PITTSBURGH -- Hiroki Kuroda seems to keep his head when the Dodgers need him the most.In the past it's been a prime-time performance in a playoff game, or the April gem in San Diego after the previous day's rain delay depleted the bullpen, and Wednesday night it was seven scoreless innings when the relief corps was an utter mess, Kuroda doing the heavy lifting in a 2-0 win over the Pirates. "Early in the game, a lot of zeros back and forth, we got two runs and Kuroda made big pitches to get out of [the sixth] inning," said manager Don Mattingly. "The seventh inning was huge. We were in a little bit of a bind with the 'pen. That put us in a lot better position." Hong-Chih Kuo, it was announced before the game, is out indefinitely with anxiety disorder. Closer Jonathan Broxton has a bruised elbow. Blake Hawksworth is active, but he was unavailable with a groin strain. Ronald Belisario, well, nobody knows what happened to him. So it was up to Kuroda, who went 4 1/3 innings before allowing a hit. He was able to get through seven innings with 113 pitches -- striking out eight, five of them ending innings -- which allowed Mattingly to go to Matt Guerrier for the eighth inning and new closer Vicente Padilla in the ninth, Padilla getting his third save and delivering the Dodgers their second shutout of the season. Kuroda raised his record to 4-3 and lowered his ERA to 3.21. The key at-bat for Kuroda was striking out Chris Snyder to end the sixth inning with runners on second and third after a wild pitch got away from catcher Rod Barajas. "In that at-bat vs. Snyder, he pulled a string and took a little bit more off his slider than he had done previously in the game to most of the right-handers," said Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle. "It gave [Snyder] a little bit different look in probably one of the bigger at-bats for us. We had the opportunity to have a shot on goal. We didn't have many shots on goal tonight. That was one of them, and he made good pitches." Kuroda said he was determined to throw better split-finger fastballs after giving up a pair of home runs in New York five days earlier. "My splitter, especially late in the game, was my strikeout pitch," Kuroda said. "I gave up a home run in New York [Friday], so I had it in my mind that I had to make my best pitches with the splitter. If I gave up a home run with a man on base it would be a tied game, so I told myself throw the best split possible." The Dodgers had only five hits, one more than Pittsburgh. They scored both runs in the sixth inning off Paul Maholm, the first run scoring without a ball leaving the infield. Ivan De Jesus led off with a walk. Andre Ethier reached first on an infield single, a slow roller to first baseman Lyle Overbay playing deep, which extended Ethier's streak of reaching base to 35 consecutive games. "It was a big swing and the ball actually probably trickled more directly to Lyle than it did to Paul," said Hurdle. "I think the swing, you thought it was going to go a different way but actually it went toward Lyle. Paul can't get that ball. Our best play, I think, would have been for Lyle just to break in. If he breaks in initially, I think he can get the ball and get an out. Once he didn't, we were both in no-man's land and didn't have an opportunity to make a play." Matt Kemp drew a critical walk to load the bases and Juan Uribe grounded into a double play as De Jesus scored. The inning continued, as Barajas was walked intentionally to bring up Jerry Sands, who doubled down the right-field line to score Ethier and send Barajas to third. "I finally came through and got a big RBI," said Sands, who has struggled with a .212 average and no home runs.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.