Dodgers Offense Again Shaky In 3-2 Loss

Hiroki Kuroda

Manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt have tinkered with the Dodgers pitching staff over the first two months of the season and were delighted when Hiroki Kuroda showed no signs of rust in his first start since opening day. But like most of us, just when you think you have one problem solved, another appears.

The Los Angeles offense, much like General George Patton's tank divisions in World War II, roared across the landscape almost unimpeded, slowing only briefly now and again because the fuel trucks couldn't keep up with them.

After battering Colorado pitching for 31 runs in three games at Coors Field, and having no little influence on the replacement of manager Clint Hurdle by old friend Jim Tracy, they hit a snag in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley field and scored three in the first three games, losing two of them.

But an 8-2 win in the final game of the road trip made it seem as if they were back in the saddle again until they returned home and ran into Arizona's young Billy Buckner, a starter/reliever who held them to four hits and no runs over his six innings of work.

The Dodgers had trouble with Buckner (2-1), who came into this game with a 7.16 ERA and was thumped by the Dodgers for five runs in two-thirds of an inning in April. Buckner allowed four hits, struck out five and walked two. He opened the season in the Diamondbacks' bullpen and has now allowed six earned runs over 18.1 innings in three starts.

Veteran Hiroki Kuroda (1-1) was just activated from the disabled list after missing two months with a strained oblique muscle suffered during a bullpen session two days after his first outing. He gave up two runs and three hits in five innings, throwing 86 pitches.

The 34-year-old matched Buckner pitch for pitch except for a glitch in the second inning that saw a pair of walks and a double on a 3-2 pitch by Josh Whitesell cost him two runs. Whitesell, who came into the game hitting .107, was just recalled from Triple-A Reno after first baseman Chad Tracy went on the disabled list.

Kuroda had allowed only one hit over the first 3.1 innings and three total hits in his five innings. A 32-pitch second inning pushed him to his 85-pitch limit after five innings.

Cory Wade pitched a pair of scoreless inning and retired the first four Arizona batters he face. He also struck out the fifth batter but he reached on a wild pitch. After Wade got the second out he unleashed two more wild pitches but ended the inning without a run being scored.

Brent Leach came in to pitch in the eighth and allowed a single and then struck out Juston Upton. Then he got into the act and threw a pair of wild pitches of his own, finally allowing the third Arizona run.

The five wild pitches tied the Dodgers record set on July 9, 1918, at St. Louis when when Larry Cheney accounted for all five by himself, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Wade become the first Dodger to throw three wild pitches in a game since Darren Dreifort in 1999 and the first to do it in the same inning since Don Sutton in 1970.

In the eighth, Brent Leach added two more wild pitches and was charged with that third run. The five wild pitches set a Los Angeles Dodgers single-game record and tied the franchise mark set in 1918,

Catcher Russell Martin accepted the blame. "It's not really a record that I want to put my name behind," Martin said. "It was a tough night. I just wasn't getting there and wasn't putting my body in the right position to block the ball, and that's what happens.

"When you have two strikes on a guy, you want to put him away and make a quality pitch down in the zone. There were two guys that struck out on good pitches below the zone, and that's what they're taught to do, and I'm taught to block those. But tonight I just wasn't doing it."

"One of my wild pitches was a heater low on a slide step where I just let it go too quick. The other was a curveball that was down and hopped over Russ," Leach said. "When you get ahead, sometimes you open up the zone and see if they can bite at something. That's pretty much what we were doing there."

The Dodgers threatened in the last of the seventh when with one out, Matt Kemp and pinch-hitter Rafael Furcal singled. Casey Blake, still out of regular action due to a balky hamstring, struck out and although both runners moved to second and third in a passed ball, Juan Pierre struck out.

Trailing 3-0 in the last of the ninth, Martin struck out but Andre Ethier singled to left. Kemp lived on an infield error and Furcal's second hit drove in Ethier. Pinch-hitter Jamie Hoffman flew out to left but Pierre cracked his third hit of the game do drive in Furcal and it looked like the old home-field magic might just work out again but Mark Loretta ended the inning with a routine fly.

Los Angeles finished with nine hits (Arizona only managed five) but were 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position.

The good news this evening was Kuroda's effort. He said he felt no effects from the strained muscle and he expected to be ready in five days for his next start. What he did feel, he said, felt, was pressure. "A lot of pressure. This was my first game in two months. I put pressure on myself."

Ominously they started the month of June with a loss and their remarkable home record dropped to 18-6. After ending the month of May with a 20-9 record, second only to the 1962 team that went 21-7.

Along with Blake, Furcal also was out of the lineup as a precautionary measure, replaced by Juan Castro. But their replacements, Mark Loretta and Juan Castro came into the game batting .321 and .357.

Pierre lead the offense with three hits, Kemp and Furcal added two each. Furcal had his two even though he didn't start as a precautionary measure for his surgically repaired back, but he will start Tuesday night at shortstop. Martin was robbed of a pair of hits when Arizona took a page out of the Cubs book and played him right on the third-base line. Martin smacked a pair of sharp grounders for tough-luck outs, balls that were hit about as hard as any the Dodgers struck.

Over the past 10 games, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco were all 6-4 and Arizona was 5-5. The Dodgers' lead shrunk to eight over the Giants, nine over the Padres and 11.5 over Arizona.

The Dodgers had a seven-game winning streak against the Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium broken. And they had won nine of their last 10 overall against Arizona beginning August 30, 2008 and 11 of its last 13 beginning August 2, 2008.

At 35-18, the Dodgers own the best record in all of baseball. Through 52 games of the 2008 season, the Dodgers were 26-26 and in second place, 3.5 games behind Arizona.

  In tonight's game, the second of a 10-game homestand, will see Randy Wolf taking the ball for the Dodgers. He's 7-3 with a 4.34 ERA lifetime against Arizona and in his only start this year, held the D-backs to one run on two hits over seven innings for a win. Wolf has thrown six or more innings in his past five starts and entered his last start with seven no-decisions in his previous eight starts.

Los Angeles will face RHP Dan Haren (4-4, 2.54 ERA) who allowed two runs over eight innings against the Braves in his last start. In 71 innings this year, Haren has fanned 71 and walked just nine.

  Score by Innings
Arizona	        020 000 010-3
Los Angeles	000 000 002-2

  Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Pierre lf	5  0  3  1  .382
Loretta 3b	5  0  0  0  .293
Hudson 2b	3  0  1  0  .332
Loney 1b	3  0  0  0  .284
Martin c	4  0  0  0  .266
Ethier rf	4  1  1  0  .255
Kemp cf	        4  1  2  0  .310
Castro ss	2  0  0  0  .341
 Furcal ph ss	2  0  2  1  .253
Kuroda p	1  0  0  0  .000
 Milton ph	1  0  0  0  .000
 Wade p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Blake ph	1  0  0  0  .300
 Leach p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Mota p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Hoffman ph	1  0  0  0  .188
---------------------------------
  Totals   	36  2  9  2  
  Arizona	32  3  5  3  

  Error- Kemp (1). 2B- Kemp (9), Hudson
(17). RBI- Furcal (11), Pierre (21)
LOB- Los Angeles 9, Arizona 7.
SB- Pierre (11). DP- Castro, Hudson
and Loney. 

  Los Angeles	 in  h r-er bb so  era
Kuroda (1-1)	5.0  3  2-2  3  6  2.53
Wade 	        2.0  0  0-0  2  3  4.82
Leach	        0.1  1  1-1  0  2  5.63
Mota	        1.2  1  0-0  0  0  6.53
  WP- Wade 3, Leach 2. T- 3:12. Att- 32,304.
Kuo: "No More Operations"
Hong-Chih Kuo, who won MLB.com's Setup Man of the Year Award, last season was handled gently through Spring Training but suffered shaky April (6.75 ERA with four walks in 5.1 innings), and was placed on the disabled list. And there is no indication he will be back any time soon.

Ramon Troncoso and rookie Ronald Belisario have taken up the slack but a healthy Kuo would really put the cherry on top of the cake.

Kuo had been unable to find a consistent release point, and as a result his command has suffered. Kuo was last seen on May 1 warming up to enter a game. He made 15 warmup throws, only four of which were catchable by Brad Ausmus. Two cleared the top of the bullpen gate and rolled onto the field during the game. The next day was placed on the disabled list.

Although nobody's mentioned a fifth elbow operation to cure his problems, he told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com they shouldn't waste their time if he needs one. "I'm not having another operation," he said, meaning he'll retire before going through another year-long recovery.

Kuo had to be talked out of quitting when he underwent a second Tommy John elbow-ligament replacement surgery in 2007, but said he hasn't given up. He has no idea when he can get back and returning to the Major Leagues is still off in the distance. "I'm not getting down," he told Gurnick. "I think I'll be able to pitch again."

Dodger Blue Notes-- Brad Ausmus will start behind the plate for the Dodgers on tonight. Furcal didn't start as a precautionary measure for his surgically repaired back, but he will start tonight. ...Third catcher A.J. Ellis back to Triple-A Albuquerque on Monday to clear space on the roster for Kuroda. ...Disabled reliever Will Ohman, who is on the 15-day disabled list, was to receive a cortisone injection in his irritated acromio-clavicular joint, the top of the shoulder where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade. ...In addition to three more hits on Monday, Pierre stole his 11th base. ...Kemp, who hit .407 on the recent road trip, went 2-for-4 with a double on Monday. ...Guillermo Mota, who pitched a scoreless ninth, continues to rebound, having not allowed a run in his past four outings. He's lowered his ERA from 9.00 to 6.53 after making a mechanical adjustment. ...Dodgers executive and former manager Tommy Lasorda has a cameo role on Wednesday's episode of the CBS soap opera, "The Young and the Restless."    

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