PHOENIX — Hiroki Kuroda was cruising along with a three-hitter and a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning when, in the blink of an eye, he suffered a pitcher's worst nightmare.
Rusty Ryal of the Arizona Diamondbacks lined a pitch directly back at Kuroda's head at Chase Field, striking the Dodgers' right-hander just above his right ear.
Kuroda grabbed his head in pain as he fell to the ground.
But it appeared late Saturday night that he had escaped serious injury.
After being rushed to nearby St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, a CT head scan came back negative and there was no fracture or bleeding, Dodgers trainer Stan Conte said.
Such trauma by definition caused a concussion, but "the doctors feel very, very good and, in fact, the doctors at the hospital didn't even want to keep him overnight, but we thought it would be best just to make sure," Conte said.
Yet to add insult to injury for the Dodgers, the Diamondbacks won the game, 4-3, in 10 innings after Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton gave up back-to-back home runs in the ninth inning that let Arizona tie the score.
Losing Kuroda -- and Manager Joe Torre said he expected Kuroda would miss at least one start -- also worsened the Dodgers' already-troubled pitching situation.
Chad Billingsley missed his last start because of a strained left hamstring, although he is expected to return to the rotation Tuesday, and the team has struggled to find a steady fifth starter.
But the Dodgers' main concern Saturday night was Kuroda, and they were relieved that he didn't appear to be seriously hurt.
"It was scary," said second baseman Orlando Hudson, who raced to the mound with Torre, Conte and the Dodgers' other fielders when Kuroda, 34, went down.
"That was a nasty hit," Hudson said. "You always expect the worst when you see something like that. We're hoping to see him back again in a few days."
The ball struck Kuroda with such force that it deflected behind home plate and bounced into the stands, giving Ryal a ground-rule double.
Kuroda stayed on the ground for several minutes in front of a hushed crowd of 42,058, then was put on a stretcher and taken to the hospital, but he never lost consciousness.
"He never really closed his eyes when I was looking," Torre said.
Ryal, too, slowly walked to the mound to check on Kuroda, then stepped away while Kuroda was treated.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to him," Ryal said after the game. "I had a sick feeling in my stomach and I was scared. You want to be successful, but you don't wish that upon anybody."
James McDonald replaced Kuroda, and Ryal scored Arizona's first run on a sacrifice fly.
Arizona tied it when Mark Reynolds and Miguel Montero hit back-to-back, one-out home runs off Broxton.
The Diamondbacks loaded the bases in the 10th with one out off Ramon Troncoso, then Gerardo Parra stroked the winning hit to center field.
The Dodgers' NL West lead was cut to 4 1/2 games.
A veteran of the Japanese big leagues, Kuroda joined the Dodgers last year and quickly established himself as one of the top pitchers in the rotation. He also excelled in postseason play, going 2-0 with a 1.46 earned-run average in two starts.
Kuroda entered Saturday's game with a record of 5-5 and an ERA of 4.21, but lately had appeared to be regaining his best form.
In his previous outing in San Francisco, Kuroda had given up only one run in 6 1/3 innings in the Dodgers' 4-2 win over the Giants.
"It's kind of amazing" that Kuroda appeared to suffer only a concussion, because the ball likely was traveling at 90 mph or more when it hit his head, Conte said.
"This is as [bad] as I've seen something hit somebody on the field, unprotected."
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Some of the more recent and notable players injured by line drives in the majors:
April 9, 2009: Joe Martinez of the Giants is hit in the head by a liner from Mike Cameron of the Brewers. He has a concussion and three fractures on the right side of his skull and doesn't return to the Giants until Aug. 5.
May 21, 2008: Chris Young of the Padres is hit by a line drive from Albert Pujols of the Cardinals. Young suffers a broken nose and doesn't return to the mound until July 29, 2008.
July 22, 2007: Mike Coolbaugh, the first base coach for Tulsa of the double-A Texas League, is killed when struck by a line drive by Tino Sanchez in a game against Arkansas.
July 26, 2005: Red Sox pitcher and 2005 All-Star Matt Clement is hit in the head by a liner hit by Carl Crawford of the Rays. Clement made 11 starts the rest of the season, 12 in 2006 and hasn't pitched in the majors since.
Sept. 8, 2002: Kaz Ishii of the Dodgers is struck in the head by a ball hit by Brian Hunter of the Astros. Ishii has a metal plate put in his head and does not return until the following season. He is currently pitching in Japan.
Sept. 8, 2000: Red Sox pitcher Bryce Florie is struck in the face by a ball hit by Ryan Thompson of the Yankees, suffering two facial fractures. Complaining of vision problems, especially during night games, he pitches only seven more games in his career.
May 7, 1957: Indians pitcher Herb Score is hit in the eye by a line drive hit off the bat of Gil McDougald of the Yankees. He returns late in the 1958 season and Score, a 20-game winner in 1956, wins only 17 more games in his career.
-- Houston Mitchell