By Jon Weisman
Before Sunday, J.P. Howell hadn’t pitched two complete innings in a game since 2013, and hadn’t pitched three innings since 2008.
But in the Dodgers’ 17-inning victory over San Diego, Howell whipped through nine outs, allowing only one hit. Considering the outing, his 35 pitches were economical, but they were still an unusually high total for the 33-year-old. Not that he was complaining.
“I haven’t pitched too much this year, so it was kind of nice to be out there for that long period of time,” said Howell.
In fact, Howell said he was ready to come back and pitch Monday if needed. Tuesday was a different story, however.
“You go three innings, you can pitch the next day,” he said. “It’s day two — it’s like once you stop and recovery starts to happen, it’s over.
“So for me, it was yesterday — I was really feeling it. And it’s not your arm, it’s your body, just the middle of your body, the whole core — the front and the back is stiff.”
Having passed through that process, Howell is good to go as needed for tonight’s series finale against Cincinnati.
In general, he’s much more comfortable these days than he was for the Dodgers’ April 7-10 series at San Francisco, in which allowed six runs without getting in out — something he remembered in detail.
“It wasn’t a fluke,” Howell said. “Those guys were battling, and I wasn’t. I was trying to battle, but they were just a little tougher than me in that moment. They were winning the small battles, and I couldn’t get the ball where I wanted exactly, and they took advantage. Early in the year, sometimes you can get away with those outings, but I didn’t that day.”
Since leaving San Francisco with a season ERA of 54.00, Howell has bounced back. In the 13 ensuing games, he has an ERA of 2.03 and opponents’ OPS of .451. He has retired 16 of the past 18 batters he has faced.
“I feel a little bit different than I did then,” Howell said. “You get hit in the face a little bit, you start to search and find things.”