Hiroki Kuroda’s long wait came to an end Wednesday night.
Forty-seven days and nine starts after winning in his major league debut, Kuroda finally picked up his second victory by holding the Cincinnati Reds to two runs over eight innings in the Dodgers’ sweep-sealing 5-2 triumph on a gusty Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.
“How many days was it?” Kuroda asked.
When told, he grinned and said, “It’s been a while.”
Kuroda (2-3) delivered only 99 pitches in his longest outing of the season, as he walked two, gave up five hits and struck out three to lower his earned-run average to 3.48.
The start was the longest by a Dodgers starter since Derek Lowe pitched eight innings in a win over San Diego on April 12.
James Loney capped the scoring with a solo home run in the seventh and Takashi Saito closed the game, marking the first time in the majors that a game won by a Japanese starting pitcher was saved by a Japanese reliever.
For the Dodgers, the win was their sixth in their last eight games and put them three games back of first-place Arizona in the NL West.
Manager Joe Torre said that Kuroda was “probably even better” than he was in his debut on April 4, when he gave up only one run in seven innings in San Diego.
“He was masterful tonight,” Torre said.
Kuroda praised catcher Russell Martin for taking into account the strong winds that blew garbage onto the field in the first six innings and made his breaking pitches ineffective, saying Martin called for more fastballs and two-seamers than usual.
Though Torre said he didn’t think Kuroda’s winless streak was distracting him, Kuroda said the drought was bothersome.
“There was a part of me that was frustrated,” he said.
Torre said the key to helping Kuroda earn his elusive second victory would be to score early, which the Dodgers managed to do.
Kuroda gave up a leadoff double to Adam Dunn in the second inning that led to the first run of the game, but the Dodgers recovered by scoring a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning to pull ahead 2-1.
Loney drew a walk to start the inning, reached third on a singled to right by Matt Kemp and scored on a wild pitch by the Reds’ hard-throwing rookie starter, Johnny Cueto.
Kemp, who moved to second on Cueto’s errant throw and took third on a ground out, scored on a squeeze by Chin-lung Hu.
A couple of fielding mistakes by the Reds, who made three errors in the first two games of the series, gave Kuroda a two-run cushion.
Brandon Phillips scored on a sacrifice fly by Edwin Encarnacion in the fourth to tie the score, 2-2, but the Dodgers again retaliated in the bottom half of the frame, taking a one-run lead when Blake DeWitt scored on a passed ball.
The margin increased to 4-2 in the fifth, when Cueto’s attempt to pick off DeWitt resulted in a wild throw that forced first base coach Mariano Duncan to hit the ground. Kemp, who went from first to third earlier on a single by DeWitt, scored.
The inning was the last for Cueto (2-5), who threw 114 pitches and was charged with four runs (two earned) and seven hits. He walked three.
Torre said he was pleased with how the Dodgers played fundamentally sound baseball over the three-game series, not making an error and running up the opposing pitcher’s pitch counts.
“You take advantage of other people’s mistakes and situations,” Torre said.
“We’ve been playing heads up.”