The Dodgers scooped him up along with an arm-full of other suspects in the spring but he was hammered in the few exhibition games he saw action in. Sent to Albuquerque to survive or die, the excelled, leading the Pacific Coast League in wins (11) and working three complete games.
Even though the Dodgers were looking behind every tree for a fifth starter, it still took a line drive off the noggin of Hiroki Kuroda to catch the next plane to Chavez Ravine.
His first start saw him serve up home runs to the Cardinals Albert Pujols and Rick Ankiel, joining a cast of dozens who have done the same thing. But he worked seven innings and allowed only three runs, earning himself another start.
So he started against the Cubs in what was an unspoken "if this doesn't work out, I have a ticket back to New Mexico for you" sort of pressure.
He allowed a base runner in each inning, all seven of them, allowing three hits and four walks, but that is what kunckeleballers do. More telling, only three of them reached second base and none of them scored.
Matt Kemp slugged a monster home run deep into the left field corner, a shot they estimated to have traveled 449 feet, it cleared the Dodgers bullpen and bounced off the elevated walkway behind it. The following inning, Casey Blake smashed a shot in the left-center field seats, apparently stirring up a cloud of bees that pretty much cleared out that section as the game went on.
Kemp's long shot established a career high with 77 RBI and matched his career-high 18 homers from last season.
Haeger protected the slim lead much like a mother bear with four cubs, no pun intended. He allowed only four ground ball outin his seven innings. He was lifted after walking the leadoff man in the top of the eighth.
Now imagine his surprise when the Dodgers' regular closer Jonathan Broxton came in to take over. The big guy struck out the first Cub, then Derrek Lee lifted a high fly into the right field corner and Kemp, who was in right field and Juan Pierre in center because lefty Ted Lilly was pitching, moved over to make the easy catch.
But there wasn't a catch. Kemp lost the ball in the afternoon sun and quickly scrambled out of the way of the falling ball lest he get one off the head like Kuroda without a helmet.
The ball fell, unmolested at the feet of an embarrassed Kemp, who hustled the ball back to the infield to hold the "hit" to a double and leave runners at second and third with only one out.
Aramis Ramirez, the Cubs #4 hitter, who incidentally was 4-for-4 lifetime against Broxton, lined a shot to Mark Loretta, who drew the start in place of James Loney. He ended the threat and the inning with his second strikeout.
In the ninth, George Sherrill, who was the stopper for Baltimore before coming to the Dodgers in a late July trade, came in an attempt to record his first save as a Dodger.
His time on the mound was also an adventure. He went strikeout, single, strikeout, bringing up Ryan Theriot to the plate with the potential lead run. But like all good stories, this one had a happy ending when Casey Blake threw out Theriot to end the inning.
Haeger's seven strikeouts were a career high and he picked up his second career win, his first since September 23, 2006 when he struck out five in 3.1 innings of scoreless relief in the White Sox's 11-7 victory over Seattle.
The fourth and final game of the series will be played today (Sunday) with Chad Billingsley (12-6, 3.70) opposing RHP Ryan Dempster (6-7, 4.28) .
Score by Innings Chicago 000 000 000-0 Los Angeles 010 100 00x-2 Dodgers ab r h bi ave Furcal ss 4 0 1 0 .259 Pierre cf 3 0 0 0 .317 Sherrill p 0 0 0 0 .000 Ramirez lf 3 0 0 0 .308 Blake 3b 3 1 1 1 .282 Kemp rf-cf 3 1 2 1 .314 Hudson 2b 3 0 0 0 .291 Loretta 1b 3 0 1 0 .228 Ausmus c 2 0 0 0 .304 Haeger p 2 0 0 0 .000 Broxton p 0 0 0 0 .000 Abreu ph 0 0 0 0 .167 Ethier rf 0 0 0 0 .283 ---------------------------------- Totals 26 2 5 2 Chicago 31 0 5 0 HR- Kemp (18). Blake (15). RBI- Kemp (77), Blake (69). S- Ausmus. LOB- Los Angeles 3, Chicago 10. SB- Loretta (1). CS- Kemp (6). PO- Pierre. DP- Hudson and Loretta. Dodgers in h r-er bb so era Haeger (1-1) 7.0 3 0-0 4 7 1.93 Broxton 1.0 1 0-0 0 2 2.95 Sherrill (sv 1) 1.0 1 0-0 1 2 0.00 HBP- Pierre. T- 2:47. Att- 49,297.Dodger Blue Notes-- Mark Loretta stole his first base since April 26, 2007 in Astros' 5-3 victory at Pittsburgh. Rafael Furcal singled in the sixth and has reached base in 27 straight games. ...Jeff Weaver and Randy Wolf both celebrating their 33rd birthdays while watching the game. ...It was the club's seventh shutout and the first since Jason Schmidt and three relievers combined to blank the Braves 5-0 on July 31 at Atlanta. It was the first winning streak of three games since July 18-22. They have won three of their last four and four of their last six. ...The Dodgers' pitching staff has allowed three runs or less in seven straight games, posting a 2.00 ERA (14 ER/63.0 IP) in that time and going 5-2. Dodgers relievers have tossed 15.0 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run in the last four-plus games and have a 0.46 ERA in its last six games.