Harang throttles Padres, halts Dodgers' skid

Harang throttles Padres, halts Dodgers' skid

Harang throttles Padres, halts Dodgers' skid
SAN DIEGO -- With a two-game losing streak coming in and the defending world champions on deck, the Dodgers on Thursday night weathered the storm.

They punished the Padres, 8-1, Aaron Harang throwing seven scoreless innings at his former team and the offense contributing as if Matt Kemp weren't on the disabled list.

Four Dodgers had a pair of hits. Bobby Abreu, in Kemp's No. 3 spot in the order, tripled, doubled, scored two runs and drove in one. Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis and Tony Gwynn also had two hits each.

"The offense was huge," said manager Don Mattingly, who has talked about weathering the current storm of hitter injuries that have claimed Kemp, Juan Rivera, Juan Uribe and Jerry Hairston.

"We've been struggling to score since Matt came out. We're going to be OK. I just want us to be as good as consistently as we can without Matt and the guys in the lineup. Slice it any way you want, you don't replace those guys over time."

Abreu, this year's version of Rivera in that he was acquired for virtually nothing after being released by the Angels, is hitting .314 with six extra-base hits and five RBIs in 12 games.

"He's been key with all the injuries we have," said Mattingly. "We were talking about what our lineup would look like if he's not here. He's been a good sign and will be all year. He's added depth and he's a difference-maker at the plate."

The first-place Cardinals will be in town starting Friday night, but they will miss Harang, who improved his record to 3-2 while allowing four hits with six strikeouts and no walks. Dodgers starters are 18-7, the best in baseball.

"You've got to give credit to Aaron Harang," said San Diego catcher John Baker. "I don't know how many three-ball counts he even had at all tonight. He was throwing strikes and he was making us swing the bat."

Harang has worked out some mechanical kinks to string together three excellent starts in which he has allowed three runs over 21 innings. And that doesn't include a 13-strikeout home win over the Padres April 13.

This game at Petco Park was in sharp contrast to his season debut here April 8, when he walked five and couldn't get out of the fifth inning against the team that let him go after his 14-7 season last year.

"That [first start] was frustrating," said Harang, removed Thursday night after 116 pitches. "Coming out of such a good spring, I had a lot of adrenaline first time back and I felt off mechanically. I've been working slowly on that and the last two weeks I've focused on staying through the ball and not clearing my front side too early."

Ellis, continuing to play like an All-Star catcher, said Harang's ability to throw off-speed pitches for strikes early in the count was a key in keeping San Diego hitters off-balance.

"He pitched backward all night," said Ellis. "He's been, get the ball and go the last few starts. He executed well tonight."

Ellis said the Dodgers are eager to face the Cardinals, even short-handed.

"This will be a real good test, as strong a test as we've seen this year," said Ellis, who is batting .330 and has a six-game hitting streak. "It's the defending champions. Nice prime-time games. It will be a good showcase for the Dodgers to show everybody what we're doing and that we're for real."

Struggling Dodgers leadoff hitter Dee Gordon, asked by management to be more patient at the plate, responded with a leadoff walk to open the game against Edinson Volquez. That put Gordon in position to score when Abreu's shot to center scooted under Cameron Maybin's glove for a triple. Ethier's half-swing bloop single scored Abreu.

The Dodgers added a run in the second when Ellis walked, Gwynn singled, Harang bunted them over and Gordon hit a sacrifice fly.

Abreu and Ethier combined again in the fifth, Abreu doubling just inside first base and scoring when Ethier's rocket to center field glanced off the glove of Maybin, who was charged with an error. James Loney doubled home Ethier.

Gwynn led off the sixth inning with a double off the glove of left fielder James Darnell, who suffered a subluxation (partial dislocation) of his left shoulder trying to make a diving catch and left the game.

The Dodgers scored two more in the seventh on singles by Ethier, Adam Kennedy, Ellis and even Harang, whose hit traveled about 40 feet and snapped an 0-for-42 drought for the .091 lifetime hitter.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.