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J.P. Howell clears a personal hurdle

8/10/2013

The Los Angeles Dodgers got crucial hits from half the guys in their lineup during Friday night’s improbable late-inning comeback, but the two people manager Don Mattingly spoke most glowingly about after the game were relievers J.P. Howell and Brandon League.

They stopped the damage the Tampa Bay Rays had done off starter Chris Capuano. Howell’s outing was particularly impressive. He came into a first-and-third one-out situation and kept Tampa Bay from building its lead to 7-0 or more.

It wasn’t as easy as it looked. Howell wasn’t comfortable at first pitching to players he had befriended in his six years of pitching for the Rays.

“I didn’t like it at all at first,” Howell said. “It’s easy to pitch when you hate the other team. I’ve always had that with Kansas City because I just didn’t like them at first and they were the team that drafted me and gave up on me. But this was a situation where I learned a lot about myself. I was able to get through without overdoing it.”

TV cameras caught Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and Howell going back and forth during the game. Howell said it was about his hairdo, with Longoria accusing him of having gone “Hollywood.”

For years, Howell teased Longoria, who is from Downey, about being a prototypical SoCal guy. Howell is from Sacramento.

Mattingly considered League’s two scoreless innings to be critical to the game and to rebuilding League’s confidence. He began the season as the Dodgers' closer, but now often is used in mop-up duty. L.A. doesn't want to give up on a pitcher with such effective stuff and such a hefty contract remaining.

“He gave up a couple home runs in St. Louis, and you don’t want him to get out of the roll he’d been on the previous five or six outings,” Mattingly said. “It looked like he got back on that roll.”

Here are lineups for Saturday’s game:

Rays

1. Ben Zobrist 2B

2. Matt Joyce RF

3. Evan Longoria 3B

4. Wil Myers CF

5. James Loney 1B

6. Yunel Escobar SS

7. Kelly Johnson LF

8. Jose Molina C

9. Roberto Hernandez RHP

Dodgers

1. Carl Crawford LF

2. Nick Punto SS

3. Adrian Gonzalez 1B

4. Yasiel Puig RF

5. Andre Ethier CF

6. Juan Uribe 3B

7. Skip Schumaker 2B

8. A.J. Ellis C

9. Zack Greinke RHP