One more bad deal and the Dodgers would have had to make sure his rooms on the road trips were in the basement.
The seemingly unpreturbable oriental, who cost the Dodgers $35 million over three years, operated on the San Diego team like a skilled surgeon, cutting and snipping skillfully until he left after seven innings having allowed three hits and a solo home run. He used 77 pitches and struck out four in winning his first decision on the Left Coast.
He was ahead of nearly every Padre batter, a move that brought smiles to manager Joe Torre's face. "He was ahead of everybody. He's really tough to deal with as a hitter if he's ahead of you because he has so many weapons."
An opposite field home run by Brian Giles with two out in the sixth tied the score and it looked like he would get only a brilliant no-decision for his efforts. But a six-run seventh, the highest single-inning output in 2007, allowed Torre to give him the rest of the night off after working a scoreless seventh.
Kuroda did allow a two-out single in the seventh but completed the inning without a hitch. In his seven innings, he allowed three baserunners and had only two three-ball counts, while throwing 53 of his 77 pitches for strikes.
He acknowledged he was a little nervous before his big league debut but it wasn't apparent to those in attendance, and one would think that he might perhaps fall asleep on the mound as the season wears on and he becomes more acclimated.
"Very impressive," said his manager, Joe Torre. "Didn't seem nervous at all. Very business-like, with no indecision on his part."
"I'm not surprised at what he did tonight," fellow countryman Takashi Saito said after the game. "I was a little worried in the beginning of Spring Training, but every pitcher who comes to the States from Japan goes through adjustments," added Saito.
"I had to go through adjustments when I came over. When I saw his game against Boston [four hitless innings last Sunday], I was relieved and happy. I've seen so many of his games in Japan, it is not surprising that he can pitch like this. I saw that he had made the adjustments and was ready for the season."
Credit it to his Far East demeanor, or the fact that he perhaps didn't yet understand who and where he was playing. Over recent years the Dodgers just haven't handled San Diego very well and particularly in the Padres' park.
The Dodgers had lost both of the last two season series with the Padres, dropping 10 of 18 games in 2007 and 13 of 18 in 2006. And over the last eight years, Padres hold the edge with a 74-69 mark.
It took some time, but the Dodgers finally allowed Kuroda some run support.
Russell Martin, 0-for-13 for 2008 coming into the game, singled in the first inning for a 1-0 margin. Giles' homer tied things. Martin had taken extra batting practice before the game, working on hitting the ball up the middle. He was robbed of a hit by a diving catch in the third inning.
The Dodgers blew it open in the seventh against the San Diego bullpen, getting three singles, four walks and a sacrifice fly.
After retiring Matt Kemp, Blake DeWitt, Kuroda and Rafael Furcal all walked to load the bases. Martin, who was 0-for-13 coming into the inning, grounded a single past the outstretched glove of the second baseman to break the tie.
A sac fly by James Loney, a wild pitch and RBI singles by Andre Ethier and Andruw Jones, put a pleasing '6' on the scoreboard. All in all, the Dodgers drew seven walks in the game and four of them scored.
Padres starter Justin Germano dominated the Dodgers, limiting them to three hits and an unearned run over six innings He threw 107 pitches and had to be lifted after six because of the pitch count. The four Padres pitchers threw 204 pitches.
Dodgers move to 3-1 and into sole possession of first place for the first time this season.
A great pitching matchup tonight sees Brad Penny and Jake Peavy squaring off. Obviously the two aren't pitching against each other, rather the other pitcher's team, but however you look at it, hits will be at a premium.
Penny has had trouble with the Padres (3-6 with a 5.61 ERA). Peavy is the defending National League Cy Young Award winner, allowed three hits over seven scoreless innings and knocked in two runs himself in the Padres' 4-0 victory over the Astros on Opening Day.
Score by innings Los Angeles 000 100 600-7 San Diego 000 001 000-1 Los Angeles ab r h bi ave Furcal ss 4 1 2 0 .412 Martin c 4 1 1 2 .067 Loney 1b 4 1 1 1 .462 Kent 2b 3 0 0 0 .231 Hu pr-2b 0 1 0 0 .500 Ethier lf 3 1 1 2 .267 Jones cf 5 0 1 1 .200 Kemp rf 5 0 1 0 .133 DeWitt 3b 3 1 0 0 .417 Kuroda p 2 1 0 0 .000 Pierre ph 1 0 1 0 .250 Billingsley 0 0 0 0 .000 Totals 34 7 8 6 Padres 31 1 4 1 Two-base hits- Furcal (2). RBI- Ethier 2 (2), Martin 2 (2), Loney (2), Jones (1). SF- Ethier, Loney. LOB- Los Angeles 9, San Diego 4. Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era Kuroda (1-0) 7.0 3 1-1 0 4 1.29 Billingsley 2.0 1 0-0 1 2 3.86 T- 3:00. Att- 42.474.Upcoming Rotation
Sunday: Derek Lowe, 0-0, 3.00 at Padres (Chris Young, 1-0, 1.59)
?Monday: Esteban Loaiza, 0-1, 3.38 at Diamondbacks (Doug Davis, 0-1, 4.91)
?Tuesday: Chad Billingsley, 0-0, 3.86 at Diamondbacks (Dan Haren, 0-0, 4.50)
Dodger Blue Notes-- Vin Scully was "a little under the weather," according to a team spokesman, and did not simulcasting on radio. ...Larry Bowa served the second game of a three-game suspension, the result of his meltdown after being ejected for refusing to remain within the confines of the third-base coaching box at Dodger Stadium. It was discovered that the box was only 15 feet wide and the box will be brought into compliance when the club returns home next week. ...Clayton Kershaw was pounded by Double-A hitters on his Friday night debut with Jacksonville. He pitched three innings, allowed two runs (one earned), struck out four and walked two. The report is that Kershaw will have his innings limited to conserve his arm for what is anticipated to be a Major League promotion. ...Andy LaRoche, healing from thumb surgery, collided with a ballgirl going after a line drive during batting practice. You must admit, that is an unusual pick-up technique. ...Dodger Assistant General Manager De Jon Watson and his wife Joal became the proud parents of a baby boy on Saturday, March 29. De Jon Watson, Jr. weighed in at eight pounds and eight ounces. ...Tigers DH Gary Sheffield tore a tendon in his index finger and is headed for the DL.
Sporting News Moves to North Carolina
In a stunning announcement, Ray Shaw, chairman of American City Business Journals, parent company of the Sporting News, announced that ACBJ will be closing TSN's St. Louis office and moving the magazine's editorial function to Charlotte, North Carolina. The Sporting News, founded in St, Louis in 1886 by the Spink family, dominated the baseball scene with a newspaper featuring only baseball, including major and minor league box scores until the 1960s when they decided to branch out, covering football, basketball, hockey and most other sports. The move shocked baseball purists, who dropped the paper in droves. Baseball America moved into the vacuum and has become the new voice.