Dodgers can't back Kershaw's quality start

Dodgers can't back Kershaw's quality start

CHICAGO -- There was plenty of blame to go around Tuesday night, but Rafael Furcal wasn't sharing it.

"It was not a pretty day for me," said the Dodgers' shortstop. "I don't have to make excuses. It was a bad day."

Out nearly a month with a sore left hamstring, Furcal returned with a pair of errors that led to two unearned runs, went 0-for-4 at the plate with two strikeouts and was the postgame focal point in a 3-0 Dodgers loss to the Cubs and Ryan Dempster.

The Dodgers committed as many errors (a season-high three) as they had hits (all singles). They had only two runners reach second base, and their last 16 batters were retired as they suffered their sixth shutout and second since Andre Ethier was put on the disabled list.

"When you face good pitching," said manager Joe Torre, "that can happen to you. We weren't very patient."

Furcal said his leg felt fine, which was about the only good news to come out of the game. It was concern over his health that led the Dodgers to send Furcal on a Minor League rehab assignment two weeks ago, but it was cut short after only two games because he didn't feel adequately tested. So management sent him to an extended spring game Saturday, when the controlled environment was conducive to such testing.

But as far as being big league game ready, Furcal looked like he could have used a little more practice.

"Easy to say that now," said Torre. "He's probably rusty. He has to get a feel for game conditions. It's something he has to get through."

Furcal booted Ryan Theriot's grounder leading off the sixth inning trying to make a back-handed stop, which led to the first Cubs run on Derrek Lee's RBI single. On Starlin Castro's routine bouncer leading off the eighth, Furcal bounced his throw to first baseman James Loney. Lee followed with a two-run homer off Ramon Troncoso, the fourth homer he's allowed in his past three appearances.

"We need to get him back, obviously," Torre said of Troncoso.

Furcal said he also should have made a play on Dempster's bouncer up the middle that went off his glove, even though it didn't factor in the scoring.

"If I make those three plays, the game is different," Furcal said. "Normally, I catch that. I don't have excuses. Nothing was bothering me. I didn't make [the plays]."

At the plate, Furcal took a called third strike to open the game, popped up twice and whiffed in the eighth inning.

"At the plate, I felt good -- too strong," he said. "I overswung. When you don't see many pitches ... in the big leagues, everybody knows how to pitch here."

During their recent surge, the Dodgers went 17-8 with Jamey Carroll making all of the routine plays at shortstop.

Meanwhile, having nothing to do with Furcal, the Dodgers' offense did nothing against Dempster, who snapped a four-game losing streak. Los Angeles wasted a fourth consecutive quality start from Clayton Kershaw (4-3), who defended Furcal with the same tenacity he showed on the mound.

"Fukey has made so many great plays behind me, I have all the confidence in the world in him," said Kershaw, who allowed the one unearned run on four hits in six innings. "That's when a pitcher has to pick up your teammate, and tonight, I didn't do it, and that's all there is to it."

Kershaw called his first Wrigley Field start an otherwise good experience and praised Dempster.

"I just got outpitched, that's the simplest way to put it," Kershaw said. "I had a couple long innings, the fourth and sixth. They were making me work, fouling a lot of balls off. I didn't make a good pitch to Lee when I needed to, and he did what he had to do to get the run in."

The fourth inning was long because left fielder Manny Ramirez was unable to flag down Lee's double to the gap, but Kershaw escaped unscathed.

"The kid's a battler," said Torre.

"Tonight, [Dempster] was facing a very formidable lefty," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella. "There wasn't much margin for error. The Dodgers are a good hitting ballclub, and he pitched exceedingly well."

Meanwhile, second baseman Blake DeWitt caught the defensive disease from Furcal, fumbling Marlon Byrd's eighth-inning grounder, then uncorking a wild throw that carried first baseman James Loney into the path of Byrd. Loney was lucky he wasn't injured in the ensuing collision. He remained in the game and said afterward that he was fine.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.