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Dodgers lose Kuroda in 10-inning loss

Dodgers lose Kuroda in 10-inning loss

PHOENIX -- The Dodgers' starting pitcher, cruising with a shutout through five innings, winds up in a hospital emergency room.

The closer blows a save by allowing back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the ninth, the former setup man takes the 4-3 loss to the D-backs by allowing a walk-off hit in the 10th inning and the team's division lead is the smallest it's been in three months.

"It's a hard one to swallow, no question," said manager Joe Torre, still processing the horrifying sight of starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda hit in the head by a line drive while dealing with his club's deteriorating play.

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The Dodgers' lead in the National League West is 4 1/2 games, the smallest lead since May 13. They will try to avoid a sweep Sunday having already lost the series and now have a three-game losing streak for the third time in the past three weeks, after avoiding one the entire first half of the season.

Torre's starting rotation was wobbly even before Kuroda's injury, as he named rookie knuckleballer Charlie Haeger the starting pitcher for Monday night to give Chad Billingsley and his tender hamstring an extra day to heal. Now Torre said he expects he'll need a replacement for Kuroda's next scheduled start, at a minimum.

"We have to think that way, anyway," he said. Candidates at Triple-A include Scott Elbert, Eric Stults and even Spring Training sensation Josh Lindblom, although he hasn't been stretched out nearly as long as the other two having been used primarily as a reliever this year.

And Kuroda, whose first half of the season was a waste as he was hounded by a strained oblique muscle, was just starting to look like the Kuroda who stepped up last season down the stretch. He was headed for his sixth consecutive quality start, having allowed only two hits and was looking as dominant as he was against the White Sox on June 23.

Then there's Jonathan Broxton, looking nothing like an All-Star closer since developing a painful nerve in his right big toe. Asked to secure Kuroda's victory with a two-run lead in the ninth, he served up back-to-back one-out home runs to Mark Reynolds and Miguel Montero (0-for-7 against Broxton previously), having allowed a home run to San Francisco's Bengie Molina in his previous outing.

That's three home runs in his past two innings. He allowed only two homers the entire 2008 season. His fastball was routinely in triple digits before the toe problem developed. The fastball Montero hit was 96 mph. Reynolds hit a hanging slider.

Nonetheless, even with the recent acquisition of Baltimore closer George Sherrill, Torre issued a vote of confidence when asked if Broxton was still his closer.

"As far as I'm concerned, darned right," he said.

Ramon Troncoso took over in the 10th and allowed a leadoff single to Augie Ojeda, who was bunted to second by pinch-hitter Dan Haren. Stephen Drew was walked intentionally, but Troncoso then walked Trent Oeltjen to load the bases and bring up Gerardo Parra, who one-hopped the center-field wall for the walk-off win.

The Dodgers, though, should have done more with Arizona starter Doug Davis. They scored on a second-inning RBI single by Brad Ausmus, a fifth-inning errant pickoff throw by Davis and Mark Loretta's sacrifice fly in the sixth inning that cashed in Casey Blake's triple.

But they also hit into three double-plays and left runners in scoring position in six innings. Torre tried to address the struggling offense with another new lineup. He started Ausmus (.345 against Davis) over Russell Martin, Loretta over James Loney and moved Matt Kemp up to cleanup.

Kemp walked twice, scored a run and stole two bases, but he also left runners in scoring position his other three at-bats.

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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