A scary dropoff for L.A.

first_imgFor eight weeks, Dodgers officials had tried to convince everyone – and by extension, to convince themselves – that the dramatic dropoff in Jason Schmidt’s velocity was no cause for alarm. For eight weeks, Schmidt himself had insisted that he wasn’t even paying attention, that there were more productive ways for a veteran pitcher to apply his mental energy than by concerning himself with some ambiguous digital readout. But on Saturday night, it became painfully clear that the issue could no longer be ignored. Not by the Dodgers, and not by Schmidt. It certainly wasn’t by the San Diego Padres, who rocked Schmidt for six runs in the first two innings. By the time manager Grady Little came to get the embarrassingly ineffective Schmidt two batters into the third inning, it was far too late to do anything about what became a 7-2 pounding at the hands of the Padres in front of an announced crowd of 55,942 at Dodger Stadium. Schmidt gave up a home run to Brian Giles with one out in an otherwise uneventful first inning, but that seemed innocent enough at the time. Threebatters into the second, Schmidt gave up another bomb, this time a two-run shot over the center-field wall by Kevin Kouzmanoff, that put the Dodgers in a four-run hole. Both Giles’ and Kouzmanoff’s homers came on the first pitch, an obvious sign that Schmidt’s pitches had little on them. Not a single Schmidt delivery registered higher than 87 mph on the pitch-speed display board in left field. The gun at Chavez Ravine is notoriously slow. But it isn’t that slow. Schmidt joined the Dodgers as a free agent, signing a three-year, $47 million contract in December that he might not have been able to get in an offseason when quality starting pitching wasn’t so scarce. But his velocity fell off noticeably after the beginning of spring training, and although it gradually climbed back to the 90-mph range by the end of camp, it still wasn’t close to normal for a guy who had reached double digits in wins each of the past sixyears and had struck out as many as 251 batters in a season. The popular rationalization at the time was that results were all that mattered. That rationale served Schmidt (1-2) well in his first start of the season, April 4 at Milwaukee, when he pitched five solid innings to earn the win. But in his second start, Monday’s home opener against Colorado, he looked disturbingly vulnerable. He lasted just four innings, gave up four runs and took the loss. This time, Schmidt faced just 16 batters before he was mercifully lifted. Seven of them hit safely, twoothers walked and only sixof them were retired. That wild second inning also included a controversial play at first on a sacrifice bunt by Padres pitcher Jake Peavy. With second baseman Jeff Kent covering, Schmidt made a strong throw that appeared to sink on Kent at the last second. Kent made a snowcone catch and appeared to hold onto the ball just long enough for the out. But when it fell out of his glove, first-base umpire Angel Hernandez, who seems to have a knack for finding controversy whenever he works a Dodgers game, ruled Peavy safe. That play led to an unearned run, but ultimately, it proved meaningless. The five other runs Schmidt gave up were about as earned as they could be, even if the Padres didn’t have to work that hard for them. After that second inning, the Dodgers never came close to getting back into the game. The fact they were facing Padres ace Peavy, who ran his career mark against them to 7-1 and shaved his career ERA against them to 2.31, suggests they were never in the game anyway. Peavy (2-0) wasn’t overpowering, but with a six-run lead, he didn’t have to be. He got away with a leadoff walk to Kent in the second inning and held the Dodgers scoreless until the sixth, when they scratched out a run on a sacrifice fly by Kent. Peavy’s ERA for the season is now 0.45. Once Peavy left the game after the seventh, the Dodgers showed faint signs of life, greeting reliever Doug Brocail with three consecutive singles to begin the eighth. But with runners on first and second, Olmedo Saenz, Kent and Luis Gonzalez went down in order. [email protected] (818) 713-3675160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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