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Notes: Bullpen exceeds expectations

Notes: Bullpen exceeds expectations

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers had high expectations for their bullpen coming into the season, but maybe their expectations weren't high enough.

The bullpen is ranked third in the National League with a 2.16 ERA, and according to reliever Joe Beimel, that's what they expected all along.

"We're doing what we expect to do," said Beimel, referring to bullpen's dominance so far this season. "We have bunch of guys who can pitch, and this is what we expect out of ourselves."

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The Dodgers set the expectations for the bullpen high in Spring Training, but what they didn't realize was that the guys in the 'pen had set their own expectations even higher.

"Were feeding off of each other," said reliever Jonathan Broxton, who earned the win in relief on Saturday night. "When we see one guy pitch a good inning, the next guy in is trying to top it."

This attitude has infected the entire pitching staff, not just the bullpen. As a team, the Dodgers pitching staff has not given up a home run in the past 58 1/3 innings, and the bullpen has allowed just three homers in 58 1/3 total innings this season.

"The bullpen has been great from top to bottom, and that's all we can ask," said manager Grady Little. "If you fall behind a little bit early in a ballgame, regardless of how many runs it is, it's always key that the bullpen comes out and gets those outs.

The bullpen did just that in Saturday night's come-from-behind win against the Pirates. The Dodgers got four scoreless innings from relievers Chin-hui Tsao, Beimel, Takashi Saito and Broxton to keep the game close enough to win it in the 10th inning.

The trio of Beimel, Saito and Broxton has combined for a 0.66 ERA, with six saves and 23 strikeouts in 25 outings. Broxton, the big, burly righty, has not allowed a run in 15 consecutive outings dating back to Sept. 20, striking out 16 and walking just one in that span.

"I try not to think about all that stuff," said Broxton, referring to the consecutive outings without allowing a run. "I just go out and pitch. I give it 110 percent every time I go out and see what happens."

So far what is happening has been spectacular. Broxton has emerged as one of the league's best setup men and a go-to guy for the Dodgers.

In the meantime, the bullpen is living up to the high expectations.

"You can talk about it [expectations] all you want," said reliever Chad Billingsley. "But what really matters is going out there, pitching well and getting the job down."

Nomar gets a rest: First basemen Nomar Garciaparra did not start Sunday's game, his first off-day of the season. Garciaparra is batting .290 with one home run, 13 RBIs and seven doubles.

Olmedo Saenz made the start at first base and batted third in the lineup.

Saving the best for last: The Dodgers have yet to lose a series finale this season, going 6-0 before Sunday. They have won five of seven series this season.

Hendrickson available: Reliever Mark Hendrickson, who pitched in place of injured starter Jason Schmidt on Thursday, was available Sunday in an emergency situation, according to Little.

Hendrickson had a solid outing in a win against the Rockies on Thursday and has been a key part of the dominant bullpen. Hendrickson and Billingsley are the primary innings eaters out of the bullpen.

Hendrickson is scheduled to start next Sunday at San Diego.

Coming up: The Dodgers take on their rivals from the north in a three-game series starting Tuesday at 7:10 PT with Matt Morris, (2-0, 2.00) on the mound for the Giants and Derek Lowe, (2-2, 4.56) going for the Blue Crew.

Jayson Addcox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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