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The Grand Slam: Dan Haren and Matt Kemp overwhelm Angels in Anaheim

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There was some question over the weekend about whether or not Dan Haren's spot in the Los Angeles Dodgers rotation was safe after he was lit up for seven runs in a loss to the Chicago Cubs. The decision was ultimately made to stick with Haren on Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, and that move paid off in a big way as Haren took a perfect game in the sixth and pitched into the eighth inning in the Dodgers' 2-1 win.

The amazing twist to the entire story may be that reliever Paul Maholm, who likely would have been the candidate to replace Haren in the rotation, suffered a torn ACL in that same game on Friday, leaving the Dodgers with few realistic short-term options. With that in mind, it's probably not safe to assume Haren was pitching for his job on Wednesday, but he pitched like he recognized the urgency and delivered a needed gem.

''I've just been trying to have a perfect inning,'' Haren said said after the game.

''I tried almost everything, and it finally started working a little bit.'' 

That's an understatement. Haren allowed one run over 7 1/3 innings (matching his season-high) on just three hits. He struck out four and walked none. Coming into the game, Haren had only retired one batter after the fifth inning in last five starts combined. He was 0-5 with a 10.03 ERA during that stretch.

''It was nice to take him out of a game with a smile on his face instead of feeling like he let everybody down,'' Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

It was a big night from the Dodgers' coldest player coming in. They also received another big contribution from their hottest player. In the second inning, Matt Kemp started the scoring with solo homer off Matt Shoemaker. It was his 14th of the season and his sixth in his last nine games.

RAYS OUTSHINE A'S SONNY GRAY: Lost in the Oakland A's acquisitions of front-line starters Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija is the fact that they only possess one of the game's best young hurlers in Sonny Gray. The 24-year-old right-hander was just named AL Player of the Month for July after a posting a 5-0 record with a 1.03 ERA, and he was looking to continue that success on Wednesday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays

Unfortunately for Gray, it wasn't to be. The Rays jumped on Gray for a single run in the first and then three runs apiece in the fourth and fifth innings on their way to a 7-3 win. Six of the seven runs charged to Gray were earned, which is notable considering he allowed only four earned runs total in July.

On the other side, Jeremy Hellickson, making only his fouth start of the season following elbow surgery, earned his first victory in 11 months by throwing seven innings of one-run ball. He allowed two hits and struck out three. More importantly, he felt strong physically and confident mentally following the game.

''Absolutely. It's been a long time since I've felt good after a start,'' Hellickson said. ''I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. It's one game, but I felt good and hopefully I can do it again in five days.''

Kevin Kiermeier knocked in three runs for the Rays, including a two-run homer. Ben Zobrist added three hits.

BRAVES DROP EIGHTH STRAIGHT GAME: The Atlanta Braves were fairly quiet at the trade deadline, making one minor deal to fill holes on their bench and in their bullpen. Unfortunately for them, they've been even quieter since. With their 7-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday, they've now lost eight games in a row overall and have fallen to four games behind the Washington Nationals in the NL East. 

Even more troubling, Atlanta had ace Julio Teheran on the hill and an early 3-1 lead, and they still couldn't break the string. Seattle put up a four-spot in the fourth against Teheran, which Dustin Ackley started with a solo home run and Logan Morrison capped with a three-run blast.

35-year-old Chris Young and Seattle's bullpen made it hold up, as Young reached 10 wins for the first since 2006.

BLUE JAYS ONE-HIT ORIOLES: Blue Jays right-hander Drew Hutchison had pitched into the seventh inning only twice during his previous eight innings, but nearly went the distance on an absolute gem on Wednesday. Hutchison came up one out short a complete game one-hitter in Toronto's 5-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles. The only knock coming on Chris Davis' second-inning home run.

From that point until the final out in the ninth inning, Hutchison retired 22 batters in a row. He ended up walking Nick Markakis to end the string, and manager John Gibbons elected to pull him at 115 pitches. It wasn't exactly a popular decision, but the fans focused on saluting Hutchison with a standing ovation as he walked off. That roar continued as closer Casey Janssen quickly retired Manny Machado to maintain the one-hitter and snap Toronto's losing streak at four games.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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