Kuroda-San and Big E Thump Pirates

Hiroki Kuroda sailed through eight innings, allowing five hits and a single run while economically using only 96 pitched and Andre Ethier and his flaming bat knocked in four runs as the Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Dodgers have reverted back to the kindly old doctor and are both pitching and hitting with regularity, resulting in three straight wins.

Kuroda (3-1) became the Dodgers first three game winner of the young season, as well as assuming the mantle of ace of the staff. He induced 11 ground ball outs with three strikeouts while walking only one.

He threw 96 pitched, a remarkable total of 70 for strikes, and surrendered four singles and a double, dropping his earned run average to 2.08, eighth lowest in the National League. At one point, he retired 11 Pirates in succession.

After returning home from a road trip that resembled Napoleon's invasion of Russia, the Dodgers dropped a 2-0 decision but then rang up three straight wins.

The climax came Sunday when they rapped out 16 hits and ran up a 9-1 lead before struggling George Sherrill coughed up two in the ninth.

Andre Ethier led the charge with three hits, including a pair of home runs, and knocked in four. James Loney added three hits and a pair of RBI (and is hitting .500 in Dodger Stadium this season) and Blake DeWitt had his first four-hit game of his brief major league career, and drove in three teammates.

It's the third time in Ethier's career that he's homered in three consecutive games. He led the club in home runs last year and set a Dodger Stadium record for left-handed batters with 22. During the four-game series he was 8 for 16 with four homers and nine RBI.

The Dodgers took the season series with Pittsburgh 4-3 and oddly enough, will not meet the Pirates again until next season.

Ethier brushed off praise for his performance and instead focused on Kuroda's efforts. "Our offense did a great job, but the bigger story was Kuroda really competing with some good stuff. When is healthy and pitching the way he's capable of, I think he's one of the tougher pitchers in our division."

The 36-year-old right-hander's catcher echoed the same sentiments. "He stayed aggressive, throwing first-pitch strikes and using his off-speed stuff early in the count. He made quality pitches all afternoon and had enough movement on the ball to keep them from squaring up on the ball," Russell Martin added.

Ethier now leads both the club and the National League with a .358 average, nine home runs and 26 runs batted in.

Early Lead
The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Matt Kemp walked, then scored on James Loney's double. Rookie Xavier Paul tripled into the right field corner and Ethier's single made in 3-0 in the third.

Pittsburgh scored their only run in the fourth on a double and a pair of ground balls but Los Angeles added three in the fifth to take a solid lead.

Ethier homered in the fifth after Paul's second hit of the game and DeWitt's two-run double came in the seventh with Kemp and Ronnie Belliard on base and missed being a home run by inches.

Ethier's solo home run in the eighth and landed 3/4 of the way up the right field pavilion, ending the Dodgers' scoring.

Sherrill came in to pitch the ninth but after allowing three hits and a pair of runs, Torre called on Ron Belisario to close out the win.

Belisario came up with the defensive play of the game in the seventh inning. With a runner on first base and one out, he ran a long way into left field to make an over-the-head catch, then planted his feet and threw out the baserunner attempting to return to first. Loney made a sprawling, reaching catch to complete the play.

And in the sixth, Matt Kemp stilled the boo-birds with a diving catch of a line drive in center field.

Three former Dodgers, now playing for Pittsburgh, had a good day despite the loss. Third baseman Andy LaRoche made a fine defensive play to rob Martin of a hit and added two hits and an RBI. Delwyn Young collected a pinch-hit single and scored in the ninth and Joel Hanrahan, the Dodgers #2 selection in 2000 worked the ninth, hitting 96 on the speed gun.

*M*A*S*H* Report
Manny Ramirez, who has missed the last 10 games because of a strained right calf, is scheduled to begin a brief rehab assignment with Class-A Inland Empire Tuesday along with RHP Jeff Weaver.

That's the good news.

The Dodgers will decide today whether to place injured shortstop Rafael Furcal on the 15-day disabled list if he won't be ready to play by Tuesday night. Furcal hasn't played in a week after straining his left hamstring running out a ground ball.

Chin-Lung Hu will be recalled from Albuquerque if Furcal is not ready to return.

And the bad news is that Opening Day starter Padilla isn't expected to return from the 15-day DL any soon. Padilla is suffering from a nerve injury at the top of his right forearm.

The Dodgers will take Monday off, their first off-day in two weeks, then kick off a three-game series with Milwaukee on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium. Probable Starters:
Tuesday, LHP Chris Naverson (1-0, 6.60) vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw (1-1, 3.07)
Wednesday, LHP Doug Davis (0-3, 8.87) vs. RHP Chad Billingsley (2-1, 4.85)
Thursday, RHP Dave Bush (1-2, 4.60) vs. a pitcher to be announced.
The Dodgers and Brewers split six games last season, each winning two of three in the other's park.

The series began as stretch Thursday night of playing 30 of 42 games at home, where they are 7-3 this season.

Nice Debut
It was a big night Saturday for both 24-year old Carlos Monasterios and 36-year old Ramon Ortiz. Monasterios made his first Major League start and allowed just one run over 4.0 innings, while being limited to 73 pitches. His last professional start had come on Sept. 7, 2009 at the Double-A level.

In relief of the young Venezuelan, Ortiz picked up his first Major League win in more than 2 1/2 years. Ortiz fired 3.0 scoreless innings and struck out five batters, which is a Dodger season high for relief pitchers. Ortiz's last victory came on Oct. 1, 2007 when he was the winning pitcher in the Rockies' one-game playoff with San Diego.  

Monasterios cracked a single in his first Major League at-bat and ignited a three-run inning. He becomes the third Dodger pitcher since 2000 to collect a base hit while making his first big league start, joining Chad Billingsley (June 15, 2006) and Eric Stults (Sept. 10, 2006).

Amazingly, Dodger Hall of Famer Don Sutton started his big league career with a five-game hitting streak from April 14-May 1, 1966. All of this information was generously provided by Dave Smith of retrosheet.org and the Dodgers Publicity Department.

  Monasterios' first professional stateside manager, Matt Martin, has been coaching with the big league club this homestand. Martin, the Dodgers' infield coordinator, skippered the GCL Yankees in 2006.

Dodger Blue Notes --Dodger pitching has been much improved of late, especially the relievers. Since allowing seven earned runs on April 17 vs. San Francisco, the team ERA has dropped more than a full run. They have allowed just eight runs over the last four games. ...Dodger reliever Ramon Troncoso leads the Major Leagues with 16 appearances. Last year, Troncoso appeared in 73 games, but this season is on pace to come into roughly 108 contests.  

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