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LAD@SD: Loney makes a great play in the first inning

SAN DIEGO -- Hiroki Kuroda was rewarded for his loyalty Tuesday night, if you call a 1-0 win over the last-place Padres a reward.

In his first start since denying the Dodgers a chance to trade him to a contender, he showed why he was so coveted by the Red Sox, Rangers and Yankees. Kuroda allowed four hits over seven dominant innings with eight strikeouts, snapping a four-game losing streak despite the paltry support to which he has become so accustomed.

He now has a 7-13 record on a club out of contention, but that didn't stop Kuroda from invoking his no-trade clause over the weekend, saying he signed to play this season with the Dodgers and he would finish where he started.

"After making the decision, I still thought about if I made the right decision," Kuroda said. "It really pays off when you get a win like this with this team. Given the situation with the team, I had some thoughts about leaving, that it would be better for the team if I left. But when some teammates mentioned they were really happy I stayed, I think I made the right decision."

The 36-year-old Kuroda will have another decision in the offseason: whether to return to the Dodgers or return to Japan. He won't address the question now, but his importance to the Dodgers' starting rotation increased dramatically this week with the loss of rookie starter Rubby De La Rosa to Tommy John elbow reconstruction.

At least Kuroda knows what it takes to win while pitching for these Dodgers. In his seven victories this year, he has allowed no runs in five. One of those came April 9, when Kuroda fell one out shy of a shutout while beating the Padres. He's 2-0 against San Diego this year, allowing two earned runs in 22 2/3 innings. His 2.96 ERA on the season puts him in the league's top 10.

Manager Don Mattingly said Kuroda appeared more at ease than during his most recent starts, when speculation of a trade was rampant.

"Honestly, he looked more relaxed tonight," said Mattingly. "He's a veteran guy who's been around, but it can't be easy. Three or four starts in a row and every question is: Is this guy going to be around? Where is he going? Does he want to be around? He looked more at peace."

Kuroda made 100 pitches and Mattingly started the eighth inning with Mike MacDougal, who pitched into and out of a jam, then had rookie closer Javy Guerra run his save streak to 9-for-9, aided by Matt Kemp's running and tumbling catch of Aaron Cunningham's fly, with left fielder Tony Gwynn veering off just in time.

"Here comes a 225-pound man and he's going to lay me out somewhere if I don't get out of his way," said Gwynn.

A busy Kemp -- thrown out stealing third and doubled off second -- also extended his hitting streak to 10 games while driving in the game's only run, teaming with new shortstop and fleet leadoff hitter Dee Gordon.

Gordon opened the game with an infield single and stole second, only to wander too far off second and get thrown out when opposing pitcher Mat Latos flagged Casey Blake's comebacker. But in the fourth, Gordon led off with a bunt single, advanced to third on groundouts by Blake and Aaron Miles, then was singled home by Kemp.

"I've come to love bunting," said Gordon, who puts pressure on the defense every time he puts the ball in play. "It's a feel thing for me and here I need to do it, I need to get on base so these guys can hit me in."

Kuroda didn't allow a Padres runner on base with less than two outs until the fifth inning, when Blake Tekotte led off with a bloop single (his second of three hits) and Kyle Blanks followed with a walk. Kuroda struck out Rob Johnson and Latos. Then Juan Rivera, playing right field with Andre Ethier off, made a sliding catch of a sinking liner to rob Cameron Maybin, who an inning earlier on a similar attempt was ruled to have trapped Rivera's sinking liner.

San Diego nearly tied it in the eighth against MacDougal. Jason Bartlett singled with one out and was singled to second by Chase Headley. Bartlett tagged to third on Guzman's fly to right. But former Dodgers second baseman Orlando Hudson grounded out.

"Well pitched by both guys," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Kuroda was solid. Mat matched him. You know they snuck one across, and we knocked in a couple of threats, but couldn't get one across."

The Dodgers now have 13 shutouts and have blanked the Padres four times this year, the most since shutting them out five times in 1982. They have five 1-0 wins this year and are 8-3 overall against San Diego. Comments