Harang felled by pair of big swings vs. D-backs

Harang felled by pair of big swings vs. D-backs

Harang felled by pair of big swings vs. D-backs
LOS ANGELES -- Manager Don Mattingly was nervous about Monday night's game against the D-backs, with his team coming off of an emotional series in San Francisco that reminded him of the intense Yankees-Red Sox games he once played in.

His concerns about how his team would respond after sweeping the Giants proved to be warranted, as the D-backs hit two back-breaking home runs off Aaron Harang to win the series opener, 7-2, at Dodger Stadium.

"I thought it was one those games that was a little bit dangerous for us," Mattingly said. "I thought we would be a little bit flat, but I thought we had good energy."

However, energy doesn't always translate to wins like it did in San Francisco over the weekend, and that was the case Monday night, as the Dodgers went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

A Giants loss to the Mets kept Los Angeles tied atop the National League West, but the D-backs are creeping up and only 3 1/2 games back after Monday's win. As the pennant race begins to heat up, so does the arms race between the three clubs with the Trade Deadline approaching.

Each team bolstered its infield this past week, with L.A. striking first by acquiring Hanley Ramirez, who went hitless in his home debut at Dodger Stadium. San Francisco followed by adding Marco Scutaro and Arizona responded by trading for Chris Johnson.

All three have played major roles in determining the outcome of the Dodgers' last four games, starting with Ramirez, who hit a game-winning two-run homer on Friday and finished with three RBIs in Saturday's win. Scutaro dropped a crucial two-out popup on Sunday that helped pave the way for a Dodgers victory. On Monday, it was Johnson who made the difference.

With the Dodgers trailing, 3-0, thanks to a three-run, first-inning homer by Paul Goldschmidt, Mattingly felt confident with the energy his team was showing. That is until Johnson launched a two-out grand slam into the left-field stands off a Harang slider to break the game open in the fifth.

"I throw two different pitches and it's probably a different outcome and it might be the complete opposite and we are walking away with a victory," said Harang, who gave up seven runs on nine hits and three walks in five innings.

Understanding the additions of Ramirez and Randy Choate won't single-handedly send the Dodgers into the playoffs, general manager Ned Colletti worked furiously on his phone throughout Monday's game. By the end of it, the team had acquired hard-throwing reliever Brandon League, who is just one year removed from an All-Star appearance as a Mariner.

League will be a welcomed addition to L.A.'s bullpen, one of the team's strengths this season. Five relievers -- Josh Lindblom, Shawn Tolleson, Javy Guerra, Choate and Jamey Wright -- combined to throw four scoreless innings.

However, the two home runs surrendered by Harang put the game out of reach early. In the fifth, a leadoff walk to Aaron Hill, a double by Jason Kubel and an intentional walk to Miguel Montero brought up Johnson, who hit his second grand slam of the season for his first hit in an Arizona uniform. Harang called the pitch unfortunate and said he hopes he filled his quota of three poor starts for the year with Monday's outing.

In the first inning, Harang gave up a pair of singles to Gerardo Parra and Hill before offering up a fastball that Goldschmidt hit into center field over the head of Matt Kemp, who finished 3-for-4.

"I thought Matt had a beat on that ball that Goldschmidt hit," Harang said. "I didn't think he hit it that well, and obviously, it was earlier in the night so the air didn't slow it down."

"You always want to get on top," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "These guys have been on a roll, so you want to jump on top of them."

While Harang was roughed up, the offense didn't help out his cause, getting held scoreless until the sixth, when a Jerry Hairston groundout scored Kemp. The center fielder hit a hustle double to center field in the eighth to bring home Juan Rivera from second for the team's second run, but by then it was way too little, too late.

"We just couldn't get the big hits early to get us back in the game," Mattingly said.

Alex Angert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.