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Hiroki Kuroda is OK; Dodgers, not so much

Pitcher's effort in first start since being hit in head by line drive three weeks earlier inspires optimism, but team is shaky again in loss to lowly Padres. Lead is cut to 31/2 games.

September 07, 2009|JIM PELTZ | ON THE DODGERS

No, Hiroki Kuroda did not shut down the San Diego Padres in the pitcher's first game back from the disabled list and, yes, that narrowed the Dodgers' already shrinking division lead.

Yet there still was optimism behind the dour faces in the Dodgers' clubhouse Sunday night, because they saw a healthy Kuroda back in the team's starting rotation.

Making his first start after being hit in the head by a line drive and narrowly escaping serious injury three weeks earlier, Kuroda appeared to show no ill effects from the incident.

But he wasn't overly sharp, either, as the Padres scored four times against him and made it stand for a 4-3 win at Dodger Stadium.

"He was all right, a little rusty," Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said. "Overall, I thought he looked very comfortable competing."

Kuroda gave up the four runs and four hits in five innings, including a home run and a double to Adrian Gonzalez.

A two-run double by Andre Ethier in the seventh inning lifted the Dodgers to within a run, but the Dodgers' offense stalled and couldn't get Kuroda off the hook.

Kuroda, 34, had not pitched in a game since Rusty Ryal of the Arizona Diamondbacks hit a line drive that smashed into the right side of Kuroda's head on Aug. 15 in Phoenix.

But Kuroda said he felt no trepidation when he again faced big league hitters in front of 47,528.

"I wasn't really conscious about that, I wasn't really fearful at all," he said through an interpreter.

"I have to feel lucky after an injury like that to be back on the mound, but every time I go on the mound I go out there to win and today I couldn't do that. Today I really didn't have my best stuff."

The Dodgers need Kuroda's best stuff as the team enters the homestretch of the season.

The Colorado Rockies won Sunday to climb to within 3 1/2 games of the first-place Dodgers in the National League West. The San Francisco Giants lost and remain 5 1/2 games back.

Kuroda threw 89 pitches, 52 for strikes. He struck out three and walked three, one intentionally.

"I thought he pitched well," said Dodgers catcher Russell Martin. "Just probably that one at-bat against Gonzalez, he wished he could take it back, but for the most part he had good stuff out there."

The Dodgers, meanwhile, gave Kuroda little support. They didn't score against Padres starter Tim Stauffer (4-6) until the fourth inning, when Martin singled home Manny Ramirez, who had singled, to cut San Diego's lead to 3-1.

With the Dodgers using an infield shift against the left-handed-hitting Gonzalez in the fifth inning, he went the opposite way, slugging his 35th home run to make the lead 4-1.

The Dodgers got close in the seventh when shortstop Everth Cabrera mishandled a grounder by Mark Loretta and Rafael Furcal singled.

After Padres Manager Bud Black replaced Stauffer with Joe Thatcher, Ethier hit his double to score Loretta and Furcal. But it wasn't enough.

The Dodgers' loss came in the final game of a seven-game homestand in which they were 3-4. The club now goes on the road for three games against the Diamondbacks and three against the Giants.

Martin said he looked forward to Kuroda's next start.

"I have all the faith in the world in Kuroda," he said. "I've never been hit with a baseball in the head like that, but I can imagine you've got to battle that mentally and he seemed like he didn't have any fear out there today."


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