08/14/10 12:14 AM ET
Kuroda loses pitchers' duel with Hudson
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
They were shut out for the 14th time this year, with hard-luck starter Hiroki Kuroda making only one mistake but one too many, as Brooks Conrad homered in the seventh inning and Tim Hudson pitched eight scoreless innings for a 1-0 win by the Braves.
"They were both pretty good, weren't they?" said manager Joe Torre, icing a quad muscle he tweaked in a pregame dugout misstep.
But Kuroda's seven innings were no more the story for the Dodgers than the inning that followed. A scoreless eighth, with the Dodgers trailing, was pitched by Jonathan Broxton, who lost his closer role before the game when Torre promoted Hong-Chih Kuo, with Octavio Dotel and Kenley Jansen standing by when Kuo needs rest.
Broxton, who has been struggling since even before he saved the All-Star Game, couldn't argue with Torre's decision.
"The way I pitched the last four weeks?" he said. "Until I get back right, Joe wants to get me into non-pressure situations and let me get back to my feel and go from there. I felt good out there tonight. I just need to get my work in and you can't do that in the ninth inning the way I've been struggling."
Four hours before game time, Broxton was in the bullpen with the pitching brain trust, trying to figure out what's gone wrong that would lead to Thursday night, when he failed to retire any of the five batters he faced and blew a three-run lead.
Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said bullpen coach Ken Howell noticed Broxton straying from his line toward home plate depending on the placement of his lead elbow.
"He was getting too rotated," said Honeycutt. "He was pulling a lot of balls. We hope it's a small fix and he starts clicking again. This was a step in the right direction."
Kuo shrugged off the role change as no big deal.
"Same for me," he said. "Stay healthy and pitch good. I've been there. Just go out and try to pitch."
Of course, it would help if the offense went out and hit. Especially for Kuroda, who doesn't know what else he can do to win.
He's 8-11, the most losses he's suffered in any of his three Major League seasons. In five of those losses, the Dodgers have been shut out, losing to the likes of Johan Santana, Clay Buchholz, Josh Johnson, Adam Wainwright and now Hudson.
"I don't really count," Kuroda said when told how many times the Dodgers have been blanked in his starts, "but it's really disappointing when you say it's the fifth one."
He left a 2-0 sinker too high to Conrad, who has taken over third base for the injured Chipper Jones.
"I was looking for a pitch up that I could drive and try to get on base there," Conrad said. "We hit a few balls hard earlier, but just couldn't get any air under them. He left that one up a little more and I put a good swing on it."
The first batter of the game was the first and last Dodger to reach scoring position against Hudson (14-5), who retired 12 consecutive batters at one point and won his fifth straight.
"Huddy has been on such a roll," said Atlanta manager Bobby Cox. "It's been eye-opening to tell you the truth. He gets nothing but ground balls. He's been low in pitches for a number of games now."
The Dodgers had a last-gasp chance in the ninth inning after Scott Podsednik -- who had half of his club's four hits -- continued his hot streak (9-for-18 on the trip) with a single up the middle.
After Ryan Theriot flied out, Podsednik wanted to move into scoring position for Andre Ethier and the Braves knew it. Left-handed closer Billy Wagner, in a six-pitch at-bat, also made five pickoff attempts, the last one catching Podsednik breaking and he was thrown out at second. Ethier struck out on the next pitch to end the game.
Although the Dodgers scratched out only four singles, Torre rejected the notion that there was any lingering hangover from the loss to the Phillies.
"I felt fine with our attitude," he said.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.