Aaron Harang pitched seven scoreless innings on Thursday night against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park, a far cry from his first start of the season, which was also in his hometown. The San Diego native allowed 13 baserunners and only recorded 13 outs on April 8, and it was especially disappointing for Harang, who pitched for the Padres last season.
"It was frustrating because I came off such a good spring. There was a lot of adrenalin coming into that, my first time back. I felt like I was a little off mechanically," Harang said. "We have been slowly working on that, and in the last two weeks we have been focusing on trying to stay through the ball and try not to clear my front side too early."
Whatever Harang has been doing has worked wonders, as he has allowed just one run in his last 15 innings, and has six quality starts in his last seven outings. On Thursday, Harang was able to keep the Padres off balance all night, allowing just four hits while striking out six.
"His ability to throw off-speed pitches for strikes early in the count set everything up. We pretty much pitched backwards all night," said catcher A.J. Ellis. "That's a pretty good fastball hitting team over there. We figured if we could get ahead early with off-speed pitches, we could have options after that."
Harang says he has been able to sharpen his focus of late. "I'm going out there trying to throw one pitch at a time, and not thinking what happened in the past in the game, or who I have coming up after this hitter," he said.
Harang also snapped an 0-for-42 skid as a hitter with his infield RBI single in the seventh inning.
"I've been worse, trust me," Harang said, which at first I thought was a self-deprecating joke. But sure enough, back in 2005 while with the Cincinnati Reds Harang had an 0-for-49 skid which included 30 strikeouts.
Though it should be noted that Harang and Chris Capuano, with two runs batted in apiece, are the only Dodgers pitchers to drive in any runs so far this season.
But on the mound, especially Thursday night, Harang has done well.
The National League West-leading Dodgers host the National League Central-leading and defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals for a weekend series, the only National League series amid a sea of interleague battles. Ted Lilly starts Friday's opener for the Dodgers, facing Lance Lynn for St. Louis.
Catcher A.J. Ellis is excited about this weekend series, which concludes with an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball contest.
"They are probably as strong a test as we've seen this year. They're the defending world champions," Ellis said. "It's a good showcase for the Dodgers to show everybody what we've been doing and that we're for real."