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Kuroda's effort goes unsupported

Kuroda's effort goes unsupported

LOS ANGELES -- From first pitch to last, Hiroki Kuroda won't show the frustration that comes from lack of run support. Having pitched 11 seasons in Japan without reaching the playoffs, he knows this drill.

"That has helped me a lot this year, unfortunately," Kuroda said Sunday night after he pitched seven solid innings but the Dodgers lost to the Giants, 3-0, the sixth time this year he's been on the wrong end of a shutout.

"I went through this so many times, more than any other pitcher in Japan or in the States," he said. "I've pitched in difficult situations like we're going through now. But when you go through frustrating experiences like this, something good will come out of it, I always believe in that. Right now, it's tough, but it will end in a positive outcome."

Kuroda (10-12, 3.39 ERA) didn't give his definition of a positive outcome. A third consecutive postseason appearance? A new contract? A middle-of-the-order slugger falling from the sky?

On Sunday, the Dodgers' offense did not have a positive outcome, bringing Joe Torre one game closer to announcing his work or golf schedule for next year. His team was shut out for the 15th time in 2010, as Juan Uribe homered for the second consecutive game. Jonathan Sanchez, 0-5 lifetime against Los Angeles until Sunday, tossed a three-hitter over seven innings as the Dodgers took 16 first-pitch strikes, expecting the lefty to be wild.

After winning five of the first six games against the Giants this year, the Dodgers have lost seven of the last nine.

"It's always good when you can beat a team in your own division, especially our biggest rivals," said Giants closer Brian Wilson, who saved games Saturday and Sunday as the Giants pulled to within one game of first. "But it's just like any other game we're playing. They're must-win games."

Meanwhile, the Dodgers dropped two of three in this series and lost four of six on the homestand against teams they chase for the Wild Card. Their next opponents are the Padres, who have lost 10 in a row, but the Dodgers haven't seized the opportunity by losing six of their last eight and trail by eight games with 25 to play.

"We're definitely running out of time, running out of time for a run that we've been searching for all year," said Jamey Carroll.

One game after Jonathan Broxton blew a save, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, the third and fourth hitters in the lineup, struck out three times each. The best Dodgers scoring opportunity came in the second inning on a one-out walk to Casey Blake and James Loney getting hit on the hand by a pitch, but Rod Barajas bounced into an inning-ending double play.

"We haven't been hitting with any regularity," said Torre. "I don't want to take anything away from Jonathan Sanchez. He pitched a great game. He has electric stuff, no question. It's always a matter of how he will command it. But we're capable of doing better, we just haven't done it. We put so much pressure on our starters. We haven't given them anything to work with.

"The story hasn't changed, other than running down on games. San Diego lost 10 games in a row and nobody envisioned them losing five. But we have to win. We haven't been able to do that. We need to do our part. The way we started the last trip [a sweep in Milwaukee], it looked like we found something, but it got away from us."

The middle of the Dodgers' order was supposed to be Manny Ramirez going into the season, but we all know how that turned out. Except for Ethier's torrid month before he broke his finger, nobody has stepped up to be the bat opponents fear.

"It's certainly an issue," Torre said of the middle of the order. "We're very inconsistent. We get energy from the top of the order, but we're not able to do anything with guys on base. [Ethier and Kemp] haven't given up, but they're fighting themselves. Right now, they're spinning their wheels. I'm sure frustration is a huge part of it."

Nobody has a right to be frustrated more than Kuroda after his sixth consecutive start of at least seven innings for a season total of 170, second on the staff to Clayton Kershaw. Kuroda is having the best season of a three-year contract that runs out this year and he's making $13 million, more than any current Dodgers player and much more than this club is expected to pay any pitcher next year.

Rumors are that Kuroda wants to remain in the United States and the Dodgers want to keep him, but they also want to keep Ted Lilly and money will be an issue there, too. Kuroda sidestepped the issue.

"I'm going to think about that after the season," he said. "I'm only thinking about my next start now. Anything can happen during the season, so I don't think about the future. I could break my shoulder, break my arm, anything can happen. I just want to complete the season without injury, that would be a big plus."

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

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