Kemp's big hit helps Kuroda beat Giants
Dodgers outfielder smacks three-run double in opener
SAN FRANCISCO -- Fights in the stands, cops on the field, hecklers hollering at Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers couldn't have been more comfortable.Even though they played at AT&T Park to start a week on the road, they were back in the Friendly Confines of the National League West on Monday and the final score, a 4-2 win over the Giants, only picked up where the Dodgers left off July 5, the last time they played within the division. In the intervening 30 games, they went 15-15. Hiroki Kuroda pitched into the seventh inning and Matt Kemp doubled home three as the Dodgers snapped a three-game losing streak. The Dodgers are 31-12 within the division, 37-33 against everyone else. The news wasn't all good. All-Star second baseman Orlando Hudson left the game with what appeared to be a mild groin strain. Jonathan Broxton nearly blew another save, allowing a ninth-inning homer to Bengie Molina and needing a saving diving stop on Ryan Garko's two-out bid for a hit by Hudson's replacement, Juan Castro, to record his 25th save. "We were coming off a three-game losing streak at home and when you do something like that, it pokes a hole in your confidence," said manager Joe Torre. "Winning helps maintain that swagger. It was a big win for us tonight." The Dodgers retained their 5 1/2-game lead over Colorado and dropped the Giants back into third, 6 1/2 games back. It had been three months since the Dodgers last played the Giants and for this game, Torre juggled the batting order "to try something new." Torre dropped Ramirez into the cleanup spot for the first time this year and he responded with a pair of singles to center, including the one that triggered the four-run fourth inning. Casey Blake and Hudson followed with walks to bring up Kemp, who pulled an 0-1 changeup from Jonathan Sanchez down the left-field line to clear the loaded bases. Kemp is 6-for-13 lifetime against Sanchez. Mark Loretta, starting in place of the slumping James Loney at first base, singled home Kemp. Then Kuroda, who spotted the Giants a second-inning lead on a solo homer by Travis Ishikawa, took the lead into the seventh inning. He was pitching with an extra day of rest, which raised suspicions from the skeptical that something must be wrong with his shoulder. "You can decide by the outcome of the game today about my shoulder," Kuroda said with a laugh. Oddly, Kuroda said he was "not completely satisfied" with the way he pitched, complaining that he lacked command of his breaking ball and his splitter. On the other hand, he battled with the same determination he showed last season down the stretch and through the playoffs. "There definitely was a lot of pressure, because the Giants were playing well lately and we lost three games and with the extra day a lot of people were expecting me to pitch well," said Kuroda. "I'm pleased I was able to pitch well. It felt a little bit like last October. I really like the atmosphere. We played good team baseball today." Torre said whatever struggles Kuroda encountered seemed to vanish once he got the lead. It was Kuroda's fourth consecutive quality start and the Dodgers are 6-1 in his last seven starts. "He got very aggressive and took less time between pitches," said Torre. "He got in a rhythm. That's the way he pitched for us down the stretch last year. You give him an opportunity to win a game and he knows what to do with it. That's what I saw today." Said Giants shortstop Edgar Renteria: "He really mixed his pitches [well], especially the slider. When we got used to him, they changed pitchers, and we knew they had a good bullpen. When he had to throw a [good] pitch, he did."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.