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04/09/08 8:41 PM ET

Dodgers' Kuroda suffers first loss

Loney's timely homer not enough to prevent D-backs' sweep

PHOENIX -- The Dodgers were reminded of the National League pecking order by the defending division champion and still first-place Diamondbacks, who completed a three-game series sweep on Wednesday with a 4-3 win.

"They're swinging hot sticks. They can play, and we didn't even see their ace," said catcher Russell Martin, referring to Brandon Webb. "We'll turn it around. It's too early to start worrying after nine games. There's a lot of baseball left. It would sure be nice to get it going, though."

That said, the Dodgers have lost four of their last five and, after a day off Thursday, they get to face San Diego ace Jake Peavy. The Dodgers already are three games out of first place. They didn't fall that far behind last year until Aug. 4.

After plunging into first-inning holes during the first two losses of this series, the Dodgers found another way to lose in the second career start by Hiroki Kuroda. Lacking the crisp splitter that led to only three baserunners in seven innings-- as well as lacking the seven runs of support from his debut -- Kuroda saw a different side of being a Dodgers starting pitcher.

He let two leads get away, the first when a James Loney throwing error led to two unearned runs. Loney tried to turn a bouncer by Orlando Hudson into a double play, but he pulled his throw to second base wide and it glanced off the glove of shortstop Rafael Furcal.

"I might have thrown it too hard and not on the right side of the bag," said Loney. "I was aggressive, I guess. Probably too aggressive right there."

Kuroda then hit Conor Jackson with an 0-2 pitch to load the bases. Mark Reynolds brought home one run with an infield out, Justin Upton the other with a single on an 0-2 pitch.

Loney got the lead back for Kuroda with his homer leading off the top of the sixth, but Kuroda couldn't preserve the advantage in the bottom of the inning. Eric Byrnes' two-run single ending Kuroda's outing at 5 2/3 innings. He struck out four, but also walked two, hit a batter, allowed nine hits and couldn't put away batters with two strikes.

"His split didn't have quite the same bite," said Martin. "He left a couple higher in the zone than the other night."

One batter he couldn't put away was opposing pitcher Micah Owings, who proved he was no easy out when Arizona manager Bob Melvin let Owings bat trailing by a run with one out in the sixth and runners on first and second. Kuroda thought he had struck out Owings on a 2-2 splitter that plate umpire Dan Iassogna called low, and he then walked to load the bases.

"That was a tough pitch to lay off," said manager Joe Torre. "But he did."

One out later, Byrnes turned the game around with a two-run single on the first pitch, his third hit of the game.

Offensively, the Dodgers came up with three runs, but they went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and are 5-for-39 in that category over the past five games.

"They're going to hit," Torre said, repeating an already frequent refrain. "The only thing you concern yourself with is making sure that everyone knows you feel that way. I'm not concerned. It's going to happen. They have to get in the right frame of mind and feel better about themselves."

Torre started Juan Pierre instead of the slumping Andruw Jones and Pierre hit the ball hard with an RBI double and a single in three at-bats. Jones came on for two late at-bats, an infield single and a strikeout to end the game.

Jones admitted he's putting too much pressure on himself after signing a $36.2 million contract.

"I just have to prove to myself, I don't have to prove to fans," Jones said. "I just go out and do my thing. When you're new, you want to come out and show why you're here."

Furcal, who doubled and scored a run, said this was a good series for the Dodgers -- to forget.

"We didn't play good baseball," he said. "It doesn't matter that they are young. They execute. We didn't play our best baseball. We can play better. I think we're going to be fine."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.