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Los Angeles-San Francisco: Kuroda Wins Biggest Game of the Year So Far

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Los Angeles-San Francisco: Kuroda Wins Biggest Game of the Year So Far
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Hiroki Kuroda gave up two runs on just three hits in eight strong innings, and the Dodgers touched-up Merkin Valdez and Bob Howry in a five-run seventh inning in a 10-3 Dodger rout to open a three-game set at AT&T Park in San Francisco, in front of 39,212.

Kuroda continues to duck flying objects with the nerve of a fighter pilot. After being brutally beaned by a batted ball in Arizona less than a month ago, this time he had to avoid a splintered bat that appeared to be headed his way.

This after both a line drive and a broken bat menaced the Japanese righty during a rehab start at Class-A Inland Empire of San Bernardino.

Joe Torre was typically stoic about it all.

“You just sort of shake your head,” sad the Dodgers manager. “You think, ‘They’re shooting at this guy.’”

Kuroda, for his part, is proving himself to be a true warrior on the mound, unfazed by much of anything.

“I didn't know if it was the ball or the bat coming,” Kuroda relayed through an interpreter. “I realized it was the bat and since I had the ball hit at my head in Arizona and I didn’t think the bat was going to come that fast.

“If I get hit by a bat I think I’m going to retire.”

Dodger fans should pray that this does not happen; Kuroda is well-established as the most clutch pitcher in the starting rotation. Torre is happy to have him back.

“That’s the guy we knew him to be,” Torre said afterward, “and just the second game back after that beaning he took in Arizona, that’s pretty impressive.”

Casey Blake hit his fifth homer in 16 games (17 bombs overall) during the sixth inning in his first game back from a tender hamstring.

Before the outburst, Blake had been mired in one of his worst slumps since the Dodgers acquired him last year. The pulled left hamstring, suffered on Sept. 4 in San Diego, allowed the third-sacker to get a rest for a few days.

Blake batted an anemic .221 (21-for-95) during the month of August and was 4-for-28 in the eight games before the injury.

The 4-5-6 spots in the Dodger line-up supported Kuroda with a 6-of-11 performance with seven runs batted in, and Russell Martin backed his teammates with two hits, two runs batted in and one base on balls while raising his batting average to .258.

The key moment in the game occurred with the Dodgers leading the home team by a slim 2-1 count in the top of the sixth.

After getting two quick outs, Giants’ starter Matt Cain gave up a seemingly innocuous two-out single to the suddenly hot James Loney.

After working Cain for a hitter-favorable 2-0 count, Blake turned on a fastball in his wheelhouse and skied it deep into the leftfield bleacher for a 4-1 advantage.

The Dodgers, who have been power-deprived for the majority of the year, shifted the momentum entirely their way with the long ball.

“It (the home run) certainly changed the game,” Torre said. “To go up 4-1 is a huge difference.”

With the Colorado Rockies winning their eighth game in a row with a four-run, two-out, two-strike rally in the ninth to defeat the San Diego Padres, 4-1, the Dodgers were pulling out a dominant win to preserve their lead in the National League West.

The Rox' win kept them a mere two games back of the division leading Dodgers.

Cain let the homestanding Giants down tonight, giving up seven hits, four runs, three walks and just five strikeouts for San Francisco. Kuroda moved to 6-6 and the Giants' Cain fell to 13-5.

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