When Sunday’s game was left in the hands of the bullpens, the results were predictable.
Hong-Chi Kuo (3-1) struck out six of the seven batters he faced in two scoreless innings to get the victory. Chris Young’s eighth-inning double was only the third hit against Kuo in 31 at-bats by NL West batters this season. Kuo, left off the All-Star roster despite a 1.03 ERA, struck out three batters on 11 pitches in the seventh inning.
“Ability-wise and the year he has had, he certainly deserved it,” manager Joe Torre said of the All-Star snub, “but there are so many players that were left off that team you really can’t do anything about it.”
Los Angeles went 5-1 on a trip to San Francisco and Arizona to improve to 23-6 against NL West foes overall.
Kemp ruined a brilliant no-decision effort by Haren for the second time. He had the winning home run in a 1-0, 10-inning victory against the Diamondbacks in Los Angeles June 1.
Haren, subject of some trade speculation, has grown accustomed to seeing the bullpen falter.
“I don’t really worry about the bullpen too much. I am proud of what the starters have done so far,” he said. “We have four guys on pace to throw more than 200 innings, which you don’t see on many ballclubs. I am proud of the way we have come out game after game. Wins are hard to come by. It hasn’t been easy to win games. By no means are the starters mad at the relievers. It is a long season and you have to have each other’s backs.”
Torre had benched the slumping Kemp for three games before putting him back in the lineup when Manny Ramirez(notes) was injured in San Francisco on Tuesday night. Since then, Kemp is 9 for 22 with three home runs and seven RBIs.
“He just looks a little quieter at the plate,” Torre said. “He doesn’t look as jumpy. He doesn’t look so anxious at the plate.”
“At times, I’m still going in my mode where I’m a little bit too aggressive and swing at some bad pitches here and there,” he said. “Other than that, I’ve been more relaxed, getting in better counts and getting better pitches to hit.”
Diamondbacks batters matched their season worst by striking out 16 times in Kirk Gibson’s third game as interim manager following the firing of A.J. Hinch. With 761 for the season, they are on pace to smash the major league strikeout record. Eight of the last nine Arizona outs came via strikeout.
“We are trying to address that. We are trying to get people to make adjustments,” Gibson said. “… You can’t just click your fingers and it happens overnight. We made them aware of that. They know it, but a lot of that is a mentality as much as a mechanic. You strike out and people talk about it and it prints a bad image. The biggest problem is we need to change our self-picture, the way we see ourselves. It will take some time.”
Billingsley scattered seven hits, struck out eight and walked one. Haren gave up six hits, struck out four and walked two. The one run allowed matched Haren’s second-best outing of the season.
The Diamondback went up 1-0 in the fourth. Adam LaRoche(notes) led off with a double to the right-field corner, then Mark Reynolds(notes) brought him home with a triple off the wall above the 407-foot sign in center field. It was the first triple of the season for Reynolds, who was dropped to the No. 7 spot in the batting order.
Los Angeles tied it in the sixth after Rafael Furcal(notes) led off with a double. Matt Kemp struck out, then Andre Ethier(notes) got a base hit to right to bring home Furcal. LaRoche, the first baseman, cut off Justin Upton’s(notes) throw and caught Kemp trying to take second.
NOTES: Furcal went 1 for 3 to snap a streak of seven consecutive multi-hit games. It was the Dodgers’ longest such streak since Tommy Davis did it in September 1962. … Los Angeles plays 14 of its next 18 at home. … Ethier and Young were named to the All-Star game for the first time. Broxton made it for the second year in a row.