For Dodgers, it is how you start ... and finish

LOS ANGELES -- The way the Los Angeles Dodgers are struggling to finish games has garnered much of the attention of late, yet it is the way they have been starting them that has kept the club competitive.

Kenley Jansen got the five-out save and the kind of bullpen outing the Dodgers needed Wednesday, but it was starter Alex Wood who made the finishing touches possible in the first place.

Wood was solid at first, then near-dominating for an 11-batter stretch from the fourth through seventh innings, when he retired everybody he faced and gave a battered bunch of relievers some much-needed rest in his second start of the young season.

His outing was key in a 3-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks that improved the club to 5-4 in an up-and-down early part of the season.

The Dodgers are not even completely through their rotation twice, yet every starter has had a dominating outing. Clayton Kershaw and Scott Kazmir have each held an opponent to one hit in a start, Kenta Maeda hasn’t given up a run in two starts, and Ross Stripling nearly threw a no-hitter.

Wood had his turn to shine Wednesday, holding the Diamondbacks to a run on five hits over seven-plus innings, leaving only when he put on the leadoff runner in the eighth inning because he was late to cover first base.

That and the home run he allowed to No. 9 hitter Nick Ahmed were his only blemishes on this night.

“We won so that’s good, you know?” Wood said. “It’s good to have my first one in the win column. We needed one tonight, so I was very happy about that.”

It took some settling down. Wood was over 50 pitches through three innings, but settled in nicely to give the Dodgers yet another stellar start.

“He started to be a little more economical and from that point he was really efficient, making pitches, and I thought he had a great feel for the breaking ball,” manager Dave Roberts said.

Given a choice, the Dodgers would much rather have to deal with a slow-starting bullpen than a malfunctioning rotation. When it comes to making impact additions before and at the non-waiver trade deadline, getting bullpen help is a far less difficult task.

“I think that people talk a lot about the pen and what the Royals did, shortening the game and all of that stuff, but at the core of winning a championship it’s about starting pitching,” Roberts said. “You have to pitch and you have to lean on those guys and you have to catch the baseball for them. So to have a great outing from each of these guys at some point, it’s good for them, it’s good for us and we will lean on those guys.”

The reality is that it seems too early for every starter to have shined so far. The Dodgers were hit hard by injuries this spring, and the rotation was hit particularly hard. Potential No. 4 starter Brett Anderson went down first and a bevy of fifth-starter candidates soon followed.

But Wood and Stripling have been there for a Dodgers team that talked up their depth when pitchers and catchers reported to Arizona, then tore through all of it before the club even broke camp.

“We have a lot of competitive guys in here and guys that have done well for a long time,” Wood said. “We all get along great and I think we will all continue to build on how we started. Hopefully the wins will keep coming.”

The Dodgers already began the day with a 2.55 ERA from their starters, tops in the National League. Wood’s start lowered that mark to 2.40, while the starters improved to 4-1. Up next is Stripling, as he tries to follow his own impressive lead with his first career home start.

Not only are the starters rolling, reinforcements such as Mike Bolsinger, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy all are in line to return before the All-Star break. If the bullpen can get hot as well, the Dodgers have to like their chances in a difficult National League West.

“Wood threw the ball really well, and I think him and [catcher Yasmani Grandal] were really in sync,” Roberts said. “He made one mistake on the home run, but there was a point toward the end when he got 11 consecutive batters out. Aside from being late to cover first base, he did everything right, mixed in his breaking ball, changed speeds and threw his fastball in. He pitched a heck of a game.”