Sharp Kuroda carves up Padres
SAN DIEGO -- Hiroki Kuroda sat quietly in front of his locker, his face blank as he looked over scouting reports.
Manager Joe Torre didn’t know what to make of it.
“I can’t tell yet,” Torre said with a shrug.
The San Diego Padres were no better at figuring him out, as the $35-million Japanese import held them to a solitary run over seven innings in his first major league game, a 7-1 victory for the Dodgers on Friday night at Petco Park.
Kuroda was dominant in his debut of dreams, limiting the Padres to three hits that accounted for the only baserunners they had with him on the mound in front of their home crowd of 42,474. Kuroda walked none and struck out four. He threw only 77 pitches.
“That it would be this easy . . .” Kuroda started to say before catching himself. “I mean, not easy. . . . I just didn’t think I would be able to win so soon.”
Said Torre: “He was ahead of everybody. He’s really tough to deal with as a hitter if he’s ahead of you because he has so many weapons.”
The only run charged to him came on a two-out, opposite-field home run by Brian Giles in the sixth. That tied the score at 1-1, but the Dodgers responded with a six-run seventh that tied their highest single-inning output from last season.
Driving in the first two runs that inning on a single to right-center was Russell Martin, who started the season with an 0-for-13 drought. Facing left-handers Joe Thatcher and Glendon Rusch, the Dodgers drew four walks and collected three hits that inning.
“I’m happy we were able to score those runs in the seventh because runs have been at a premium for us,” said Torre, whose team scored a combined four runs in its last two games.
Among those to draw a walk was Kuroda, a notoriously poor hitter who rarely reached base when pitching for the Hiroshima Carp. In 2003, Kuroda went 54 at-bats without a hit, one of the longest hitless streaks in the history of the Central League.
“With this win, I feel like I’m more part of team,” Kuroda said. “This was important for me.”
Chad Billingsley, the Dodgers’ No. 3 starter who pitched only one-third of an inning in relief on Wednesday night because of a misreading of the weather forecast, pitched the final two innings.
Torre continued to tinker with the Dodgers’ lineup, which he said is set only with cleanup hitter Jeff Kent. First baseman James Loney, who was five for nine in the season-opening series against San Francisco, batted third and Andruw Jones was dropped from fifth to sixth.
Loney was one for four, scoring a run and driving in another. Jones was one for five and singled in the last run of the seventh inning.
With the Dodgers facing a right-hander in Justin Germano, Torre said that once he decided to bat Martin in the second spot, he wanted to bracket Kent with left-handers, who turned out to be Loney and Andre Ethier.
Torre admitted that four games into the season, he’s still learning his personnel. But, he added, “With this group, I don’t think I’m ever going to necessarily have a set lineup. I don’t think that’s a negative. We have a lot of people who can do some things. I think you may use matchups to make up your mind.”