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Even with the score tied at 1 in the ninth inning against the Dodgers Thursday, Collins put a priority on shielding Parnell from the prospect of a long inning, hoping that 31-year-old rookie lefty Scott Rice could put a zero on the board.
It didn't happen. Rice allowed two runs in the ninth, including the go-ahead RBI single by lefthanded-hitting Andre Ethier, as the Dodgers won, 3-2.
"I'm trying to keep from having to use Bobby in tie games every time," Collins said. "If I start the inning with him and he has a 20-some-pitch inning, I don't have him for [Friday night]. I said, 'Well, if I have to, maybe we can just use him against one hitter to get out of the inning.' It just didn't work like that."
Switch hitter Nick Punto led off the ninth with a double off Rice. After Rice retired Adrian Gonzalez, Collins had him intentionally walk Matt Kemp to face Ethier. But Ethier, who historically has struggled against lefties, singled to center.
"It feels great that they have confidence in me," said Rice, the 14-year minor-leaguer who suffered his first career loss. "Just got to forget about this one."
Juan Uribe followed with an RBI infield hit off Parnell, whom Collins had to use.
Niese, who took a comebacker off his right leg Tuesday night, had considered bumping his session back a day to Friday. But his leg felt good enough to proceed with his regular schedule.
"He did not want to break up the routine," Collins said. "They had a wrap around his ankle, which makes it feel pretty good."