Dan Haren has a curious explanation for why he’s better late in games.

Dan Haren

Dan Haren allowed six hits and four runs Tuesday, all in the first four innings. (Getty Images)

Dan Haren has some unusual pitching splits this season, and an unconventional explanation to go with it.

Opponents were hitting .299 against Haren the first two times through the batting order prior to Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss. His performance against the Chicago White Sox was true to form. Chicago scored all its runs the first two times through the order against Haren, batting .294 until the lineup turned over again.

Haren only allowed one hit after that. The White Sox went 1-for-7 in the fifth and sixth innings against Haren. That was likewise true to form; opponents were hitting .222 against him the third time through the order prior to Tuesday.

So, what gives?

“The velocity is kind of up and down for me. I thrown it a little bit harder (recently), which might be a bad thing actually. As the game went along today I backed off a little bit and got a lot of ground balls. That’s something I’ve got to look at, what my ball is doing at what velocities because it might be better for me to back off.”

Haren agreed that he typically gets less movement the harder he throws.

“That’s what I’m going to be looking at. I’ve just got to figure it out. It’s been a few starts now where it’s kind of been the same story. I can’t keep going like this. Something’s got to change.”

Haren hasn’t won since May 12 against the Miami Marlins, a span of four starts. Wins and losses are famously fickle, but the 33-year-old veteran confessed it’s getting frustrating. Though he had a fairly consistent month of May, Haren has seen his ERA rise from 2.03 in April to 3.50 after Tuesday’s loss:

We’ll check back with Haren to see what he gleans from the next video session.

Chicago White Sox 5, Dodgers 4: Clayton Kershaw stumbles to the finish line.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw gave up five runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings in his final Cactus League start. (Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A rough sixth inning ended Clayton Kershaw’s preseason and lifted the White Sox to a 5-4 victory over the Dodgers in the second game of a doubleheader at Camelback Ranch.

Avisail Garcia unloaded on a Kershaw slider, launching it just right of the center-field wall for a three-run home run. The longball followed singles by Jose Abreu and Marcus Semien and ended Kershaw’s night around the 80-pitch mark.

“It wasn’t great,” Kershaw said of his final Cactus League tuneup. “There was some improvement in the middle innings. Obviously that home run didn’t help but, you know, that’s part of it.”

The left-hander finishes baseball’s preseason with a 9.20 earned-run average in 14 ⅔ innings.

The Dodgers conclude the Cactus League season tomorrow at 1 p.m. against the Colorado Rockies.
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Chicago Cubs 5, Dodgers 4: Another Dodgers pitcher has another nagging injury.

Josh Beckett

Josh Beckett threw three shutout innings against the Chicago Cubs before leaving with a right thumb contusion. (Associated Press photo)


MESA, Ariz. — Josh Beckett was hoping for more out of his third Cactus League start than three innings and 44 pitches.

Because of a right thumb contusion that worsened as the game went on, Beckett was pulled Friday against the Chicago Cubs before reaching his four-inning, 65-pitch target. The veteran right-hander was already staying away from throwing curveballs, the pitch that gave him the most discomfort, before head athletic trainer Stan Conte and manager Don Mattingly decided to pull him altogether.

Beckett doesn’t think the injury is serious but said he’ll visit a doctor next week if needed.

“It’s frustrating but it could have happened at a worse time,” he said. “I think right now we’re dealing with it the best we can. If I need a couple days off, we’ll do that. I just don’t want to fall too far behind.”

The injury isn’t related to the right thumb ligament that bothered Beckett in Boston early in the 2012 season with Boston. That injury affected the inside of his right thumb; this one affects the outside, he said.

Eleven days ago, Beckett’s right thumb “got slammed on the outside of a door,” he said. “Somebody was opening the door and — you know how they have signs that say ‘in’ and ‘out’? Somebody came out the in.”

In spite of the injury, Beckett’s fastball and changeup were effective against the Cubs. He allowed one hit, an infield single by Emilio Bonifacio, walked two and struck out one in three scoreless innings.

Beckett and right-hander Zack Greinke have both been ruled out from making the trip next week to Sydney, Australia, leaving the Dodgers with four healthy starters — Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren and Paul Maholm — one week before the beginning of the regular season.

Fortunately, the schedule will allow the Dodgers to can get with on four starters until mid-April. Beckett shouldn’t need that long.

“It’s not getting worse but it’s not getting better,” he said. “I’m just going to evaluate, maybe see a doctor again next week.”

After Beckett and Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks were pulled with the score tied 0-0, both offenses came awake against the bullpens. Jamey Wright (four runs allowed in the sixth inning) and Javy Guerra (walk, single, RBI groundout in the fourth) allowed all the Cubs’ runs.

The Dodgers (5-9-4) clawed back to make the game close. Miguel Rojas doubled and scored on an RBI triple by Dee Gordon in the fifth inning. Alex Guerrero hit a two-run double off Jose Veras in the seventh inning. Drew Butera hit a solo home run to center field off Alberto Cabrera in the ninth inning to provide the final score.

The box score is here.

Some more notes and observations:
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Report: Chicago White Sox sign former Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario for one year, $3 million.

Ronald BelisarioAccording to the Chicago Tribune, Ronald Belisario is leaving Los Angeles to sign a one-year, $3 million contract with the White Sox.

Belisario, who is eligible for arbitration, was not tendered before the 9 p.m. Monday deadline. The right-hander led the Dodgers in appearances in 2013, posting a 3.97 earned-run average in 77 games.

Earlier Thursday, the Dodgers agreed to terms on a one-year contract with right-hander Brian Wilson.

The Tribune reported that Belisario’s contract will become official once he passes a physical.

Clayton Kershaw’s unusually bad start wasn’t all that bad.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw is visited on the mound by teammates and Dodgers assistant athletic trainer Greg Harrel after being struck by a line drive in the sixth inning. (John McCoy/Staff Photographer)

Clayton Kershaw dispatched the old “didn’t have my best stuff” line tonight, which is almost plausible.

The 25-year-old left-hander, in the midst of perhaps the best season ever by a Dodgers pitcher, did something he hadn’t done since April: He was pulled before he could complete six innings.

Some other Kershaw streaks of note ended in the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs:
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Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke aiming for a personal honor tonight.

Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke is in the early running for National League pitcher of the month for August. (Associated Press photo)


The Dodgers have a 9 ½ game lead on the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks entering their three-game series against the Chicago Cubs. Tonight’s pitcher, Zack Greinke, would like to give the Dodgers some more breathing room in the standings, not that they need much.

Greinke also has a personal milestone at stake, and unless the Diamondbacks can make things interesting in the next five weeks, the personal milestones will occupy much of this space.

Greinke was selected as the 2009 American League April Pitcher of the Month while with Kansas City. He hasn’t won the award in either league since. Through four starts in August, the right-hander is 4-0 with a 0.96 earned-run average (3 ER/28.0 IP). He’s allowed just one run in his last 21 ⅔ innings dating to August 10 and has won nine of his last 10 decisions since June 22, ranking fourth in the Majors with a 2.14 ERA (20 ER/84.0 IP) in 12 starts in that span.

No one will ever accuse the Dodgers of underpaying Greinke, whose six-year, $159 million deal signed last December was the richest ever at the time for a right-hander. (Felix Hernandez has since laid waste to Greinke’s claim.) However, when his ERA was at 4.30 back on July 3, Greinke certainly heard accusations of being overpaid — especially considering his month-plus on the disabled list following an ill-advised brawl with Carlos Quentin in San Diego.

That seems like a long, long time ago.

Today’s lineups:
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Daily Distractions: Starting pitching, the secret sauce in a series loss.

Jake  Peavy

Jake Peavy allowed only a solo home run in a complete-game win over the Dodgers on Sunday. (David Crane/Staff Photographer)


The Red Sox know they caught a break over the weekend, just like the Chicago Cubs know they will not in the coming days.

Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke never threw a pitch for the Dodgers against the Red Sox. That’s a huge reason why the Dodgers dropped a series for the first time in two months. The way the Dodgers’ aces have been pitching lately, avoiding Kershaw and Greinke is like playing the Chicago Bulls between 1990 and 1993 on a night when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were both hurt. (That never happened, for the record.)

After the Red Sox won the final game of the series Sunday — the Dodgers’ first series loss in more than two months — manager John Farrell complimented the performance of his starting pitchers. Jake Peavy threw a complete game Sunday, John Lackey threw a complete game Friday in a loss, and Jon Lester won the middle game with 7 ⅓ strong innings.

“The credit to our team is that we’ve stayed consistent, and the only way you can stay consistent is starting pitching and those guys have done it,” Farrell said. “Those guys have done a really good job. Even when a guy has a bad outing, the next guy picks him up.”

If that were Mattingly talking about the Dodgers’ staff, no one would be surprised.

Farrell also knows that it’s a double-edged sword, that he dodged a bullet by missing Kershaw and Greinke. Greinke, who starts against the Cubs tonight, has the majors’ lowest ERA since the All-Star break (1.41). Kershaw has the lowest ERA overall this season (1.72).

“Those are two very good pitchers, in those two guys,” Farrell said. “It’s just how the schedule unfolded.”

Meanwhile, MLB.com asked Cubs manager Dale Sveum about seeing Greinke and Kershaw the next two nights. His response: “Why did you have to bring that up? Let’s talk about something else.”

OK. Let’s:
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Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley was full of adrenaline in his rocky first outing.

Chad Billingsley sounded like a man who was just happy to be on the field Monday. At least, happy to be there and happy to be throwing strikes.

Billingsley didn’t really have a bad thing to say about his first appearance of the spring, even though his stat line said otherwise. The right-hander allowed five hits, two runs (both earned) and struck out one batter in two innings against the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs’ first four batters of the game hit a double, double, home run and single off Billingsley, putting the Dodgers in a 2-0 hole early in a 7-6 win.

But more importantly for the 28-year-old, he was pitching again and his elbow felt fine.

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Dodgers’ Zack Greinke, a pessimist, isn’t thinking about his first start.

Wearing the same stoic expression he used to retire six of the seven batters he faced Sunday, Zack Greinke explained his approach toward spring training games in the Dodgers’ clubhouse. Zack Greinke

“I try to not pay any attention to the results,” Greinke said. “If you’re getting hit pretty hard then you have to think about it a little bit. I don’t take anything positive from it. I guess you only take the negative out, for the most part.”

It seems Greinke won’t spend much time thinking about his first appearance in a Dodgers uniform. He threw two scoreless innings that followed the script almost perfectly. Greinke tossed 11 pitches, all for strikes.

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Hyun-Jin Ryu reflects on his Dodgers debut.

Hyun-Jin Ryu’s clubhouse demeanor after his first appearance in a Dodgers uniform was much the same as it was before: Even-keeled with a dose of humor.

Ryu threw a scoreless third inning against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch. He got Blake Tekotte to ground out on a ball hit slowly back to the mound. He struck out Gordon Beckham on a changeup. He allowed a triple to DeWayne Wise that sliced into the right-field corner, then got Jeff Keppinger to fly out to left field to end the inning.

“My goal honestly was not to walk anybody today,” Ryu said. “I guess I succeeded.”

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