Anyone questioning whether hardballs tossed softly can do damage needed to only watch left-handers Mark Hendrickson and Doug Davis befuddle hitters Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers refused to go gently, though, doing just enough offensively against Davis and two relievers to defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 2-1, behind the six-foot-9 Hendrickson and his deliberate delivery, slow pitches and unhurried gait.
It was the third one-run victory in four games for the Dodgers (17-11), who widened their lead over the Diamondbacks (16-13) to 1 1/2 games in the National League West.
“Mark and Doug Davis are similar pitchers,” Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said. “Nothing overpowering. They were doing the same things today, commanding the inside part of the plate, keeping their change-up down and changing speeds effectively.”
For five innings, Hendrickson (2-0) and Davis killed them softly with their slop, with only one runner even reaching second base.
The Dodgers scored in the sixth because center fielder Chris Young dropped Rafael Furcal’s fly ball for a two-base error and Juan Pierre flared a single in front of right fielder Carlos Quentin.
The zeroes on the scoreboard continued after the starters departed.
Hendrickson, whose earned-run average fell to 1.30, gave way to Chin-hui Tsao after giving up a leadoff single in the seventh. Tsao pitched his eighth consecutive perfect inning and Jonathan Broxton sailed through the eighth.
The Dodgers extended their lead in the bottom of the inning on Andre Ethier’s run-scoring single with two out, and the extra run proved necessary when closer Takashi Saito gave up two hits and a run before striking out the last two batters for his eighth save.
But the day belonged to Hendrickson, who continued to look like a completely different pitcher than the one who was shelled repeatedly last season after being acquired from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
“My cutter was working today, and I went with it a lot,” he said. “I have four pitches, and I’ve been able to recognize what is working on a particular day and stick with it.”
Davis (2-3), acquired in an off-season trade from the Milwaukee Brewers, still hasn’t given up an earned run to the Dodgers.
He entered the game having thrown 15 consecutive scoreless innings against them and gave up the single unearned run in seven more innings.
“Dougie has that real slow delivery, that makes him tough,” said Dodgers outfielder Brady Clark, a former teammate of Davis in Milwaukee. “If you fall into his rhythm, it makes his 84-mph fastball look a lot faster.”
Davis struck out seven and had trouble only with the left-handed hitting Pierre, who had two hits and is 10 for 23 against him.
“He pitched me different than he usually does,” Pierre said. “He busted me inside and I was able to adjust.”
Pierre had another chance with the bases loaded and two out in the seventh inning, but he grounded out.
He is 0 for 8 and the Dodgers are two for 32 with the bases loaded this season.
“I was leaning on that fence in the dugout and realized that from one point in the 17-inning game Sunday, we’d scored four runs in 37 innings, yet we won three of four,” Manager Grady Little said.
“That says a lot about this team. We’re winning despite seeing strong pitching performances from the other side game after game.”