Apparently, no Dodgers pitcher wants to be the one responsible for breaking the streak of the hottest team in baseball.
Despite laboring at times and squandering an early lead, Hiroki Kuroda kept fighting long enough for his hitters to score again, and the Dodgers won their ninth consecutive game Tuesday night, a 7-3 victory over the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium.
Casey Blake homered and Manny Ramirez and James Loney each had two-run singles to spearhead the Dodgers' offense in the win, the Dodgers' 11th in their last 12 games. The last time the club won nine games in a row was July 28-Aug. 11, 2006.
The Dodgers kept their latest streak alive despite losing outfielder Andre Ethier, who was the National League's leading hitter before he hurt his right pinkie Saturday, to the 15-day disabled list. The move coincidentally came on Ethier's bobble-head night at Chavez Ravine.
"We've been getting some great pitching performances, and when we do that we're going to hit," said Blake, who hit his solo homer in the eighth inning as part of a three-for-four night.
"We have a nice confidence right now, but we're still going to rely on our pitching," Manager Joe Torre said.
Torre said before the game that Kuroda had been "consistent right from the end of spring training, even in games where he hasn't had his great stuff," and Tuesday night proved to be one of those games.
Kuroda (5-1) ran into trouble early when he allowed Houston to tie the score after the Dodgers led, 3-0. But the Japanese right-hander settled down and shut out the Astros for the next three innings, and Dodgers relievers Ronald Belisario, Hong-Chih Kuo and Ramon Troncoso didn't allow a run in the final three innings.
"There will be games like that," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "I didn't really have my best stuff today, but as soon as I allowed the three runs I was able to stay tough and pitch through six innings. I was able to keep the game pretty close."
The Dodgers — and arguably the Astros — handed Kuroda his first-inning cushion when Ramirez walked with two outs and Matt Kemp hit a ground-rule double that forced Ramirez to stop at third base.
Although first base was open, Houston elected to pitch to Loney, who singled to drive in both runners against right-hander Bud Norris, who was making his first start against the Dodgers. Loney then stole second and scored on Blake's single.
The Astros came back when Carlos Lee homered in the second inning and, in a long third inning for Kuroda, Lee hit a bases-loaded single to drive in Michael Bourn and Jeff Keppinger to tie the score, 3-3.
Loney scored in the fourth inning when he walked, took third base on a Blake single and scored on Jamey Carroll's sacrifice fly to right field.
In the fifth inning Kuroda walked, Russell Martin singled and both moved up one base on a sacrifice bunt by right fielder Xavier Paul, who was called up from triple-A Albuquerque to replace Ethier. Ramirez singled to drive in both runners.
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