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Dodgers Face Unexpected Test in League-Worst Marlins

This is a test of the Emergency Baseball System. This is only a test. Please stand by for the next 72 hours, while the fate of your baseball club and its manager, are determined in part by the worst the sport has to offer.

The former Florida Marlins, now known officially as the Miami Marlins (because why embarrass an entire state unnecessarily?) begin a three-game weekend series tonight at Chavez Ravine; 7:10 p.m. Normally, the Dodgers would be expected to manhandle the Marlins -- or "squish the Fish," as the saying goes -- easily enough, but with a seven-game losing streak and an awful 13-20 record staring them in the face, times are anything but normal for Los Angeles. And in Los Angeles.

Questions about Don Mattingly's job security were in abundance Wednesday, highlighted by Mike Petriello, Eric Stephen, Jon Weisman and yours truly. And that was before the sloppy 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks in the Clayton Kershaw game Wednesday night. There was panic in the streets after that one, trust me. Perhaps not to War of the Worlds-like levels exactly; but then again, maybe so.

I'll say again that Mattingly deserves the criticism he's getting, which is distinct from outright blame. Bill Shaikin adds his usual industry-best thoughts about and from the skipper this morning and Bill Plaschke chimes in with his mostly-obvious perspective in the same LA Times edition. ESPNLA.com's Ramona Shelburne suggests patience, and reports that "[according] to a source with knowledge of the situation, the Dodgers' management is frustrated and disappointed by how this season has gone so far, but they want to see how the team performs once they get back to some level of good health."

My response to that is, what if the team never gets entirely healthy? What if the carousel of injuries continues and at some point, as I suggested in my Wednesday post, it's determined that the manager has a hand in the health of this charges? Or if not his entire hand, than at least a finger?

That's why this weekend matters in the grand scheme of things. Were the Dodgers to be swept by Miami, their losing streak hitting 10-games Sunday afternoon, the powers-that-be's patience might have reached an end come Monday. Two out of three to the Marlins, who knows? A series win or sweep by the Blue, however, and it's a brand new ballgame.

The history books overflow with examples of early-season slumps turning into October baseball rewards for those who wait (I detailed one in my personal blog yesterday) and the Dodgers might just have the horses for such a comeback. But as bad as the Marlins have been, this in not going to be an easy series. Far from it.

Miami starts 20-year-old rookie Jose Fernandez in game one tonight. His 1-2 record is meaningless, but his 3.48 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and .189 batting average against certainly aren't. He strikes out a batter an inning and threw a seven-inning one-hitter at the Phillies in his last outing. He didn't allow a run, while striking out nine. You think the Dodgers can touch that the way they're going?

Matt Magill, who pitches for L.A., has had a fine start followed by a disastrous one to begin his big league career, and he's struggled in the first inning both times.

Kevin Slowey allowed all of two hits and no runs in seven his last time out and is essentially matching Fernandez pitch for pitch. He starts Saturday night versus Hyun-Jin Ryu at 6:10 p.m. Sunday's 1:10 p.m. game might be the Dodgers' best chance, with the more-Marlin-like Wade LeBlanc (with his 0-5, 6.11) facing Chris Capuano (and his 0-2, 10.38). So good luck there.

Both teams struggle to score against all comers, neither team plays particularly good defense and both are in last place in their respective divisions. Anything can happen in baseball and I'm making no predictions. But a 13-23 Los Angeles record and an increasingly demoralized organization isn't out of the question. Perhaps that panic button actually gets pushed bright and early Monday morning.

This has been a test of the Emergency Baseball System. This was only a test. You are now returned to your regularly-scheduled day, already in progress.

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