LOS ANGELES -- Aaron Harang was rolling along against his former team, feeling good and pitching with the lead. So when Don Mattingly came out to the mound, Harang did his best to dissuade his manager from pulling him.
"I was trying everything to get to stay out there but when a manager gets a feeling there's not always times you can talk him out of it," he said after the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Cincinnati Reds 4-1 on Wednesday night to regain the NL West lead. "He had his mind made up."
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Harang (6-5) allowed one run and three hits, struck out five and walked one in his second career start against the team he pitched for from 2003-10. The right-hander last faced the Reds and beat them on June 21, 2002, with Oakland.
"He was just kind of effectively wild," said Zack Cozart, who went 1 for 4. "He was throwing balls up in the zone and not really leaving anything over the plate. He had good stuff. We didn't put any good swings on him, and it showed."
Harang wanted to stick around partly because it was his old team. He won for the first time in nearly a month.
"I felt like I had control of the game, was never really in a situation where I was pitching out of jams except for maybe the third inning when I got runners on first and third with two outs," he said. "Other than that I felt like I was doing what I needed to do, pounding the strike zone and getting myself ahead."
Mattingly agreed that Harang had plenty left to stay in the game, but in case of trouble, he didn't want to have to get into his left-handers.
The Dodgers took two out of three against the Reds to snap their skid of four straight series losses. They had not won a series since June 15-17 against the Chicago White Sox, while they won two in a row for the first time since June 9-10 at Seattle.
"Even though it's been slow with these two wins, we really feel that momentum shifting to where we're getting back to where we were," catcher Matt Treanor said. "The pitching staff has been doing an outstanding job even through the slumping part of this year."
The Dodgers wasted no time in jumping on Mike Leake (3-6), who gave up four consecutive hits to open the game before he settled down and gave up just two hits the rest of the way. The right-hander allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings, struck out five and walked none in a rocky follow-up to his complete-game victory at San Francisco last Friday.
"I wasn't quite loose. I probably should have thrown a few extra pitches in the bullpen," Leake said. "I was helping them out leaving balls over the middle and not really locating it too well. But after that, I got into a rhythm so I can't really complain."
Dee Gordon led off with a double. Luis Cruz had an RBI single and Bobby Abreu's single sent Cruz to third. James Loney singled home Cruz. Abreu scored when Adam Kennedy grounded into a fielder's choice to first baseman Joey Votto, who got the force at second before shortstop Cozart's relay throw went past first base to bring home Abreu.
"It's just one of those things where I obviously didn't throw it good at all," Cozart said. "It was a big play. Instead of being down two, we were down three."
The Reds scored their only run on Devin Mesoraco's fifth homer with one out in the fifth. He sent a 1-0 pitch from Harang into the lower left field seats.
Gordon dislocated his right thumb stealing third in the eighth after he had stolen second. He wore a splint containing ice on his swollen hand after the game and used his left hand to take off his uniform.
"I caught my thumb under the base. It was a weird play," he said. "It felt like I hit something really hard and as soon as I got up I knew I jammed it. That's never happened before. I get stepped on every now and then."
The Dodgers added a run in the eighth on Kennedy's sacrifice fly.
- Dodgers RF Andre Ethier went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 28 with a strained left oblique after missing six straight games. He was batting .291 with 23 doubles, 10 home runs and 55 RBI in 75 games.
- Dodgers CF Matt Kemp, rehabbing a troublesome left hamstring at Class A Rancho Cucamonga, is expected to return to the lineup on July 13 at home against San Diego.
- Reds 3B Scott Rolen said he saw a chiropractor on Wednesday for his lower back spasms that caused him to miss his fourth straight game. "I've been improving every day, so hopefully in the next couple of days I'll get back in the lineup sometime in San Diego."
- The Dodgers reinstated 2B Mark Ellis from the DL after he hurt his left leg in a May 18 game against St. Louis. He didn't start but came in as a pinch-runner for Gordon and Ellis remained in the game at 2B.