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Kuroda flirts with no-no in Dodgers' shutout

Kuroda flirts with no-no in Dodgers' shutout

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers already had a catharsis on Monday, when Manny Ramirez officially left the team. What Hiroki Kuroda gave them Monday night was a reminder: One, if the Dodgers are going to win the National League Wild Card, it will be pitching that carries them. Two, they actually can still win the Wild Card.

Kuroda was five outs away from a no-hitter when Shane Victorino's line-drive single to right on his 97th pitch of the night broke up the bid. Kuroda went one more batter, notching his seventh strikeout of the night on his 102nd pitch, before leaving to a standing ovation. He allowed two walks and hit one batter in beating the Phillies, 3-0.

Kuroda had a lost a no-hitter in the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium once before, against the Braves on July 7, 2008. Mark Teixeira's leadoff double was Atlanta's lone hit in another 3-0 final.

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"Two years ago I didn't think that I would be able to make such an achievement," Kuroda said. "So every time I went on the mound I was doubting myself if I could do this, if I could do this. But today, I said to myself, 'I'm a great pitcher, I'm a great pitcher.'"

Kuroda's performance this season hasn't showed up fairly in his 10-11 record. But his 17 quality starts are second most on the team behind Clayton Kershaw's 19, and Kuroda started the night in the top 25 in the NL for least run support.

If the Dodgers can parlay Monday into a sweep, Ramirez's departure via waivers -- bad legs, bad publicity and all -- could take a backseat to a postseason push. After Kuroda downed not only perhaps the best pitcher in baseball, Roy Halladay, but the team the Dodgers are chasing in the Wild Card, the Dodgers enter Tuesday 5 1/2 games out of a playoff spot.

"I don't think our goal has changed at all," said Kuroda, who said his sinker and cutter were effective, the latter particularly to lefties. "Manny has gone, but we have a great team and we have to win the game no matter how we can."

Halladay, who's thrown a perfect game this season, went seven innings and let up 10 hits, walking one and striking out four. The Dodgers scored a run off him in each of the first two innings. James Loney's RBI single accounted for the first, and a double-play ball from Rod Barajas in the second made it 2-0.

After Barajas' fourth-inning at-bat was cut short because Jamey Carroll was caught stealing with two outs, he came up again in the fifth looking for a cutter, and he didn't miss it. Barajas, who started the night 0-for-9 against Halladay, homered in his Dodger Stadium debut.

"I was miserable against him in previous at-bats," said Barajas, a lifelong Dodgers fan who grew up Norwalk, Calif. "The butterflies were floating around."

Barajas joined the team on the road less than a week ago, when he was claimed off waivers from the Mets.

With Barajas calling the pitches for Kuroda for just the second time, the only batter to reach base in the first five innings was Jayson Werth, who was hit in the upper arm on a 1-2 pitch with one out in the second.

Carlos Ruiz drew a nine-pitch, full-count walk with one out in the sixth, and Werth again reached to lead off the eighth on a six-pitch, full-count walk.

There were two interruptions surrounding the at-bat that followed Werth's eighth-inning walk, which brought up Raul Ibanez. The first was a beach ball that made its way onto the field.

The second was an injury delay for Ryan Theriot, who was taken out by Werth at second base when Ibanez hit into a near double play. Theriot iced his left knee after the game, and said he should be fine for Tuesday and thought the slide was clean.

Manager Joe Torre didn't think Kuroda was disrupted by the pauses, but he did surmise that Kuroda was generally a little jumpy with eight outs to go.

"He started looking a little edgy out there," Torre said. "He kept getting on the mound, on the rubber, off the rubber. He just wanted to make sure he had all those ducks in a row, I guess. I still thought he was going to get it, his stuff was electric tonight."

Victorino followed Ibanez. The pitch he hit was a 1-1 sinker that was meant to be down and away, but it stayed over the plate, belt-high.

"He was tough," Victorino said. "He had his sinker working. He mixed up his offspeed pitches well. He's the kind of guy when he has his stuff working, he's tough to face."

Kuroda added to the night with his first hit of the season, on a hard knock to center in the seventh. He's 1-for-45. Torre said Ted Lilly stands alone as the worst-hitting pitcher on the team.

"I was so glad I was able to get a hit off one of the greatest pitchers of the game," Kuroda said.

Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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