MIAMI -- With seven-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw on the disabled list, the Los Angeles Dodgers are lacking an ace to snap out of an embarrassing slump that now includes six straight losses.
The Miami Marlins beat the Dodgers 6-5 on Wednesday night, taking the second contest of a three-game series that concludes on Thursday.
As for Kershaw, he has not pitched since May 1 due to a biceps injury and has just one win this season.
"We're leaving it in his hands," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told the Los Angeles Times when asked about Kershaw, who is long-tossing as he attempts to return from injury. "I'm encouraged. Hopefully (the injury) continues to get better.
But, in the meantime, the season must go on, and, on Thursday afternoon, the Dodgers turn to right-hander Kenta Maeda, a 30-year-old from Japan who posted a 29-17 record the past two seasons.
Maeda (2-3, 4.75 ERA) has hardly been an ace this season. He is not an overpowering pitcher -- he mixes in a cutter with a 92 mph fastball.
Meanwhile, the Marlins will start rookie left-hander Caleb Smith, whose scheduled Wednesday start was pushed back for reasons that were not immediately specified.
Smith (2-4, 3.63 ERA) has been impressive of late, striking out 31 batters and walking just four in his past four starts. He has a sterling 1.50 ERA in his past four starts.
Here is another concern for the Dodgers: Smith will be pitching on six days of rest for the second time this season, and the first such start was his best of the season. In that outing, on April 29, Smith beat the Colorado Rockies, allowing just two hits and one walk in seven innings, striking out nine.
Smith is one of Miami's bright spots this season, a fairly short list that includes catcher J.T. Realmuto -- who is their biggest All-Star candidate and hit the tiebreaking homer in Wednesday's win-- shortstop Miguel Rojas, second baseman Starlin Castro, starting pitcher Jarlin Garcia and relievers Nick Wittgren and Kyle Barraclough.
Castro, in fact, went 4-for-5 on Wednesday.
Even so, this roster lacks star power after Marlins first-year CEO Derek Jeter traded away 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, ex-batting champ Dee Gordon and stellar outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna.
Largely due to those salary-dumping trades, Miami is on pace for 103 losses, which would be the second-worst season in franchise history.
Jeter, talking to media members during batting practice on Wednesday, expressed disappointment with the team he helped put on the field.
"I have no patience," Jeter said. "I have been preaching patience but ... we've got to tighten things up. I understand that it's a long season."
But if the Marlins (16-26) are disappointed, the Dodgers have to be absolutely horrified at how they have played in the first two months of the season, accumulating the exact same record as Miami.
After all, this is a Los Angeles team that won 104 regular-season games last year and made it to the World Series.
Besides the Kershaw injury, star shortstop Corey Seager is out for the year due to elbow surgery, and third baseman Justin Turner and second baseman Logan Forsythe didn't come off the disabled list until this week.
Batting slumps -- most notably by right fielder Yasiel Puig -- have also hurt the Dodgers.