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Dodgers breathe sigh of relief in lucky 13th

Two decisive plays come in final inning to cap shutout, sweep

LOS ANGELES -- It took four hours, two minutes and 13 innings Sunday afternoon for the Dodgers to complete a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks with a 1-0 victory, their 13th in 15 Dodger Stadium games this season.

And, if you blinked twice in the 13th, you would have missed the two decisive plays in the game, which happened moments apart, as the Dodgers won their fourth in a row to improve to 16-8.

First, there was Dodgers left-handed reliever J.P. Howell's no-look tag at the plate on the foot of the D-backs' Jordan Pacheco, who was trying to score the game's first run from third base when a Howell slider in the dirt hit catcher Yasmani Grandal in his throwing arm, and kicked away about a dozen feet to the right.

"Just a crazy play," manager Don Mattingly said.

Then, Grandal -- who made the quick scramble, and the accurate throw to Howell -- led off the bottom of the 13th with a game-winning home run to center field off a 1-1 changeup from D-backs right-hander Evan Marshall (0-2).

Video: [email protected]: Grandal crushes a walk-off homer in the 13th

"It feels great to win this game," Grandal said. "The pitching staff did a great job. And [starting catcher] A.J. Ellis called a great game. I was just lucky to get into the game, then have that chance."

On the way Howell, a former high school linebacker, threw himself into harm's way to tag Pacheco, Grandal said: "You don't want to see a pitcher put his hand in front of home plate like that, .... but, we wanted to win the game

Howell said he wasn't cleated on his glove hand, nor on his backside, which dropped onto the plate as he made the tag.

"It got all leather," he said of Pacheco's cleated foot.

"The feed [from Grandal] was money. A lot of it was luck. It was a great play, but I'll take the luck."

The main theme for the Dodgers was relief, in a lot of ways.

"Especially, with the timing of it, I was really excited about that," said Howell, who made a touchdown-like celebration after the tag. "We wanted to take this long game, and get away with a win.

The Dodgers' bullpen that Howell is a big part of has not allowed a run since the ninth inning on April 25 in San Diego, a span of 26 scoreless innings over the last seven contests.

The relievers put up seven scoreless innings, after left-hander Brett Anderson contributed the first six on Sunday in his fifth, and best to date, start for the Dodgers.

Video: [email protected]: B. Anderson tosses six scoreless frames

"It started with Brett," Mattingly said. "Obviously, he was really good, getting us there. Everybody we used did a great job for us."

Right-hander Juan Nicasio, who pitched three innings of relief for Saturday's victory, told the Dodgers he was ready to go again Sunday, Mattingly said. So there Nicasio was, in the 12th, putting up a scoreless inning.

Howell was the seventh Dodgers reliever used in the game. His defensive play, and Grandal's homer, allowed the Dodgers to save right-hander Chris Hatcher, the last man standing in the bullpen.

"We were trying to stay away from Hatcher today," Mattingly said, "unless we absolutely needed him."

Anderson going strong for six innings certainly helped. He allowed five hits, walked none, and struck out four. The bullpen added nine strikeouts, for 13 in 13.

"I felt good," Anderson said. "I don't know how many pitches I threw [86, 57 for strikes]. It was a real good stepping stone, hopefully, for starts to come."

Earl Bloom is a contributor to
Read More: Los Angeles Dodgers, J.P. Howell, Yasmani Grandal