Aaron Harang Shuts Down the Padres; Dodgers Win in SD

Dodgers 8 12 2
Padres   1 5 2
WP – Harang 3-2
LP – Volquez 2-3

Well, we all know that Don Mattingly doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room with his starting lineup these days. With Matt Kemp, Juan Rivera, Jerry Hairston, Jr. AND Juan Uribe all on the DL right now, Mattingly is missing four regular hitters.

Still, there’s no excuse for hitting Adam Kennedy fifth in any game in any lineup against any pitcher, including high schoolers. That’s a topic for another night.

Tonight, it was all about avoiding a two-game sweep at the hands of the lowly San Diego Padres at Petco Park.

Things started out great for the Dodgers, as Dee Gordon led off the game with a walk against Edinson Volquez. Bobby Abreu drove in Gordon with a triple two batters later, and he subsequently scored on an Andre Ethier single immediately after.

Even though Volquez, who the Dodgers beat on Opening Day, struck out the side (Ellis, Kennedy and Loney all swinging), he surrendered the early two runs. After one half inning, it was 2-0 Dodgers, and things seemed to be looking up.

Going into the bottom of the first, Aaron Harang started hot, inducing a leadoff groundout from Will Venable. After going to 3-2 on Cameron Maybin, who had a .385 average vs. the Harangatang coming into the game, he induced a deep fly out. Then he sat down Chase Headley on strikes to end a perfect 1-2-3 innings. Unfortunately, he threw 20 pitches in the inning, which is far too many for not allowing any base runners.

In the top of the 2nd, the Dodgers tacked on another run by playing perfect small ball. A.J. Ellis led off with a walk (of course), followed by a single from the hottest hitter in the lineup, Tony Gwynn, Jr. Then Aaron Harang laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt to move the runners to 2nd and 3rd for the top of the order. Dee Gordon followed with a decent at-bat that turned into a sacrifice fly, bringing Ellis home from 3rd.

Gwynn, Jr. ruined a potential 2-out rally when Mark Ellis hit a comebacker through Volquez’ legs that was cut off behind the bag. He was caught rounding third and tagged out in a run down. I’m not sure if Tim Wallach at his third base coach spot waved him home, or not. But either way, the Dodgers continue to be amazingly awful on the base paths. That’s something they need to work on if they want to be playing in October.

In the bottom of the inning, Harang got Alonso on a pop up to Gordon, who made his favorite play, running with his back to the infield to make the snag. James Darnell promptly grounded out back to Harang, and then gave up an opposite-field double on a high fastball to my friend’s brother, John Baker. With a runner on 2nd and 2 down, Harang composed himself to get an inning-ending groundout from Everth Cabrera.

Leading off the third inning was Mr. Fresh Legs himself, Bobby Abreu. The proud owner of a first-inning, RBI triple wasn’t fast enough to beat out a grounder to first, though. Andre Ethier followed (he of 35 RBI already…is he the most productive hitter in baseball nobody is talking about?) with a deep fly out to center field. And the very confusing fifth hitter, Kennedy, managed to get on base with a four-pitch walk. If nothing else, Volquez has been consistent. He’s walked three batters in three innings at this point. Unfortunately, the Dodgers strand Kennedy and fail to mount a two-out rally, as Loney flies out to end the inning.

If you read my work, you know that I fiercely defend Loney. His great glove, attitude and reliability to be in the lineup wins me over. But the fact that he always has a pretty good average and drives in around 75 RBI in a season. So I’m stickin’ with him! Anyway, back to the game.

In the bottom of the third, the Padres’ eighth batter Alexi Amarista used all of his 5’8″, 150-pound stature to hit a ground ball back to Harang for the first out. Volquez did what he’s supposed to do and struck out with no problem, to make two down. Will Venable also struck out swinging, to make three K’s on the day for Harang. At the end of three, one-third of the way through the game, the Dodgers led 3-0. Ahhhh, attack of the 3’s!

Leading off the top of the fourth was the guy who I guarantee will be snubbed from the National League all-star roster this season, despite being incredibly deserving. Granted, it’s tough to choose two, or three maximum, from A.J. Ellis, Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Brian McCann and Carlos Ruiz. I still think A.J. deserves the nod.

Anyway, Ellis had another very professional at-bat and then singled to lead off the inning. Maybe seeing five pitches per plate appearance (on average) pays off. This kid is surprising everyone, and we Dodger fans love it! Gwynn, Jr. came up and wiped out all of Ellis’ hard work by grounding out into a fielder’s choice. Then Harang made me hate my life by striking out on bunt attempts. Unbelievable. Gordon came up and continued his torrid pace to be the most unhelpful leadoff hitter of all time by striking out on a terrible pitch in the dirt on a check swing. And yes, Dee. You went around. Try making contact next time.

In the bottom of the fourth, Maybin led off by striking out swinging for Harang’s third strikeout in a row. He’s almost one-third of the way to tying his own record of nine straight K’s, also set against the Padres! And just like that, Headley ruins the magic by flying out to right field. Harang is doing a great job limiting his pitch count after the longest 1-2-3 first inning ever played to start the game. Speaking of 1-2-3 innings, Harang induced Yonder Alonso to pop out to end the inning. The Harangatang seems to have the Padres’ number, as he’s retired seven straight and now retired the lineup in order three out of four innings.

The center fielders are getting a lot of work this game, as Mark Ellis leads off the fifth inning with another fly out to Maybin. Next came Bobby Abreu again, who I love for his experience and leadership, but I know he’s going to come back down to earth eventually. Abreu is over the hill and everyone not named Bobby and Ned Colletti know it. I just hope his hot streak lasts until Kemp and Hairston, Jr. come off the DL. Naturally, as with every time I talk smack about a Dodger, Abreu hits a 1-out double, and is now a single and a home run shy of the cycle. Those are probably the two easiest parts for him to get.

Ethier followed with an absolute shot to center field that glanced off Maybin’s glove and ended in a run-scoring, two-base error. Even though Ethier scalded that ball (boy he’s been swinging the bat well, huh?), he won’t be credited with an RBI. With Kennedy up, the Padres start warming up Brad Brach, clearly tired of watching Volquez struggle.

On cue, Volquez K’s Adam KKKKKKKKennedy looking for his sixth of the game. Up comes James Loney, who trades places with Ethier on a double of his own! I love when Loney is hitting it to the gap; it means his swing is improving. Just watch – by the all-star break, our first baseman will be hitting .270 with 40 RBI. Even though he’s struggling overall, Loney now has 9 doubles on the season.

A.J. Ellis brought his .330 average and .465 on-base percentage up to the plate with 2 outs and Loney on second, and unfortunately grounds out to end the inning. But the Dodgers get two more runs and extend their lead after four and a half innings, to 5-0.

In the bottom of the inning, Harang continues his roll by inducing a leadoff flyout from Darnell and another one right after from Baker. Harang threw some dirty off speed stuff to Everth Cabrera, but ultimately Cabrera reaches on an error by Gordon.

Poor Dee – he really needs to figure things out. He could be the most dynamic leadoff hitter in baseball, but whatever sparked him in last season’s late call up is absolutely missing right now. That’s 10 errors for the youngster already. I have faith that in time, he’ll figure out his swing and mature at shortstop and turn into a star. But I’m impatient, and want it to happen now!

Right after Dee’s error, Kennedy can’t handle a back-handed grounder off the bat of Amarista, and Harang is in trouble with some awful luck. They rule the Amarista play a hit, and pinch-hitter Jesus Guzman comes up with a chance to do some damage. Luckily, Harang does his thing and gets him to ground out to Dee to end the fifth.

Alex Hinshaw comes in to face fellow lefty Gwynn, Jr., who hit a double past a diving effort from Darnell. The left fielder injured himself on the play, and it doesn’t look good at ALL. That’s a shame for the Padres. They liked what Darnell was bringing to the table so far, and you never want to see a player injured. It looks like his left shoulder is really bothering him, and he has to be helped off the field and replaced by Chris Denorfia. It looks like Darnell, judging by the severity of his pained expressions, will be the 11th Padre on the DL. Later reports tell us that Darnell dislocated his shoulder. OUCH.

When the game resumes, Harang doubles his pleasure, doubles his fun by bunt striking out again. Good thing he’s throwing well, otherwise I’d be about ready to kill him for his lack of bunting mechanics. After Hinshaw nearly throws the ball away on a pickoff attempt at second, Gordon puts a good swing on a ball and flies out to left for the second out.

After Mark Ellis works a great first six pitches to get to 3-2 (one two-strike foul ball for those confused by my math…), he takes a pitch right down the pipe for a backwards K, and the Dodgers strand the leadoff double. No thanks to Harang’s epic bunting failure.

In the bottom of the sixth, Harang starts Venable off with a ridiculous, 69-mile-per-hour something or other pitch and gets ahead, before inducing a pop up to third. Maybin goes down swinging for Harang’s fifth strikeout, and then surrenders a single to left to Headley on a 3-2 pitch. This is likely Harang’s last full inning, as he’s pushing 100 pitches with two outs in the sixth. That’s shocking, considering he’s only given up a few base runners. He’s just going deep into counts on everyone. Credit the Padres for putting together some tough at-bats.

After the single, Yonder Alonso flies out to Abreu in left, and the Dodgers finish the sixth inning holding that 5-0 lead. They seem in control cruising to the home stretch.

Andre Ethier extends his hitting streak to 21 games with a first inning single (Photo from Yahoo Sports)

After a leadoff strikeout from Abreu, Andre Ethier continues to prove people wrong, going up the middle off a lefty for his second (should be third) hit of the game. Kennedy follows with a weak infield single (the only way he and Juan Uribe know how to get on base) to put two on with one out and Loney up to bat. He goes down swinging, to bring up A.J. Ellis. He quickly gets in an 0-2 hole, but then hits an RBI single to right to make it 6-0 Dodgers. My goodness Ellis is unstoppable these days! He raises his average to .333 and his on-base percentage to .466. Incredible. Russell Martin, who?

Hinshaw walks Gwynn, Jr. to bring up Harang with the bases loaded and two down. Harang takes a decent hack, moves the count to 1-1, and then makes Charlie Steiner look like a fool (Steiner had JUST said on the radio “There are many things Harang does well…hitting ain’t one of them!”) with a swinging bunt that turns into an RBI single that went a grand total of 40 feet. Hinshaw couldn’t make the throw, and Harang has his first hit of the season!

Needless to say, Bud Black comes out to replace Hinshaw with Brach, and the Dodgers still have the bases loaded, two outs, and now the top of the order up. At this point a 7-0 lead is all but insurmountable. Even with the sketchy Dodger bullpen, you have to think the Padres lineup lacks the firepower to climb all the way back.

Even though Hinshaw is struggling, it’s interesting that the Padres replaced a lefty with a righty when the left-handed Gordon was coming to the plate. The move pays off though, as Dee leaves the bases loaded by popping out to short left field. The Dodgers tack on two runs on four hits and enter the 7th inning stretch with a big lead.

Going into the bottom of the 7th inning, Mattingly decides to give his eldest position player a rest, and sits Abreu in favor of the young gun, Scott Van Slyke. Harang continues to look good, getting Denorfia to fly out to lead off the inning. One of the only guys who has touched Harang tonight comes up, and John Baker continues to terrorize Harang with his 2nd double of the game. With such a big lead, I can safely be happy for Baker, the local of my hometown, and his two-hit game.

Everth Cabrera comes up and misses a double of his own by about three inches down the left field line. With a sigh of relief I’m sure, Harang freezes Cabrera on a curveball for strike three. Two down, runner on 2nd and Amarista comes up with a chance to get the Padres on the board. Fortunately for the Dodgers, Amarista grounds out to shortstop to end the inning. Maybe the Friars shouldn’t have been so quick to release the O-Dawg, Orlando Hudson!

At the end of seven, the Dodgers maintain a 7-0 lead in San Diego, and Harang comes out with 116 pitches thrown. What a fantastic outing from the big guy. His final line: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K. Very nicely done by Harang. Yes, I just gave a standing ovation in front of my computer. That’s what baseball nerds do.

Sidewinding lefty Joe Thatcher comes in for San Diego and gets Mark Ellis to ground out to first leading off the 8th inning. Van Slyke gets his first at-bat of the game and flies out to right field, but strikes it well. I’m really excited for this kid. You can’t go wrong with calling up a guy hitting over .360 in Triple-A! With such a large lead, Mattingly gives Jerry Sands a shot too, pinch hitting for Ethier. Sands wastes his opportunity by popping out in foul territory on the first pitch he sees.

Thatcher does work on the Dodgers and retires them quieter than any previous Padres pitcher has tonight. We got to the bottom of the 8th, and the Dodgers still lead 7-0 on 12 hits.

Jamey Wright comes on in the eighth to face pinch hitter Andy Parrino, hitting in place of Thatcher. Wright throws a nice fastball low and away on 3-2 and gets Parrino swinging, and the 8th is off to a great start for the veteran righty reliever. On a check swing, Wright gets Will Venable for the 2nd out. He’s making this look easy, mowing down the Padres batters.

Wright cruises past Cameron Maybin with another K, for a perfect 1-2-3 inning, striking out the side and dropping the Padres’ prized center fielder’s day to 0-4 with an error in center. His average is now precariously close to the Mendoza Line. Bad news for the Pads, who have high hopes for Maybin.

In the ninth, Miles Mikolas (Who?! Exactly…) comes in to end the Padres’ misery. However on an easy come backer to Mikolas, Kennedy ends up on 2nd base on a terrible throw. The error gives the Dodgers a chance to tack on some more, and guarantees that I’ll never get to go to bed tonight! With that error, the Padres now have made 38 as a team, second only to the…wait for it…San Francisco Giants! Muahaha! After working a 3-1 count, Loney grounds out, advancing Kennedy to third. A.J. Ellis comes up and does his thing again, hitting a ground ball to the right side to score Kennedy and make it 8-0 Dodgers. PLEASE VOTE A.J. INTO THE ALL-STAR GAME! IF YOU ARE READING THIS, GO DO IT RIGHT NOW! I BEG YOU!

With two down, Gwynn, Jr. comes up again and strikes out, ending the slaughter. Well…probably. You never know with Todd Coffey coming in to finish it up for the Dodgers. Anyone else believe this is the only situation he can’t screw up? Heading to the bottom of the ninth, it is 8-0 Dodgers, and we’re three outs and a pot of Coffey away from a shut out!

Leading off the ninth, a crazy play ensues. A liner up the middle glances off of Coffey’s fat leg, goes to shortstop for Gordon, who makes a nice play, throws in first in time, but Loney somehow misses it off the webbing, and the ball rolls around long enough for Chase Headley to get to 2nd. The Dodgers’ second error of the game comes from a very unlikely source in Loney, a normally stellar defensive first baseman.

Alonso comes up and grounds out, but moves Headley over to third base. With a runner on third, one out, and Coffey on the mound, he is dangerously close to blowing the shut out. Naturally, Coffey gives up an RBI single to Denorfia, and the Padres place that huge, ugly number “1” in the run column. It baffles me that Coffey is still on the team, but nothing Ned Colletti does surprises me these days.

After that letdown from Coffey, he induces a game-ending double play off the bat of Baker, and the Dodgers take the game 8-1.

That’s all folks! The Dodgers improve their record against the Padres to 7-2 so far this season, finish an NL West shellacking of their rivals over the last 10 at 7-3, improve MY record of Lasorda’s Lair post game recaps to 2-0, and boosts their real record to a still-Major League best 25-13. Most importantly, with the Giants and D’backs both winning earlier, our boys maintain their 6-game lead on the Giants and 8 games on the D’backs, the two biggest threats in the division.

Go Dodgers!

Tags: Dodgers

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