CHICAGO -- Considering how Saturday's game went, with Los Angeles Dodgers relievers squandering a five-run lead in the final two innings, the notion of a "bullpen game" wasn't exactly a reassuring prospect for many Dodgers fans.
Manager Don Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt have twice tweaked their pitching rotation so that their top three guys would face the rival San Francisco Giants. That meant Jamey Wright would make his second start in seven seasons Sunday and the Dodgers would keep the pitching changes coming until somebody got the last out.
A dicey proposition, perhaps, but less so when you can bank on the kind of offense the Dodgers have been getting lately. Wright and the relievers proved good to the task of protecting an ever-changing lead in the Dodgers' 8-5 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon. The Dodgers scored in every inning but two.
Say what you will about the Dodgers' pitching lately and perhaps the staff is showing a few signs of fatigue after consecutive series at Coors Field and Wrigley, but the offense hasn't been this productive all season. The Dodgers, who play in a pitcher's park, have now scored the second-most runs in the National League behind the Colorado Rockies and, this month, they're averaging more than six runs per game.
"Our guys at this point know where we're at, they know what's at stake and they've been pretty good about getting ready to play every day," Mattingly said.
The Dodgers went into this game with some concerns, but after surviving the bullpen game and then seeing the Giants continue to flounder -- getting swept in San Diego with Sunday's 8-2 loss -- they have fewer. The Dodgers, whose magic number is three, could clinch the NL West as soon as Tuesday night, with Zack Greinke on the mound. If not then, they'll turn to the pitcher they've turned to all season, Clayton Kershaw, on Wednesday.
Mattingly was concerned all week that the team wouldn't have much energy coming off a big series in San Francisco and heading into another one at home.
It turns out, the only concerns left, if any, are with the pitching staff. The Dodgers' bats came to life in two hitter’s parks. They scored 36 runs in the four games here, a Los Angeles Dodgers record for a series at Wrigley Field.
"It played out well now that it's over," Mattingly said.
Mattingly says he thinks the Dodgers' pitching issues on this trip were more a matter of location of the games than the location of the pitches. Coors Field is the most extreme hitter's park in baseball, and the wind was blowing out for two of the four games here. Now, they'll come home to Dodger Stadium and, perhaps, settle into a more familiar pattern of relying on their starting pitching and hoping for a clutch hit or two.
Or, maybe they'll just keep mashing and letting in runs. Either way, they'll take what they can get as long as they get a couple of wins over the next three days.