© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
07/20/08 12:30 AM ET
Haren shuts down Dodgers
All-Star right-hander hurls seven shutout innings for ninth win
By Mike Ritter / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- As much as the Diamondbacks have struggled since April, one thing they can say for themselves is they still haven't been knocked out of first place. It's been close, especially recently, with the second-place Dodgers finding their groove, but the D-backs have remained in first place since April 6. On Saturday night at Chase Field, the D-backs were faced with the possibility of being knocked out of first by the Dodgers, who entered the game in a deadlock in the division. Not if Dan Haren had anything to do with it. The All-Star who has strung together nine consecutive quality starts, shut out the Dodgers' offense for seven innings, paving the way for a 3-2 win. Haren allowed just four hits and two walks, striking out seven, lowering his ERA to 2.58, putting him in third place in the National League behind the Reds' Edinson Volquez and the Giants' Tim Lincecum. "It seems like every game he goes out there that's the type of performance he gives us," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said. "We don't score many runs. Every pitch seems to be paramount. "He's just been phenomenal for the better part of two months. I don't know that there's been a better pitcher in baseball." Haren (9-5) had an upset stomach and sore throat since Friday night but didn't let his sickness affect him on the mound. Haren may have gotten a sick feeling in his stomach again during a gut-wrenching top of the ninth inning when he nearly had another win taken from him. Trying to close out a 3-0 win, closer Brandon Lyon allowed a leadoff homer to Jeff Kent and allowed another run three batters later when Dodgers left fielder Delwyn Young hit an RBI double with one out. The Dodgers (47-50) stranded the tying run on third base as Matt Kemp flied out to right field to end the game. "Sometimes a three-run lead can be a little bit different," Melvin said. "The edge just isn't there like it is with a one- or a two-run lead where you know you have to be perfect." Haren, who won the National League Pitcher of the Month in June, is making a strong case for the same award this month. In three starts, he has allowed just three runs in 22 innings, but has only one win to show for it. In 20 starts this year, Haren has 17 quality starts, which leads the Majors. "It hasn't been the same recipe necessarily every time," Haren said. "Today I wasn't feeling that great. I threw a few more cut fastballs than I usually do. I had to pitch backwards. I didn't have my best stuff, so I threw quite a bit of breaking balls." Haren also gave a taxed bullpen a breather. After reliever pitched eight innings on Friday night, they had to throw only two innings after Haren's strong start. "He bends but doesn't break," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "One of those grinders. He plays off the hitter's emotions. He mixes his pitches. He throws so many splitters and sliders it makes the fastball more effective. The first couple of innings, we had his pitch count right where we wanted it, but he started to get easier outs." It was fitting, that on '70s night at Chase Field, left fielder Conor Jackson sparked the D-backs' offense. As the second hitter of the game, the player they call "CoJack" -- nicknamed after the 1970s television series -- hit a solo home run. He also added a single in the seventh inning. Jackson, a converted first baseman, also had a running grab deep in the gap of left-center field to rob Kemp of extra bases to end the fifth inning. "I felt like I took a pretty good route to it and I just kind of stuck my glove up and it stuck in," Jackson said. Orlando Hudson and Chad Tracy hit consecutive doubles in the first inning for Arizona's second run and the club tacked on another run in the fourth inning on a Stephen Drew RBI single. The D-backs (48-49) head into the rubber match of the series with a one-game lead. "It's really big," Jackson said of Saturday's win. "It's about as big as it's going to get for this time of year. We needed to go out and get the lead to Danny early. Once a guy like that gets the lead, its lights out, and you could tell by tonight, the stuff that he had was pretty impressive."
Mike Ritter is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.