LOS ANGELES (AP)—Todd Van Poppel is paying more attention to the mental aspects of being a starting pitcher.
The right-hander pitched six innings and allowed five hits while striking out one and walking one in his second start. He was added to the rotation Monday after the Reds released Jimmy Haynes. In his first start, Van Poppel gave up two runs and three hits in four innings against San Francisco and did not get a decision.
“The last couple of years I’ve been trying to stay on top of the mental part of the game. That’s the most important part for me,” Van Poppel said. “When I’m out there, I’m trying to just think about what pitch I’m going to throw and how I’m going to get that guy out. It’s as simple as that.
“Tonight I made some good pitches when I needed to in order to get some groundballs. I think that was probably the most groundballs I’ve ever gotten in my entire life. I don’t try to ever give in.”
The Dodgers found that out the hard way. Van Poppel (2-1) stranded a runner at second in four of the first five innings, and another at third in the sixth by striking out major league batting leader Paul Lo Duca, who entered the game averaging only one strikeout for every 65.0 plate appearances.
“I got away with one,” Van Poppel said. “I was trying to throw him a fastball in and the fastball ended up going away. So I got lucky and he swung and missed. That was a big out.”
John Reidling walked his first two batters after relieving Van Poppel, but losing pitcher Odalis Perez bunted into a force at third and Jason Grabowski grounded into a double play to end the Dodgers’ seventh-inning rally.
Griffey drove in Cincinnati’s final two runs with his eighth homer and 489th of his career, an opposite-field drive just inside the left-field pole with two outs in the eighth after a leadoff single by pinch-hitter D’Angelo Jimenez. Griffey is two behind Fred McGriff for 21st place on the all-time home run list.
“Anybody who’s sneaking up on 500 home runs is obviously a pretty darn good player,” Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. “The unfortunate thing for Griff is that he’s been hurt a lot the last couple of years with significant injuries. But he’s still not a guy you like to see coming to the plate with the game on the line, I can tell you that.”
The Reds scored their first run against Perez with help from a Dodger Stadium security guard.
Ryan Freel sliced a pitch down the right-field line with one out in the third, and the ball skipped into foul territory and hit a chair that the slow-reacting employee wasn’t able to move before Shawn Green got there. Freel made it all the way to third with his fourth triple of the season and scored on Barry Larkin’s groundout.
Juan Castro singled in the fifth and scored from second when Perez (2-2) fielded Freel’s squib hit to the right of the mound and made an errant underhand toss to first base while falling down.
Freel made an all-out effort on Lo Duca’s foul fly to right field in the sixth, hurtling himself into the stands and disappearing into a sea of Dodgers fans. His knee accidentally struck an elderly woman in the head and it affected him the rest of the game.
“I feel so bad,” said Freel, who gave the woman a bat after the inning was over. “I don’t think she could have gotten out of the way if she wanted to. As aggressive as I play, I just wanted to take it back and do it over again.
“It wasn’t a pretty sight. She was in a daze, and my heart really just dropped. I just kept apologizing to her and praying that she was all right. I kept looking over there between pitches and her son gave a thumbs-up to somebody that she was going to be OK.”
The woman was taken to County USC Medical Center for evaluation.
Perez pitched eight innings, allowing four runs—three earned—and six hits. He struck out five and walked one. The left-hander became the 307th different pitcher Griffey has homered against.
“The pitch to Griffey was a very good pitch,” Perez said. “It was afastball away, but he’s got enough power to hit it out of the ballpark.”
An MRI taken on the sore left shoulder of Dodgers RF Juan Encarnacion was negative, but he missed his second straight game. … Cincinnati 1B SeanCasey missed his second game because of a sore left thumb.