Kuroda's early struggles cost Dodgers

Kuroda's early struggles cost Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- With the best record in the Majors, losses have been somewhat of a rare occurrence for the Dodgers this season.

It's been especially rare for the club to lose at Dodger Stadium as the team also has the best home record in baseball at 26-12.

Even more rare, however, is losing back-to-back series, but that's exactly what happened for the first time this season with the Dodgers' 4-2 loss to the Mariners on Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

"It's something that's been unusual for us," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said of losing a series at home. "The fact that we won the first game of a series and then lost the next two is something that's unusual, but we've done that two series in a row. So hopefully we can just minimize damage and turn it around."

The Dodgers have now lost four out of five for just the second time this season and are in danger of losing three straight for the first time this season.

But no one on the Dodgers is pushing the panic button, especially with a seven-game lead in the NL West.

"I think our record shows that we've been playing good baseball," catcher Russell Martin said. "I just think we had a rough series and it's nothing much to worry about. We just have to put this behind us and look to what's coming up next to us."

The Dodgers were haunted by just one bad inning on Sunday when starter Hiroki Kuroda struggled in the third inning, allowing three runs on four hits while needing 23 pitches to get out of the frame.

The Mariners strung together three consecutive hits in the inning, including an RBI single by former Dodger Adrian Beltre before Jose Lopez hit a two-run double over the head of center fielder Matt Kemp.

"It was just that one inning," Kuroda said through a translator. "Some balls stayed up and it allowed some hits and the momentum went their way."

Kuroda, who also allowed an RBI single in the second inning to give the Mariners an early lead, settled down after the third. He retired 10 of the next 12 batters he faced before being removed with one out in the seventh inning. In all, he allowed four runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings along with five strikeouts and no walks.

"He was better at the end," Torre said. "That one inning, he missed his spots a couple of times and it wound up hurting him. His pitches were just too fat in the plate. But after the three-run inning, he settled down and made better pitches."

It was also a special outing for Kuroda because he had the chance to face two fellow countrymen from his native Japan -- Ichiro Suzuki, who went 1-for-3 against him, and Kenji Johjima, who went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against him.

"I was looking forward to facing them," said Kuroda. "I had faced both of them in Japan, but I had only faced Ichiro during Spring Training in Japan."

The Dodgers, though, simply struggled offensively for the second night in a row. This time they managed just two runs in five innings against left-hander Garrett Olson, who owned a 6.47 career ERA entering the game.

The Dodgers didn't get on the board until the fifth inning on an opposite-field solo home run by Kemp. They then added another run that inning on a sacrifice fly by Andre Ethier, scoring Juan Castro from third.

But the Mariners' bullpen shut down the offense the rest of the way as the Dodgers had just one hit over the last four innings of the game.

"We haven't been scoring a lot of runs recently, so you certainly want to seize every opportunity you have," Torre said. "But we haven't been putting enough pressure on the opposition the last couple days."

Now the Dodgers will try to avoid losing three straight games for the first time this season when they face the red-hot Rockies, who have won 20 of their last 23. But Torre isn't concerned about the possibility of losing three in a row.

"It's more about winning games instead of keeping from losing them," Torre said. "We just have to go out and put something together ourselves."

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