We have a handful of afternoon results to sort through, so let's get a jump on the Thursday Close and look at some of the early finishes.
• Make it two blown saves in two days for Seattle's Brandon Morrow(notes), who hasn't pitched well in any of his three appearances since coming off the disabled list. The gang at U.S.S. Mariner, as per usual, has a lot of intriguing theories on Morrow's struggles; among other things, his command has been all over the place of late and he's had trouble developing a second pitch to compliment his fastball. Keep an eye on David Aardsma(notes), save chasers – he hasn't allowed a run over his last six outings, and his seasonal stats (16.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 11 BB, 18 K, 1.62 ERA) suggest he could probably handle the ninth if the Ms need to go that route, though it would be nice if he trimmed the walk rate.
On the Texas side, what the heck do we do with lefty Matt Harrison(notes)? He worked a complete-game beauty against the Mariners (en route to his fourth straight win), and check the snappy numbers over his last three turns (23 IP, 15 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 15 K). Generally I want no part of a pitcher in Arlington unless his skill set leaps off the page, but we at least need to re-open the book on Harrison and consider him forward. His next turn comes next week at Detroit. (Our buddy Mike Salfino, for what it's worth, is a Harrison believer.)
• It's been said for years that Wandy Rodriguez(notes) needs to produce more on the road, and he certainly was up to the assignment Thursday, in Coors Field of all places. Rodriguez fanned 11 Rockies through seven strong innings (5 H, 3 R, 2 ER), grabbing his fourth win in the process; he had three pitches working for him most of the day and the Rockies took some ugly-looking swings. The surprisingly-useful Michael Bourn(notes) (four hits, two steals – one of home) paced the Houston offense; if Bourn can continue to make modest contact, I don't see any reason why he can't make a run at 50 bags. LaTroy B. Hawkins retired three of four men in the ninth en route to his fifth save.
• Ryan Dempster(notes) might have a bit of a gopher-ball problem and he still walks too many batters, but when you've got 46 strikeouts in 50.1 innings, you must be doing something right. He didn't have much of a problem breezing past San Diego Thursday, allowing three hits and two runs over seven solid innings.
Enjoy Chad Gaudin's(notes) line because it's not one you'll see very often: 4.1 IP, 1 H, 4 R, 7 BB, 3 K. Otherwise the story for the Padres was the same one we're always telling; Adrian Gonzalez(notes) homers, Friars lose anyway.
• Chad Billingsley(notes) and Cole Hamels(notes) (he's fine, folks) hooked up in a good one, with the Dodgers holding a 2-1 edge through seven innings, but things got a little rocky when the bullpens entered the equation. Brad Lidge(notes) had another spotty outing (1 IP, 2 H, 1 R), Jonathan Broxton(notes) suffered a rare blown save (albeit he struck out the side in the process), and Chad Durbin(notes) coughed up the deciding two runs in the top of the tenth. LA sleeper Ramon Troncoso(notes) picked up the rogue save with a perfect inning, trimming his ERA under 2.
Speed Round: The Mild Thing bullpen keeps working for the Brewers; Mark DiFelice has an ERA of 1.02 and Trevor Hoffman(notes) (eight saves) hasn't allowed a run yet. … Justin Verlander(notes) keeps dominating (13 Ks over 6.1 innings), albeit he got a little tired in the seventh at Minnesota and Bobby Seay(notes) threw gasoline on the fire after that. On the other side we saw the typical Scott Baker(notes) line: too many runs (five in six innings), but some reason for optimism (one walk, four strikeouts, no homers allowed). … I didn't get a chance to watch any of Ervin Santana's(notes) debut (5 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 5 K), so if you have some scouting notes to share, please do in the comments. … Felix Hernandez(notes) got back on the beam after two rough turns, unfazed by Arlington (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K). He was set for a win until the Morrow implosion in the ninth. … Erik Bedard(notes) has a tight hamstring and probably won't make his scheduled start against the Red Sox Saturday. … Josh Johnson(notes) left his start with shoulder discomfort, but Fredi Gonzalez says he was merely playing it safe with his staff ace.
But wait, there's more – come join us for the evening edition of Thursday's Closing Time.