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Dodgers Ronnie Belliard starts at second again

It is the third consecutive game Orlando Hudson has been on the bench. Kershaw could make a relief appearance tonight.

September 23, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

WASHINGTON — Hiroki Kuroda won his third consecutive start Tuesday night but took a step toward ending a much longer streak, that of 11 seasons in a row with at least one complete game.

Kuroda (8-6), who held the Washington Nationals to two unearned runs and four hits over six innings in the Dodgers' 14-2 victory at Nationals Park, will have, at the most, two more chances to extend his streak.

His only mistake was a two-run home run he gave up to Adam Dunn in the third inning -- Ryan Zimmerman reached base on a two-out error by shortstop Rafael Furcal to keep the inning alive -- and was pulled after only 81 pitches.

When told he is only three innings short of a combined 2,000 innings in the major leagues and Japan, Kuroda laughed and said, "It would've looked nice to have pitched a complete game to get there."

But pointing to how he has to pitch once every five days, as opposed to once a week in Japan, he said he was fine with Manager Joe Torre's decision to replace him with Ronald Belisario in the seventh inning.

Pitching for a small-market team with a weak bullpen, thinking ahead to his next start was a luxury Kuroda didn't have in Japan.

Over his 10 seasons with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, Kuroda pitched 74 complete games, earning the nickname "Mr. Kantou" -- "Mr. Complete Game." He threw 13 complete games in 2001, a season in which he won only 12 games.

"In Japan, we're taught that if you start something, you have to finish it," he said.

Not that he had much of a choice.

"The manager wouldn't take me out," he said. "In the seventh or eighth innings, the coaches wouldn't come near me.

"If they ever asked me how I felt, it wasn't, 'Are you OK?' but, 'You're OK, right?' "

Kuroda laughed at the memories.

"But that made me a lot stronger emotionally," he said. "When I think of it now, I think it was a real plus."

Kuroda pitched two complete games last season, both shutouts.

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Belliard starts

Saying he wanted to stay with the hot hand, Torre started Ronnie Belliard at second base in place of Orlando Hudson for the third consecutive game.

Belliard was two for three with a double, a run batted in and two runs scored in his return to Washington, which traded him to the Dodgers on Aug. 30.

Belliard is hitting .322 in his 17 games with the Dodgers. Hudson is batting .250 this month.

Torre said he talked to Hudson about his reduced playing time.

Hudson said he was fine with the manager's decision.

"I guess if I was swinging better, it'd be different, maybe," he said.

Torre's decision is saving the Dodgers money, as Hudson will earn $10,000 in incentive pay for each of his next 37 plate appearances. So far, Hudson has made $4.25 million in incentives to go with his base salary of $3.38 million.

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Kershaw returns

Left-hander Clayton Kershaw struck out four batters over two scoreless innings of relief to mark his return from a separated non-throwing shoulder that sidelined him for more than two weeks.

As long as Kershaw doesn't feel anything abnormal when he reports to work today, he will probably start in Pittsburgh on Sunday or Monday, according to Torre.

Kershaw said he had no problems reaching up with his glove hand to field a grounder by Ian Desmond for the final out of the game.

"No problems except the throw," he said of the one hopper he fired at first baseman James Loney.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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DODGERS TONIGHT

AT WASHINGTON

When: 4 PDT.

Where: Nationals Park.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 790, 930.

Pitchers: Chad Billingsley vs. Ross Detwiler.

Update: In the midst of the worst rut of his career, Billingsley will start for the first time in nine days. Billingsley's last appearance was in relief and he gave up two runs and four hits in 1 2/3 innings. He has dropped his last four decisions and has an earned-run average of 5.63 over his last 12 starts. The Nationals' first-round pick in 2007, Detwiler, 23, lost at Philadelphia on Thursday but limited the Phillies to a run and four hits in five innings.

-- Dylan Hernandez

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