Mattingly, Scioscia on thin ice in LA

Both managers could become victims of high expectations, poor starts

How much patience do Mark Walter, Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson have?

We're in the process of finding out, as the $217 million Dodgers are playing like somebody misplaced a decimal point, just as they did after the midseason trades that brought in Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Brandon League, among others, last season.

Don Mattingly is a solid manager who was taught well by Joe Torre. He's respected throughout the game for his knowledge, experience and character. But the Dodgers entered the weekend stuck in a seven-game losing streak that included three straight losses in San Francisco, and they already had a six-game losing streak in April.

The last time the Dodgers experienced two losing streaks of that length this early in the season? That was 1912, and they would go on to finish 58-95, with no highlight bigger than the September debut of outfielder Casey Stengel.

No wonder fans are already tuning out a team that was expected to be big box office all season at Chavez Ravine. The Dodgers, purchased by Walter and Chicago's Guggenheim Partners last year, averaged 47,000-plus in their first 12 home games but fewer than 35,000 in their last six.

Will Kasten, the team president, and the ownership group hold Mattingly accountable for Matt Kemp's loss of power and a run of injuries that forced him to be creative with his lineups while using nine starting pitchers?

We'll find out soon if this continues. It's worth noting that:

A) Mattingly's 2014 contract option was not picked up last winter, when things were much more positive, and

B) It may be only a matter of weeks, if not days, before it becomes possible to bring Mike Scioscia back to his original organization.

The Angels, who brought a 12-22 record to U.S. Cellular Field for a weekend series, arguably have been even more disappointing than the Dodgers out of the gate. Scioscia is signed at $5 million a year through 2018, but his team fell on its face after adding Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson last season and is doing it again after convincing Josh Hamilton to leave the rival Rangers.

Had the Angels not scored three runs in the eighth inning Thursday in Houston, they would have been swept by the Astros. It's fair to ask if Scioscia would have made it to Chicago had that happened.

Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers wrote that he had planned to come to Chicago to address the state of the Angels but instead flew to Houston to make sure he had a chance to say goodbye to Scioscia, who was beloved when the Angels won the 2002 World Series as a wild-card team and then won five division titles in a six-year span.

"Do you know how my week has gone?" Scioscia said to Simers. "We're playing (lousy) baseball, I'm getting my 2011 taxes audited and I'm now talking to you."

On the other side of Los Angeles, players are standing up for Mattingly. That's usually the last thing that happens before a managerial change.

"It's not the manager's fault,'' Kemp told the Orange County Register. "He's not swinging the bat or making the pitches. He's not running the bases. We all know what we need to do. We're just not doing it right now."

It's better late than never to get started. Otherwise the dominoes are about to start falling on both sides of town.

Danger zone: If only it were as easy to protect pitchers as the Rays' Matt Moore suggested to teammate David Price in a conversation last week.

"What Moore was talking about the other day on the bench is they have a sensor in the ball,'' Price told the Tampa Bay Times. "And if it comes close to another sensor in the pitcher's hat, the ball just blows up. That was Matt's great idea. I kinda like it."

The comments came after J.A. Happ because the latest casualty of a liner to the noggin. The Blue Jays left-hander landed in the emergency room and later on the disabled list after a smash from the Rays' Desmond Jennings broke a small bone in his skull and tore flesh from his ear, which required stitches.

Happ will have no shortage of advice on his comeback. The Diamonbacks' Brandon McCarthy and the Rockies' Juan Nicasio are back in the big leagues after similarly frightening incidents the last two seasons. Meanwhile MLB continues to study caps with protective linings and other ways to avoid the tragedy of a pitcher dying on the mound, as has happened in youth games.

Happ says he's more worried about a sore knee he suffered while collapsing to the ground than his head.

"Happ's a tough guy, he really is," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "I got a chance to see him at the hospital (after the game). I walked in, he was on his feet moving around, eating. It shocked me. I didn't think that was going to happen."

On automatic: While guys like Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel and the great Mariano Rivera dominate conversation about the best closer in the game, the Orioles' Jim Johnson is outperforming all of them. He entered the weekend having converted 34 straight save chances since July 30, 2012, and leading the majors with 71 saves since Sept. 7, 2011.

"I think it's more about knowing what kind of pitcher you are," Johnson told the Baltimore Sun. "I do it differently than other people. I think, when I first started, I tried to be something I wasn't. I tried to be like a typical closer and strike guys out all the time and that's not who I am. I've reverted back to pitching how I normally do, and good results follow."

Johnson can throw pitches past hitters but generally pitches to contact, which is how he had more saves (51) than strikeouts (41) last year.

Keystone Cops: As bad as umpire Angel Hernandez looked in twice failing to see the Athletics' Adam Rosales' should-have-been home run clear the Progressive Field fence on Wednesday, Fieldin Culbreth outdid him on Thursday. He couldn't have been more wrong when he let Astros manager Bo Porter switch left-hander Wesley Wright out of a game without facing an Angels hitter. .

Porter told reporters that a recent rule change allowed him to make that move and Culbreth apparently bought it.

MLB confirmed on Friday that there was no such rule change and suspended Culbreth two games for his mistake. Had the Astros not won the game, MLB likely would have ruled in favor of a protest by the Angels, which would have forced the game to be replayed from that point. By coming from behind to win, the Angels made the issue moot. But it's fair to say that Commissioner Bud Selig is seething over the embarrassing mistakes by umpires.

progers@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribRogers

CHICAGO

More