It always seems worse than maybe it should have been."

The only member of the rotation with an ERA under 3.00 in June is Kuroda, and he’s 0-3. Run support is another issue.

Lilly is 1-2 with a 4.41 ERA in June, Kershaw 0-0 with a 5.95 ERA, Garland 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA (and he’s now on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation) and Billingsley 1-2 with a whopping 11.20 ERA. Rookie Rubby De La Rosa, replacing Garland in the rotation, entered Saturday’s start 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA for the month. And he didn't make it out of the fifth inning, giving up five runs in the process.

That has left the Dodgers with a 5-10 record halfway through June.

"Realistically, after a hard stretch in April and May there may just be a little bit of fatigue," Honeycutt said. "You run through different points, where there is usually going to be a couple stretches where you run through that.

"It still breaks down to being a little bit inconsistent with stuff. You’re seeing where we’re decent, and then where we have one inning where we really struggle."

The ERAs are partially inflated by a four-game stop in Colorado, but the struggles have continued at Dodger Stadium.

Billingsley is of particular concern. Mattingly and Honeycutt met with him Friday in an attempt to get the right-hander back on track. Mattingly said Billingsley felt he just wasn’t hitting his spots.

"My thought was, if you’re not quite hitting your spots, don’t be a freight train," Mattingly said. "At that point try something different."

The troubled month for the rotation has pushed its overall ERA to 3.94 for the season, 11th in the National League.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers starting pitcher Chad Billingsley during a 6-5 loss in Colorado to the Rockies on June 10. Credit: Jack Dempsey / Associated Press

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