PHILADELPHIA - With the Los Angeles Dodgers' pitching staff in tatters, there is an opportunity for Dodgers rookie right-hander Ross Stripling to establish himself.
His next chance comes Thursday, when Stripling (3-4, 4.07) starts against the Philadelphia Phillies' Jerad Eickhoff (8-12, 3.82) in the finale of a three-game series in Citizens Bank Park.
The Dodgers, who have outscored the Phillies 22-7 while winning the first two games of the series, have had 26 players on the disabled list this season, the most ever by a National League team and the second-most by any team in the last 30 years. Only the 2012 Boston Red Sox (27) have had more.
Eleven of the disabled Dodgers are pitchers, and six of those are starters. The most notable is three-time Cy Young Award-winner Clayton Kershaw, who has been out since June 27 with a herniated disk in his back. The earliest he can be activated is Aug. 27.
Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts has nonetheless been able to cobble together an effective rotation -- so effective, in fact, that the Dodgers lead the NL West over the fading Giants.
Stripling opened the season in the rotation. In his major league debut, in fact, he pitched 7 1/3 no-hit innings in a no-decision against the Giants. He was nonetheless banished to the minor leagues on May 23. All the injuries hastened his return to Chavez Ravine, and in time he made his way back into the rotation as well. In all he has made 10 starts among his 14 appearances, the last of those on Aug. 12 against Pittsburgh.
In that one he lasted seven innings, his longest outing since his debut, but allowed five runs, matching his season high. He surrendered six hits, including solo home runs by Andrew McCutchen and Jordy Mercer, while striking out four. He did not walk a batter.
"You never know how the season is going to play out, but Ross has had a great opportunity and really seized the moment," Roberts said, according to Major League Baseball's official web site. "Now and going forward, it's been a great learning process for Ross and I think his growth has been exponential."
Rich Hill (blisters) and Bud Norris (mild mid-back strain) are reportedly close to returning from the disabled list, and Brett Anderson (back surgery) made his first start of the season Sunday against Pittsburgh. He has also pronounced himself fit after injuring his left wrist in that game, which he departed after an inning.
Stripling has never faced the Phillies. Nor has Eickhoff ever faced the Dodgers.
Eickhoff did win his second straight start his last time out, allowing three runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings in a 6-3 victory over Colorado. Eickhoff, who beat San Diego in his previous outing, was winless over his five previous starts.
His sixth-inning woes continued against the Rockies, however. He carried a 4-0 lead into that inning but surrendered a two-run homer to Daniel Descalso and a solo shot to Tony Wolters. Eickhoff's ERA is 12.71 in the sixth this season.
"It just comes down to getting that curveball over," he said. "If I'm not throwing that with consistency, (hitters) can just put that in the back of their mind, or eliminate, really."