The Dodgers' entry into post-All-Star break life has gone, er, less than smoothly, with two disheartening defeats to the middling Astros. But those losses came against the Astros' top two pitchers; their next two starters are turn-back-the-clock favorites Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz. If the Dodgers lose to those two? Then we can talk slump.
Of greater concern is the state of Chad Billingsley. The Dodgers have lost four of his last six starts. Is he overworked? Although he's sixth in the NL in innings pitched, he leads the league in pitches thrown. As with tonight's starter Clayton Kershaw, pitch efficiency is the question. Problem is, what's the answer? It's not like Rick Honeycutt can just make an adjustment or two.
The proximity of the Dodgers' poor play out of the break to the trading deadline can't be ignored. Will another poor start by Billingsley make Ned Colletti more desperate to acquire another starter? If Kershaw struggles as well, will Ned be more inclined to deal a bigger piece of the Dodger pie? This team's performance in the next two weeks may have a big effect on its roster.