What to make of the Dodgers’ slump

The Dodgers were the hottest team in baseball before their current 2-4 slump.

The Dodgers arrived in St. Louis looking to win their seventh straight series and widen the gap between themselves and the rest of the National League. Four days later, the team is no longer atop the NL, is down another starting pitcher, and have two rookie starters (one of which is yet to make his MLB debut) slated to start on the road against Atlanta next week.

Here are two big takeaways from the series:

Gonsolin starting to find his form 

After starting the year on the injured list, Tony Gonsolin has been quietly effective in the five starts he has made this year, including Friday night in St. Louis. Frankly, Gonsolin’s start was one of the only bright spots to come out of this series. He’s going to need to keep it up. As great as Clayton Kershaw was in April, he’s been roughed up a bit in May. Four earned runs on Sunday saw his ERA for the month raise to 5.12. Despite the struggles, he’s missing bats at a ridiculously high rate. His strikeouts per nine innings is up to 10.9, which would be a career best, following six strikeouts on Sunday afternoon. With more strikeouts naturally comes a higher pitch count, which has been an issue this month. For the second time ins last four starts, Kershaw failed to get past the fourth inning on Sunday.

Combine his struggles, if you want to call them that, with Urias and May hitting the IL and suddenly Gonsolin really needs to keep this up. The current rotation consists of: Gonsolin, Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard, Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller. Stone has four career innings under his belt and Miller is yet to make his MLB debut. That being said, there is reason for optimism. Miller is the Dodgers’ No. 2 prospect and MLB’s No. 19 overall prospect. At 24 years old, he’s the oldest player in the top 30 and has been knocking on the door for some time. His year at AAA has not started as he would’ve hoped (5.65 ERA in 14.1 innings pitched), but his services are now desperately needed at the big league level. Needless to say, the next few weeks should be really interesting on the mound.

Bottom of the order continues to struggle

Coming into the season, it was no secret that the Dodger lineup was going to look significantly different this year than in years past. The days of having a former league MVP hitting in the 8-hole are no more. Trea Turner left for Philly, Justin Turner headed to Boston, and the Dodgers replaced them with a combination of Jason Heyward, Miguel Rojas, and Miguel Vargas. They counted on some familiar faces, Austin Barnes and Trayce Thompson, to give them valuable at-bats and help carry the load. Needless to say, it’s been very underwhelming.

I don’t want this portion of the column to seem like I’m calling out different players for underperforming and ragging on the entire team. I’m not. They are finding ways to win ballgames and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters. That being said, it is getting really hard to look at lineups and see Chris Taylor (.191), Barnes (.092), Thompson (.109), and David Peralta (.212), getting consistent at-bats. Yes, Max Muncy is hitting .212, but it helps when you’re second in all of baseball in home runs. Honestly, I don’t know what the solution is. Chris Taylor has been a shell of his 2017 self for the last few years, Trayce is clearly going through something major at the plate, and Barnesy, whom I love, just can’t buy a hit. The Dodgers benefit from being incredibly talented at the big league level and can afford to let these guys try and work through it, but where do you draw the line? No. 3 prospect Michael Busch and No. 6 prospect Andy Pages are ready to make an impact on the major league club and I would not be surprised to see them get real opportunities sooner rather than later. At this point, it’s worth a shot.

As previously noted, the Dodgers now head to Atlanta for a three game series with the NL’s best team. Stone gets the ball tomorrow, followed by Miller’s MLB debut on Tuesday, and Gonsolin on Wednesday. All three games get underway at 4:20 PST.