Kuroda Misses Date With Destiny; L.A. tied

The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown had a neat little spot picked out for Hiroki Kuroda until Mark Tiexeira drilled a double down the right field line in a 2-2 count leading off the eighth inning to spoil his perfect game. Pulling his cap down just a little tighter, the Japanese right-hander set down the next nine Braves in a row to win a 3-0 decision.

Hiroki Kuroda (5-6), 33, who signed with the Dodgers in December as a free agent after 11 seasons with Hiroshima of the Japanese Central League, was attempting to become the first Dodger to throw a no-hitter since Sept. 17, 1996, when countryman Hideo Nomo beat Colorado 9-0 at Coors Field in the rain.

He threw 91 pitches, including the fateful 70th one that Tiexiera found to his liking, and struck out six in a game that lasted a tidy 2 hours and 3 minutes.

Catcher Russell Martin said the slider Tiexiera hit didn't miss its target by much. "Teixeira's first at-bat he swung over a slider, but the pitch he hit was a little bit higher in the zone than that one. But you've still got to give him credit for putting a good swing on it. As soon as he hit it and I heard the sound, I kind of put my head down. There went the perfect game. It was an awesome performance."

Kuroda seems unruffled by losing a spot on the ultra-exclusive list of pitchers who have thrown perfect games, including Cy Young and Sandy Koufax. Of the 20 no-hitters (10 each in Brooklyn and Los Angeles) thrown by a Dodger, only Koufax had could record a perfect game.

"My main concern was that he was the leadoff hitter in that inning and I didn't want to walk him because I didn't have that big of a lead," Kuroda said through a translator. "I was concentrating more on not allowing any runs. I wasn't really nervous, but I felt the pressure from the fans because they were expecting something big."

The Braves had flown in from Atlanta after waiting through a 1-hour, 50-minute rain delay in a 7-6, 17-inning victory over Houston on Sunday—the longest game ever at Turner Field.

"We don't want to have a perfect game thrown against us, but Kuroda was great tonight -- probably the best pitching performance we've seen all year," Teixeira said. "His stuff was great -- a mid-90s fastball, putting it exactly where he wanted it, sinking his fastball at 90 to get you to ground out or miss. He probably made one mistake all night, and I just got lucky enough to put a good swing on it. It definitely was the most hittable pitch I saw all night."

Kuroda breezed through the first six innings, fanning six Braves and allowing just three fly balls.

The closest the Braves came to a baserunner before Teixeira's hit was in the seventh, when Gregor Blanco bunted to the left of the plate on Kuroda's first pitch of the inning. Rookie third baseman Blake DeWitt made a textbook, barehanded pickup and threw him out by a step.

Kuroda had been sidelined 18 days because of a sore shoulder. He rejoined the rotation on July 2 and held the Astros to five hits over seven innings in a 4-1 victory. It was the Dodgers' third complete game and the second in 15 starts for Kuroda, (Eric Stults had the only other). Kuroda went nine to beat the Cubs 3-0 with a four-hitter and had a career-high 11 strikeouts on June 6.

Manager Joe Torre had lavish praise for Kuroda's effort. "You can't get much closer to being perfect than that," Torre said. "He worked fast and threw a lot of strikes, as evidenced by his pitch count at the end of the game. That was about as robotic as you've ever seen any pitcher just throw one strike after another. He was like a machine. He kept us on the edge of our seats."

Nearly lost in the emotion was the fact that the win moved the Dodgers in a tie for first in the NL West with idle Arizona, although both of them are still a game under .500.

Atlanta starter Jose Campillo (3-4) nearly matched Kuroda pitch for pitch and took a one-hitter (Blake DeWitt's single in the third) into the fifth before the Dodgers scored all three of their their runs.

The right-hander walked James Loney to open the inning, and a seemingly revitalized Nomar Garciaparra drove a 1-2 pitch into the bullpen in left one out later for his second homer of the season.

DeWitt, who was 3-for-3, singled and was bunted to second by Kuroda. Matt Kemp's sharp single drove him and made it 3-0. Kemp is 8-for-29 with six walks (and even .400 on-base percentage) since Torre switched him to the leadoff spot seven games ago after Juan Pierre's injury.

The Dodgers moved into a first-place tie in the National League West for the first time since April 6, when they were 4-2. Arizona was not scheduled and both teams now are 44-45 with five games left before the All-Star break. The club hasn't been at .500 since May 30th.

And through all the hoopla, Kuroda was quick to share the credit. "Baseball is a team effort and I wasn't the only one out there. As always, I just followed where Russell [Martin] put his glove. I had great defensive support as well. I don't think I did anything different in this game and I had great team support."

Tonight Chad Billingsley (8-7, 3.12 ERA) will start against the Braves. He is 4-2 with a 2.45 ERA in his last eight starts, has won four in a row and yielded three runs or fewer in each of them.

RHP Jair Jurrjens (8-4, 3.09 ERA) draws the Atlanta start. He allowed four runs to the Phillies after three consecutive starts (21.2 innings) without allowing an earned run. That was the first loss in nine starts for the 22-year-old right-hander, who limited the Dodgers to one earned run in seven innings on April 20.

  Score by innings
Atlanta	        000 000 000-0
Los Angeles	000 030 00x-3

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Kemp rf	        4  0  1  1  .283
Ethier lf	3  0  0  0  .284
Martin c	4  0  0  0  .301
Kent 2b	        3  0  0  0  .263
 Maza 2b	0  0  0  0  .219
Loney 1b	2  1  0  0  .300
Jones cf	2  0  0  0  .159
Garciaparra ss	3  1  1  2  .268
 Berroa ss	0  0  0  0  .197
DeWitt 3b	3  1  3  0  .265
Kuroda p	2  0  0  0  .047
  Totals	36 3 5 3
  Atlanta	28 0 1 0

 HR- Garciaparra (2). RBI- Garciaparra 2 (9), Kemp
(46). S- Kuroda. LOB- Los Angeles 3, Atlanta 1.

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Kuroda (5-6)	9.0  1  0-0  0  6  3.39
 T- 2:-03. Att- 39,896.
Quote of the Day
The San Francisco Chronicle quoted Giants shortstop Emmanuel Burriss who said the Dodgers have a new feistiness about them:?"I don't know if the Dodgers were playing harder than other opponents because of the rivalry or because we're on their tail, but I definitely had that sense out there. There seems to be more intensity."

Did McCourt nix a trade for Sabathia?
Tony Jackson of the Los Angeles Daily News reported that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt nixed a trade that would have brought pitcher C.C. Sabathia to Los Angeles, along with Indians third baseman Casey Blake and utility man Jamey Carroll.

According to Jackson' sources, McCourt's reason was financial, but that is a charge McCourt flatly denied. "It's just totally false," he said. "The players didn't match up, and that's just the way it was."

Kuroda Trivia
?--it's the first one-hitter by a Dodgers pitcher since Derek Lowe on Aug. 31, 2005 at the Cubs.
?--it would have been the first perfect game by a Dodgers pitcher since Sandy Koufax, also against the Cubs, on Sept. 9, 1965.
?--it would have been the first no-hitter by a Dodgers pitcher since Hideo Nomo at Colorado on Sept. 17, 1996.
?--it was the third complete-game shutout by a Dodgers pitcher this year.
?--Kuroda pitched seven shutout innings in his previous start at Houston and now has allowed six hits over 16 shutout innings since coming off the DL.

Pitching Leading the Way
As it has been since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, the recent surge that resulted in a tie for first place has been fueled by the pitching staff, which leads the National League with a 3.65 ERA.

"This has been our strength all year," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "We went through a streak there where we didn't win any games because we couldn't score any runs, but we were always pitching well enough to keep us in the games. We really couldn't manufacture anything. Right now we're getting good results; we're playing a better brand of baseball."

Dodger Blue Notes-- Starter Brad Penny reported that everything is fine with his shoulder after an examination by his doctor. He will not, however, pitch again until after the All-Star break. ...Rehabbing pitcher Jason Schmidt will pitch tonight for Las Vegas against Tucson. He will go three innings and throw around 70 pitches. ... The Dodgers signed pitcher Clayton Allison, their 27th-round Draft pick. ... The Dodgers sent pitcher B.J. Lamura to Las Vegas from Jacksonville and released Vegas pitcher Greg Jones. ... Mark Sweeney (hamstring) will start a Minor League rehab assignment either Wednesday or Thursday in Las Vegas.