Hiroki Kuroda said he felt he regained something that he lost when he left Japan to play in the major leagues: the ability to deliver every pitch with everything he had, even if it meant collapsing on the mound.
That will carried Kuroda to a four-hit, 11-strikeout complete-game shutout and lifted the Dodgers to a 3-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Friday night at Dodger Stadium, where the paid crowd of 52,484 was on its feet when he ended the game by throwing a slider to Ryan Theriot for a called third strike.
"That was my style in Japan," said Kuroda, who became the first Dodgers pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout in three years. "The old part of me that I'd forgotten about came out again."
Manager Joe Torre said he had Kuroda (3-5) on "a short leash," but that the 33-year old right-hander never gave him the chance to pull him.
"He was about as close to perfect without being perfect as you can be," Torre said. "He was in total control. He was just dominant."
Kuroda's game-ending strikeout not only secured the Dodgers' fourth win in 15 games, but also capped a day when the club was able to add a utility infielder at essentially no cost.
By parting with only infielder Juan Rivera of Class-A Great Lakes to the Kansas City Royals, the Dodgers were able to acquire 2003 AL rookie of the year Angel Berroa, who probably will be their everyday shortstop until leading hitter Rafael Furcal returns from a back strain that has sidelined him for more than a month. The Royals agreed to pay the remainder of Berroa's contract, which includes a $4.75-million salary for this season and a $500,000 buyout on a club option for 2009 worth $5.5 million.
Berroa is expected to be at Dodger Stadium in time for the game today.
"It was a good day," Torre said.
Kuroda's worst start of the season was his last, when he lasted 2 2/3 innings in a loss to the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. Between that start and this one, Kuroda said he had several conversations with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and changed the grip of his slider.
The only serious trouble he encountered Friday was in the fourth inning, when his throwing error put men on the corners with no outs. But Kuroda struck out Aramis Ramirez and forced Kosuke Fukudome to ground into a double play to end the threat.
"The guy was intense coming in and he didn't let up," said catcher Danny Ardoin, who started in place of Russell Martin. "He took the bull by the horns."
Kuroda didn't walk a batter, lowering his earned-run average to 3.49.
He was handed an early 1-0 lead, as Jeff Kent doubled to center in the first inning to drive in Delwyn Young from first. An infield hit by Blake DeWitt loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth and James Loney scored on a groundout by Ardoin to double the advantage.
Loney scored another run to extend the margin to 3-0 on a suicide squeeze by Ardoin in the sixth, making Kent's fifth-inning ejection for arguing a strike-three call a non-factor.
The addition of Berroa to the active roster today could result in a demotion to triple A for rookie Chin-lung Hu, who is hitting .165.
Berroa was recommended to Colletti by bench coach Bob Schaefer, who coached him in a rookie season when he hit .287 with 17 home runs, 21 steals and 73 runs batted in.
But Berroa came at a cheap price for a reason, as his decline in recent years resulted in the now-30-year old shortstop spending most of the last two seasons at triple-A Omaha.