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Kuroda strong in return, but Dodgers fall

Kuroda strong in return; Dodgers fall

LOS ANGELES -- If Dodgers fans can look past eight scoreless innings from the offense, five wild pitches from the bullpen and another day with Manny Ramirez training out of sight, there was a silver lining Monday night, even in defeat.

It was Hiroki Kuroda. Remember him?

He started the 3-2 loss to the D-backs, his first real game action since winning on Opening Day, and didn't pitch badly for a two-month injury layoff. He went five innings, allowed two runs after a brief fit of wildness and struck out six.

Kuroda allowed three hits, only one over his last 3 1/3 innings, and would have been allowed to go longer except a 32-pitch second inning pushed him to his 85-pitch limit after five innings.

Even catcher Russell Martin -- taking time out from beating himself up over the pitches that bounced past him -- was able to step back from the short-term disappointment and envision a long-term gain with Kuroda back in the rotation.

"He's a horse. We saw that last year toward the end of the season," Martin said. "We've been struggling getting our starters deep into the game to give our bullpen a break. We know Kuroda can do that."

Kuroda said he felt no effects from the left oblique muscle he strained in a bullpen session two days after his season-opening win ,and he expected to be ready in five days for his next start.

What he felt, he said, was pressure.

"A lot of pressure," he said. "This was my first game in two months. I put pressure on myself."

Manager Joe Torre thought Kuroda was overthrowing in the second inning, when he escaped one jam by picking Stephen Drew off second base, only to walk the next two batters.

Kuroda disagreed.

"I was not overthrowing. I was being too careful locating pitches and some didn't go where I wanted them to," Kuroda said.

He paid the price with two outs when No. 8 hitter Josh Whitesell, batting .107, pulled a high slider for a two-run double.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers did nothing for six innings against Arizona starter Billy Buckner, who came into this game with a 7.16 ERA that included getting knocked around by the Dodgers for five runs in two-thirds of an inning in April.

This time, however, Buckner was throwing strikes, and the Dodgers -- with Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal not starting -- left runners in scoring position in five innings.

Torre rejected the notion that the Dodgers were flat from a 3 a.m. PT arrival after playing a Sunday night game in Chicago.

"Yeah, you're tired, but that has nothing to do with it. That's just what a baseball season does to you. You do a lot of traveling," he said. "I do not think it had anything to do with our lack of offense."

And the D-backs tacked on what turned out to be the decisive run in the eighth inning while the Dodgers' bullpen was putting on a record-breaking performance.

It started with Cory Wade bouncing three wild pitches in the seventh inning, his second inning of work, to become the first Dodger to throw three wild pitches in a game since Darren Dreifort in 1999 and the first to do it in the same inning since Don Sutton in 1970.

In the eighth, Brent Leach added two more wild pitches and was charged with that third run. The five wild pitches set a Los Angeles Dodgers single-game record and tied the franchise mark set in 1918, when Larry Cheney accounted for all five.

"Russell was getting frustrated with it," said Torre. "You have pitchers throwing breaking balls, that will happen. Those are the types of pitchers that are going to have success."

The Dodgers rallied in the ninth. Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Furcal had hard-hit balls -- Ethier and Furcal for singles, Kemp's ruled an error off the glove of second baseman Felipe Lopez.

After Furcal drove in the first run, pinch-hitter Jamie Hoffmann's fly down the left-field line was run down by Gerardo Parra for the second out. Juan Pierre's third hit drove in Kemp for the second run, but with runners on the corners, Mark Loretta flied to left to end the game.

"Aside from yesterday [eight runs], we've had trouble scoring runs," Torre said. "So the ninth inning was encouraging."

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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