LOS ANGELES -- On Monday night against the Cincinnati Reds, Jason Schmidt was everyone's feel-good story. Schmidt made his first start since June 16, 2007, and it had been a tumultuous road back to the Majors for the veteran right-hander. That night, Schmidt defied the odds and improbably pitched five solid innings to help lead Los Angeles to the victory. His next start for the Dodgers, however, was not nearly as memorable.
On Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, the Marlins pounded Schmidt for five runs in just over three-plus innings and went on to beat the Dodgers, 8-6, to take the weekend series. The root of Schmidt's troubles was an inability to keep his pitches down in the zone. "That's the biggest thing," Schmidt said after the game. "Curveball pretty much left me today, the changeup was up. I had a tough time getting the fastball down, getting the fastball in to anybody. It was pretty much about everything, anything that could have went wrong pretty much did." While the fact that Schmidt struggled in his second start of the season might not be unimaginable, it's surprising considering the ease with which he retired the side in the first. Contrast that to how he began Monday's start, when he allowed three runs in the top of the first. But after cruising through the first on Sunday, Schmidt ran into trouble in the second. Jorge Cantu led off the inning with a double and then scored two batters later. Schmidt managed to get out of the second without enduring further damage, but it was becoming clear that Schmidt didn't have his best stuff on the mound. "It's been kind of hit or miss," Schmidt said. "Usually you can battle with one or two pitches like I did last game. Today, I really didn't have anything that I could go to to get the ball over, so it makes for a tough day." After escaping the second, Schmidt was not as fortunate in the third. Schmidt walked John Baker to begin the inning but got the next two batters out to put him in position to escape the jam with Baker stranded at second base. This is the point when things got ugly for Schmidt and the Dodgers. Schmidt just barely nicked Emilio Bonifacio to put runners on first and second, and then Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez smashed a two-run double to left field. The double itself wasn't necessarily ugly, but Rafael Furcal muffed the relay throw from Juan Pierre and proceeded to walk toward the ball in the outfield, which allowed Ramirez to advance to third base on a throwing error by Furcal. Ramirez scored on Cantu's second double of the game to give the Marlins a 4-0 lead. Schmidt was back on the mound to begin the fourth, but his stint there was short-lived. Dan Uggla, the first batter of the inning, hit a home run, and Schmidt's outing was done. "When I took him out of the game, I asked him how he was feeling and he said he felt alright but he just couldn't get the ball down," manager Joe Torre said. "Everything was hanging and it was just sitting in the middle of the plate. It's too bad because after that first inning, we were hopeful because it looked like he made some good pitches." The Dodgers managed to put a little bit of pressure on the Marlins, scoring four runs in the bottom of the sixth to cut their deficit to 8-4. Russell Martin hit a two-run home run in the inning, his third of the season. In the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers again rallied. Los Angeles scored two runs to make the score 8-6, and Matt Kemp stepped to the batter's box with a chance to tie the game and complete the comeback. But Kemp popped a foul ball to the catcher and the game ended. "It doesn't surprise me," Torre said of his team's rally. "These guys play hard aside from the one inning that [Jeff] Weaver pitched, our bullpen did a good job to keep us close and put us in a position where we had the tying run at the plate." Given Schmidt's struggles on Sunday, it seems that the Dodgers might be back to Square 1 in their search for a reliable fifth starter. "I think I'm going to have try to think that through right now," Torre said about Schmidt's status as he club's regular fifth starter. "Today, first inning was wonderful, after that I know he was as frustrated as everyone else when he just couldn't locate it. I think we're going to have to look at it. "It really hasn't been a big sampling. I think that's the only thing that it's tough to make a decision on."
David Ely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.