Clint Eastwood Would Have Loved This Game

It was a classic Clint Eastwood movie Friday in Orlando, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Hiroiki Kuroda was solid in his first start, bad baserunning cost another run and killed a big inning and ugly pitching in the seventh ended the game well before its time.

After the Dodgers scored on a two-out double to center by third baseman Andy LaRoche in the first -- a hit that would have scored a second run had it not bounced over the fence -- the newest Dodgers acquisition, Hiroki Kuroda took the mound for the first time.

He gave up a ground single to center on his first pitch, threw a 5-4-3 double play on his second pitch, and sailed past the final four Braves hitters without a problem.

He went right at the hitters, finishing his 21-pitch outing by throwing 14 strikes.

He seemingly came out of the Takashi Saito school of pitching, same mechanics, same pause in his windup and, more importantly, the same results.

Esteban Loaiza, battling for the fifth starting spot on the staff, did himself little good. He quickly served up a single and a homer to the first two Atlanta batters and allowed a third run on a pair of singles in the fourth.

Los Angeles missed a big inning in the fourth after Ramon Martinez reached second leading off on an outfield error. Mark Sweeney, pinch-hitting for Loaiza, bounced to the pitcher and Martinez was nailed at third.

Rafael Furcal followed with a single, sending Sweeney to third and then promptly stole second. Atlanta helped out by forgetting to cover the base; Sweeney scored, pulling the Dodgers within one run, and Raffy moved to third.

Andre Ethier walked but Matt Kemp fanned to end the inning.

In the bottom of the inning, the bottom fell out of the game.

Greg Miller, the Dodgers 2003 Pitcher of the Year, took over in the fifth and had a nightmare of a time. The control problem came back and he walked the first two he faced, adding a wild pitch.

Then it seemed he started pointing his pitches to get the ball over and the Braves were waiting for him. A double and two singles later he left in favor of Matt Riley.

Riley got the ball over the plate but surrendered two more runs -- making it 10-3 -- before the third pitcher of the inning, Greg Jones, got the final out.

Jones worked a 1-2-3 sixth, Ramon Troncoso duplicated in the seventh and 38-year-old rookie Fernando De La Cruz took over in the bottom of the seventh.

He opened some eyes, using a 96 miles-per-hour fastball and an 87 mph slider to Cruz (pun intended) through the inning.

De La Cruz pitched in the Detroit, Colorado and Boston systems until 2003, played in Japan and spent the last two seasons in the Triple-A Mexican League.

The Dodgers scored their final run in the top of the ninth when John-Ford Griffin doubled off the wall in right field and scored on a single by Angel Chavez.

Former Dodger Buddy Carlyle got the win with a pair of perfect innings and Loaiza took the loss.

Los Angeles travels to Port St. Lucie tomorrow to met the Mets and New York returns the favor Sunday.
 Score by innings
Dodgers		100 010 001- 3
Braves		002 170 00x-10

 Dodgers	ab  r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	3  0  1  0  .333
 Miller p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Riley p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Jones p	0  0  0  0  .000 
 Ellis c	1  0  0  0  .000  
 Troncoso p	0  0  0  0  .000
 DeLa Cruz p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Hu ph		0  0  0  0 1.000
Ethier lf	2  0  0  0  .250
 Paul lf        1  0  0  0  .000
Kemp rf		3  1  1  0  .500
 Young rf       1  0  0  0  .000
Loney 1b	2  0  0  0  .400
 Lindsey 1b	1  0  0  0  .333
LaRoche 3b	3  0  1  1  .500
 Tiffee 3b	1  0  0  0  .000
Repko cf	2  0  0  0  .333
 Griffin pr-cf	1  1  1  0 1.000 
Bennett c	3  0  0  0  .000
 May ph		1  0  0  0  .000
Martinez 2b-ss	4  0  0  0  .000
Kuroda p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Loaiza p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Sweeney ph	1  1  0  0  .500
 Chavez 2b	1  0  1  1  1.000
  Totals	33   3   5   2
  Braves	32  10  10  10

 2B hit- LaRoche (1), Griffin (1)
S- Paul. SB- Kemp, Furcal, Paul. 
LOB-Dodgers 7, Atlanta 3. DP- LaRoche,
Martinez and Loney.

 Dodgers         in  h r-er bb  so  era
Kuroda		2.0  1  0-0  0  0  0.00
Loaiza (0-1)	2.0  4  3-3  0  1 13.50
Miller		0.0  3  5-5  2  0  ---
Riley		0.2  2  2-2  1  0 27.00
Jones		1.1  0  0-0  0  0  0.00
Troncoso	1.0  0  0-0  0  0  0.00
DeLa Cruz	1.0  0  0-0  0  0  0.00 
 WP- Miller. HBP- Paul. T-2:39. Att- 7,256. 
LaRoche Prepared-- Andy LaRoche, who has a .500 average (2-for-4) and an RBI so far in this young season, said on an interview after the game he had hit a hanging slider in the first that drove in a run.

"I worked out in Arizona," he told the Dodger radio network, "and with the mini-camp in Los Angeles before the season, I am better prepared for the season this year.

Asked about the 'competition' with Nomar Garciaparra for the starting third base job, he said, "You don't think about 'beating' someone out for the job. You do your best, hustle and try to avoid mistakes. Nomar is a good guy and I think both of us would accept the starting job or the backup job if it was the best thing for the team."

Chad Gets OK--Chad Billingsley, scratched from Thursday's scheduled exhibition start as a precaution because of a tight groin muscle, instead threw 45 pitches in a two-inning simulated Minor League game and reported no problems.

"It felt good, no aggravation," Billingsley said of his right groin muscle, which tightened a week ago while he pitched batting practice. "We're just being cautious with it because I've had it before, and if it gets really bad, it can affect your whole career."

Billingsley has not missed any throwing this spring. He expects to throw in a bullpen session on Saturday and make his exhibition game debut Monday.

"He looks comfortable to me," said Torre. "I'm glad I'm sitting here and not hitting against him."

It also allowed Billingsley to shave half a run off his earned run average after the All-Star break. "I think one thing that helped a lot was that I started the season in the bullpen," said Billingsley, who stayed there until mid-June.

"That taught me to be aggressive, because when you get into the game, your first priority is to get the first guy out and throw a first-pitch strike. I learned I didn't really have to be too fine. That was really my big problem previously, trying to be too precise instead of just keeping my pitches down in the zone."

Schmidt 'Tired'-- Jason Schmidt missed his second day of tossing after reporting a fatigued arm during a Tuesday bullpen session, but Torre said Schmidt was expected to resume tossing on Friday.

"He's hit a little bit of a wall," Torre said of Schmidt, who is returning from shoulder surgery. "The trainers don't feel it's anything to concern themselves with. He came in and said he felt good today."

>b>Praising Young-- Echoing manager Joe Torre, coach Larry Bowa said he's been impressed with the play at second base of Delwyn Young, who is working again in the infield after being moved to the outfield two years ago.

Young is out of options, and the club likes his bat so much, it seems intent on making him too useful to lose.

"Everybody says he can't play there, but I like the way he approaches the game," Bowa said.

Short Protest-- Bowa said he would not wear a helmet at third base as is required by new Major League rules,

"That's not for me," said Bowa. "I'm willing to write out a check for whatever the fine is for every game," Bowa said. "Whatever 162 games is, I'll write out a check for it."

The protest ended the next day in Orlando when Bowa moved into the third base box with a batting helmet firmly on his head.

Lowe Picks Penny-- Derek Lowe, the Dodgers' Opening Day starter the past three seasons picks Brad Penny, who was a combined 32-13 over the past two seasons as the opening day starter.

"We're 0-3 when I pitch on Opening Day," Lowe said. "If I were a guessing man, I would say Brad will do it. He is well deserving. He has been our best pitcher the past two years, and he has made the All-Star team the past two years. He has earned it."

Quote of the Day-- "I've seen guys make base-running errors, I mean bad ones. And then the guy will come back to the dugout and Joe will bring him close and put his arm around him. And under his breath he's saying, 'What the (expletive) are you doing? Don't you ever do that (expletive) again. But he's not showing up the player in front of the others, and the camera doesn't hear what he's saying." Dodger special assignment coach Don Mattingly.

Quote of the Day II-- "Stay Healthy," manager Joe Torre to Clayton Kershaw after watching the young lefty throw for the first time.

Former Minor Leaguer Signs-- The 2007 Frontier League Champion Windy City ThunderBolts has announced the signing of catcher Carlos Medero to a contract for the 2008 season. Medero was an 8th round draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004, spending three seasons in their organization.

Medero was a First Team All-Florida honoree following his senior season in Miami Lakes, Florida. After signing with the Dodgers, Madero was assigned to their Gulf Coast League affiliate for the 2004 season, where he hit .195 with one home run and nine RBI in 31 games.

Medero's best professional season came in 2005, when he combined for a .317 batting average with two home runs and 18 RBI in 34 games for the Gulf Coast Dodgers, Columbus Catfish, and Jacksonville Suns. He spent the 2006 season with the Ogden Raptors of the Pioneer League, finishing with a .197 batting average, one home run, and 14 RBI. Medero was released by the Dodgers following the 2007 spring training.

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