Harang and the Dodgers on the Winning End of a Pitching Duel
"It's been one of the things we've tried to hang our hat on: pitching and defense," Dodgers' manager Don Mattingly told reporters after the game. The Dodgers did just that edging the Colorado Rockies 2-1 in a pitchers' duel.
Even though Dodgers' starter Aaron Harang and Rockies' starter Juan Nicasio were trading zeroes early in the game, it wasn't without some anxiety for the Dodgers.
Harang walked a high wire act in the third inning. After a leadoff double to Willin Rosario who got bunted over to third by Nicasio, the first of the lifesavers was thrown out. A grounder hit by Marco Scutaro that could have trickled into right field was instead snagged by first baseman James Loney.
"I was playing a little in," Loney admitted on cheating a little on defense. Loney sprang up and gunned down Rosario at the plate, one run saved.
"I got up and really quick and tried to throw it," Loney said.
Things weren't so matter-of-fact with Dodgers' manager Don Mattingly.
"That play there, that's one of those 'No! No! No! Great play!'," Mattingly commented. "But James does some amazing things. He's got a big arm, so he's able to do a lot of things some guys can't do."
"Those plays don't go unnoticed," Harang said. "Those kind of plays, they save a lot of runs for you. It's always nice to be able to know you've got that kind of defense over there."
However Harang wasn't out the fire just yet. He tempted fate again with giving up a bloop double to Jonathan Herrera that sent Scutaro to third base. To add to the blood pressure of Dodger fans, Carlos Gonzalez was intentionally walked to load the bases with Troy Tulowitzki on the on-deck circle.
After fouling off the first pitch, Tulowitzki flew out to Matt Kemp in centerfield to end the inning on a fastball down and away.
"I made a good pitch there and was able to get him something he wasn't able to drive," Harang said.
After two doubles, an intentional walk and 17 pitches, Harang managed to escape with no damage on the scoreboard.
"That was huge," Harang summarized.
It was huge since Nicasio wasn't giving up anything through four innings facing the minimum amount of batters. The only hit he surrendered was a Mark Ellis in the first inning that was immediately erased by a Kemp double play.
But Nicasio opened up the door while at the plate in the fifth inning. After Harang hit Rosario with a pitch to start the fifth, Nicasio was to lay down a sacrifice bunt. However on a 1-1 count, Nicasio pulled the bat away with Rosario running. Catcher A.J. Ellis nailed Rosario at second, and that threat was over. Nicasio struck out swinging and Scutaro flew out to centerfield to end the inning.
That little hint of an opening gave the Dodgers the chance, especially after Andre Ethier led off the bottom half of the inning with a stand-up double. After Bobby Abreu hit a majestic fly ball that landed in the glove of Michael Cuddyer, Juan Uribe was unleashed with a bloop single that landed in centerfield just out of the reach of centerfielder Tyler Colvin. Ethier scored giving the Dodgers the 1-0 lead.
Just as things were looking peachy for the Dodgers, Harang left a four-seam fastball out over the plate to Tyler Colvin. That was summarily dispatched to the right-centerfield bleachers to tie the game.
But yet again the Dodgers persisted, with Loney leading off the bottom of the eighth inning with a single off of reliever Josh Outman. But like a junkie that keeps falling back to heroin, so too did Mattingly go to his favorite drug: the sacrifice bunt.
This time A.J. Ellis was charged to lay down the bunt which he did successfully. Tony Gwynn, Jr. bailed out Mattingly by hitting a pinch hit bloop single off of Matt Belisle into left field that scored Loney.
"He threw the ball where he wanted to, and I was just able to get enough barrel on it to where it got over Tulo's head and be able to get the victory," Gwynn said.
As the adage goes, if you play for one run you will only score one run. Indeed that was the only run scored.
Thankfully it didn't come back to bite Mattingly as Kenley Jansen in his first save situation since being named the official closer retired the heart of the Rockies' order to end the game.
"You make decisions," Mattingly philosphized. "They work sometimes. To me that doesn't mean they're wrong when they don't work. They're just decisions you make, and they don't work out."
For Harang he lasted eight innings giving up the one run while Nicasio went seven innings also giving up one run.
"I felt good," Harang said as he lifted his record to 2-2. "It felt like I was locating the ball well."
Despite Matt Kemp being on a three-game hitless streak, the Dodgers had won all three games. The Dodgers at 22-11 have the best record in the Majors.