Heading into Friday night at Dodger Stadium, Aaron Harang had the distinction of being the only Dodgers pitcher with a loss, and was looking to improve upon his last outing, in which he gave up four runs and 13 baserunners while recording only 13 outs.
"I saw a guy who knew in San Diego he didn't pitch well," manager Don Mattingly said after Friday's game. "I think he knew he was a little bit high strung that day, and had to settle down. He was excited to get out there to day to show us he was better than that San Diego outing."
The number 13 figured prominently again for Harang on Saturday, but in a positive light, as he tied his career high with 13 strikeouts, including a new Dodgers record with nine consecutive punchouts, one shy of Tom Seaver's major league record.
"The biggest thing for me was to come out and give us a chance to win," Harang said.
Harang did just that, pitching into the seventh inning. It wasn't all great, as he did allow four runs, including three in the fourth inning after his strikeout barrage was interrupted by a long offensive inning for the Dodgers that saw them score four runs on two hits, including just one ball to the outfield.
"He has on the attack all night long. He threw a lot of fastballs to both sides of the plate," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "As soon as he got to two strikes, especially ahead 0-2 or 1-2 which he was for most of his strikeouts, he was able to make quality pitches on the edges. Good pitches on the edges beats good hitting."
Ellis said the Dodgers saved the ball from Harang's ninth strikeout and it went to an MLB authenticator.
Harang is tied for the major league lead with 19 strikeouts on the season, in 10 2/3 innings (Felix Hernandez also has 19 strikeouts, but he has made three starts). Dodgers starters have a cumulative 55 strikeouts in 45 innings so far this season. Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw have each struck out at least a batter per inning and have a combined 25 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings, and they have the two worst strikeout rates on the starting staff.
The Brothers Ellis
In the bottom of the third inning, the Dodgers had three walks, an error, and two hits, one that barely reached the outfield and another one that didn't. Yet they plated four runs. Two of those runs came on an infield single by Mark Ellis that drove in two runs, including catcher A.J. Ellis from second base.
"I was just going on contact there, and I trust [third base coach] Tim Wallach at third," Ellis said. "When the ball was hit I didn't know if it was going to be up the middle, so I was busting as if the ball was going to be in center field. Tim kept waving and I kept going, and it was one of those strange plays that I don't think happen too often."
The third inning was the first time the Dodgers have batted around all season.
With Javy Guerra getting the night off after saves on three straight days, Kenley Jansen was the designated closer Friday night. After a walk to leadoff the inning, he struck out the next two hitters on six pitches. But then he allowed a game-tying home run to Chase Headley, his second home run allowed this season.
Jansen's velocity was also down, throwing between 89-91 MPH, hitting 92 on two pitches. But Mattingly didn't sound worried.
"Kenley's different. There have been times early on where he gets tentative or gets off kilter, and the ball doesn't come out the same way. We'll continue to pay attention to his mechanics. The ninth is different than the eighth, so we'll pay attention to that too," Mattingly said. "As long as Kenley is not hurt, then we're not concerned."
- As pointed out by Bob Timmermann on Twitter, the last two walk-off walks in MLB have come courtesy of Joe Thatcher, who also walked in the winning run in Arizona on September 10, 2011. In both cases, Thatcher entered the game with the bases loaded and walked his first batter on five pitches.
- The Dodgers struck out 18 batters as a staff last night, tying the franchise record for a nine-inning game, which has been set six times. The last time it happened was on June 4, 1990 against Atlanta, when all 18 strikeouts were courtesy of Ramon Martinez.
- Andre Ethier's walk-off walk was his 12th walk-off RBI of his career. Ethier leads the majors with 13 RBI, two more than David Freese and teammate Matt Kemp.
- Justin Sellers had a double and two walks on Friday and his manager was pleased. "Justin Sellers had three tremendous at-bats, with two walks, he fouled off a bunch of pitches, gets on twice and hits the double," Mattingly said.
- Before the game, Ethier, Kemp, and Clayton Kershaw were presented with their Gold Glove awards; Kemp and Kershaw were given their MLB Players Choice awards; and Kemp received his Silver Slugger and the Mel Ott Award, given annually to the National League leader in home runs.
- The Dodgers are 4-0 in one-run games this season.
- The Dodgers are 14-3 in their last 17 games against San Diego, and have beaten the Padres seven straight times at Dodger Stadium.
- The Dodgers' 7-1 start is their best since beginning the World Series-winning 1981 campaign with a 9-1 mark.
The Dodgers go for their fifth straight win Saturday with a pair of pitchers being added to the roster today, with Ted Lilly getting activated from the disabled list to start for the Dodgers and Joe Wieland getting called up from Triple A to make his major league debut.