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Kuroda earns enough support to beat Friars

Kuroda earns enough support to beat Friars

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LOS ANGELES -- Hiroki Kuroda won't talk about his plans for next season yet, whether they involve baseball in the United States or Japan.

With the run support he's gotten this season, it wouldn't be a surprise if he wants to pitch elsewhere. With the way he's pitched, the Dodgers would miss him sorely.

Kuroda reached two career highs in an eight-inning, one-run performance on Thursday, and he gave the Dodgers their first true taste of playing spoiler this season. Los Angeles' 3-1 win at Dodger Stadium pushed the Padres out of first place in the National League West.

"It means so much," manager Joe Torre said. "We got excited, at least I did. Go out there and beat a club that's in first place. We can't be there, so at least we can affect the race in some way."

The Padres (85-67) started Thursday with a half-game lead over the Giants (86-67). San Francisco won big earlier in the night over the Cubs, 13-0, to pull into a tie, and then took over first when the Dodgers beat San Diego.

For the Dodgers (74-79), who still have a shot at finishing above .500, Thursday was just their second win in their last eight tries. They had lost six in a row to the Padres dating to Aug. 5.

"I don't like being handled that way by any team, by any opponent," catcher Rod Barajas said. "We want to win."

Kuroda reached the 11-win and 190-innings-pitched marks for the first time in his career, and he has a chance to become a 200-inning pitcher on the last day of the season at Dodger Stadium, in the last of his two remaining scheduled starts.

Kuroda's toughest inning Thursday was the first, which Will Venable and David Eckstein started with singles. But he was able to navigate the heart of the order and that limited the damage to one run.

Miguel Tejada brought Venable home from third with a groundout, and Kuroda walked Adrian Gonzalez to load the bases to put two on for Ryan Ludwick. Kuroda induced Ludwick into a double play to end the threat.

"I was really inconsistent with my control in the first inning, and getting over that hurdle was the key of the game," Kuroda said.

Mat Latos went five-plus innings for the Padres and let up all three runs. He was considerably better than his last two starts, in which he lasted a combined 5 1/3 innings, but he still wasn't the pitcher the Dodgers saw early in the season.

Torre surmised the 22-year-old could be starting to tire: "He's young. It's a long season."

Los Angeles scored twice early thanks to Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier. Furcal led off the first with a single and Ethier's 33rd double of the season brought him around two batters later. They did it again in the third, when Furcal singled, stole second and then came around on an Ethier single for a 2-1 lead.

"The last couple games, we got behind early and things kind of dragged," Ethier said. "You're playing for pride, the pride of yourself and the pride of your team. You're not just going to roll over."

The Dodgers went up, 3-1, on a Barajas bases-loaded walk in the sixth, two batters after Latos had been pulled for right-hander Ernesto Frieri. Fooled by a funky motion, Barajas fell behind, 0-2, before taking four straight out of the zone.

Kuroda, 1-for-53 this season, followed Barajas with a groundout. Torre said there was no thought of removing him. He finished the next two innings and threw 98 pitches, and Torre said there was also no thought of sending him back out for the ninth, despite the low pitch count. Hong-Chih Kuo made good on that decision by striking out the side for his 10th save.

Nearing the end to an amazing season, Kuo has allowed just one his and struck out nine in his last six appearances.

"Our staff got outpitched by Kuroda and Kuo," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We couldn't muster anything against them. They have some pitchers who can do some things with the ball."

Kuroda improved to 11-13 with a 3.27 ERA. At 35, he said he isn't considering retirement, but won't think about where he wants to play next year until this season is completed. Torre said he doesn't foresee adjusting the rotation because of an off-day next Thursday, giving Kuroda the ball in the last game of the season on Oct. 3 against the D-backs at Dodger Stadium.

Not a bad honor for the starting pitcher who's received the lowest average of runs scored behind him in the NL since July 1. Or for a guy who so badly wanted to avoid injury.

"After the last two years that he's had here where he's been beat up a little bit, the fact that he's been able to take the ball every time out this year, I know it's got to be a great deal of satisfaction for him," Torre said. "Whatever he chooses to do, it certainly will be a good year for him."

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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