Knuckler, game get away from Haeger

Knuckler, game get away from LA's Haeger

LOS ANGELES -- It took the Rockies just 22 pitches to knock Dodgers starter Charlie Haeger out of the game, the shortest of his life, and the Dodgers 19 minutes to record an out.

Haeger became the first Dodgers starting pitcher in 22 seasons Saturday night to be pulled without recording a single out in an 8-0 loss to the Rockies at Dodger Stadium.

Manny Ramirez's return made no difference against Jhoulys Chacin, a 22-year-old who went 7 1/3 innings and struck out seven in just his third career start. Ramirez went 1-for-4 with a single as the Dodgers were shut out for the fifth time in 29 games.

With Ramirez back and the league's hottest hitter, Andre Ethier, going 3-for-3 to extend his hitting streak to nine, the Dodgers' offense had an off-night against a pitcher it had not seen. The same can't be said for the starting pitching.

Dodgers pitchers have put the team in a 4-0 hole by the second inning three times in the past five games -- twice by at least seven runs. Haeger, the Dodgers' No. 5 starter out of Spring Training, has been hit-or-miss with the control of his knuckleball all season, so much so that in late April manager Joe Torre said he was no longer guaranteed a turn in the rotation.

But without Haeger, the Dodgers are down to just three starters, so Torre gave him another shot. When Torre walked to the mound after just five batters Saturday, it was the quickest he ever pulled a pitcher.

"You let the first five guys reach base and you're down, 4-0, with nobody out, maybe it's time to make a change," Haeger said.

Haeger's night started with a leadoff single to Seth Smith, one of just two hits he allowed. It was the walks to the next three batters -- Dexter Folwer, Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki -- that did him in. Tulowitzki saw just four pitches, the last of which was a low-80s fastball that missed away to give the Rockies a 1-0 lead.

Three pitches later, Haeger threw his final pitch -- one of just eight strikes -- to Carlos Gonzalez, who hit a bases-clearing triple down the right-field line for a 4-0 Rockies lead.

"The thing is, when he wasn't getting the knuckleball over, obviously, you had the walks," Torre said. "And then when he was, they were getting hits. It was one of those catch-22s, you had nowhere to go."

In came Ramon Ortiz, who went five innings but first allowed a two-run home run to the first batter he faced, Ian Stewart, who hit the ball a foot out of the reach of a leaping Matt Kemp in center.

That dug the hole to 6-0, and the Dodgers' offense pieced nothing together off Chacin, who threw 73 of 113 pitches for strikes, gave up six hits and walked two.

"He was staying ahead of guys, the guy's got a good arm, good offspeed stuff," said Blake DeWitt, who went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. "When he's able to pitch ahead like that, throw strikes, it's tough."

The Dodgers used five relievers, including Ortiz and Carlos Monasterios, both of whom Torre mentioned before the game as potential starters for Tuesday's game in Arizona. Monasterios allowed one run in two innings on 33 pitches. Ortiz allowed no further runs after the homer and threw 82 pitches.

Ethier, batting a National League-high .394, is hitting .514 over his nine-game hit streak, his longest since July of last season. He was removed from the game early and left the clubhouse before it was open to media. Matt Kemp, 1-for-4 and still slumping, was in the clubhouse but said he did not want to speak.

The return of Ramirez brought, of all things, a fine defensive play in the sixth, when he cut off a line drive moving to his left to, for the moment, save a run. Ramirez singled on a curving liner into center field in the eighth inning, but hit the ball hardest in the third with runners on the corners and two out. Gonzalez tracked the line drive down in right.

Haeger, 0-4 with an 8.49 ERA, joins the company of Shawn Hillegas, a Dodgers farmhand who spent just two seasons in Los Angeles and was pulled by manager Tommy Lasorda after just 17 pitches on Aug. 8, 1988, at the Astrodome in a 10-0 loss to Houston.

Torre said Haeger did not look as comfortable as he had in his last outing, a four-inning, one-run relief performance on May 4, and would evaluate him Sunday. Whether that meant he thought Haeger was hurt or otherwise, Torre said he did not know.

Haeger said physically there was nothing wrong with him, and that he felt in control of his pitches when he left the bullpen.

"There's nothing to take from [Saturday]," Haeger said. "Show up tomorrow and get back to work and hopefully my next outing will be better. It will be better."

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