LOS ANGELES (AP)—The six-game winning streak the Cincinnati Reds brought to Dodger Stadium three days ago can best be described as gone with the wind—in more ways than one.
Hiroki Kuroda pitched eight solid innings and Los Angeles scored four of its runs on a wild pitch, a suicide squeeze, a passed ball and a bad pickoff throw to beat the Reds 5-2 Wednesday night under uncharacteristically windy conditions at Chavez Ravine.
“A win is a win, man. Any way we can score runs, whether it’s driving in runs or just them giving us runs, we’ll take them,” Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp said. “They’ve got a good ballclub and they were on a roll coming in here, but we played them tough.”
Fierce wind gusts blew the flags straight out toward right field most of the game, playing havoc with just about everything hit in the air and perhaps giving Reds manager Dusty Baker unpleasant flashbacks from the 10 seasons he piloted the Giants and all those frigid nights at Candlestick Park and AT&T Park.
“It looked like the Candlestick days,” said Baker, who played eight seasons with the Dodgers. “I played here for years, and I never saw the wind blow like this.”
Debris constantly swirled around the ballpark. At one point organist Nancy Bea Hefley played the title theme from “The Wizard of Oz” because the wind was blowing so hard.
“It was pretty bad,” Kemp said. “I knew in B.P. that it was going to be an interesting game because I was trying to get some jumps on some balls and they would just dive and dance and do all kinds of crazy stuff. So it was pretty wild out there.”
Several outfielders had to start and stop—and start again—on balls that would have been routine flyouts any other night. Andre Ethier led off the Dodgers’ third with a wind-blown double that got away from a flailing Corey Patterson in center field, but Los Angeles stranded two in scoring position that inning as Johnny Cueto fanned Kemp.
“It was terrible,” Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said. “The elements were crazy tonight. The wind was howling out there. I guess the elements helped us out more than it did them.”
James Loney completed the scoring with a home run to right field, helping the Dodgers win for the sixth time in eight games following a five-game losing streak and complete their third consecutive three-game sweep of the Reds in Los Angeles.
Kuroda (2-3) allowed two runs and five hits, struck out three and walked two. The right-hander won for the first time in nine starts since beating San Diego on the road in his major league debut. He was only the second Dodger to pitch eight innings this season, after Derek Lowe did it on April 12 in a win against San Diego.
“He was getting ahead of hitters with his fastball,” Martin said. “He had good sink on his two-seamer, induced a lot of ground balls and got a couple of key double plays. He was in control of all his pitches, and his split was good, too. He just had his stuff tonight.”
Takashi Saito pitched a perfect ninth for his seventh save in nine attempts.
Cueto (2-5) threw 114 pitches over five innings, giving up four runs—two earned—and seven hits. He walked three and struck out two.
After Cincinnati tied it 2-all in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Edwin Encarnacion, the Dodgers regained the lead in the bottom half with one of their unearned runs. The bases were loaded when a pitch to Martin got caught up in the jet stream and caromed off Paul Bako’s glove for a passed ball that allowed Blake DeWitt to score.
Cueto retired his first two batters in the fifth before singles by Kemp and DeWitt put runners at the corners. The right-hander tried to pick off DeWitt and threw the ball away, enabling Kemp to score.
“They capitalized on our mistakes, and it wasn’t that hard because all those mistakes came with a runner on third base,” Baker said. “We gave them three runs. And when you’re not scoring runs, you can’t give away runs. Those runs were the difference in the ballgame.”
The Reds opened the scoring with a run in the second, but the Dodgers came back with two in the bottom half. Loney singled and scored on a wild pitch after advancing two bases on Kemp’s single. Kemp scored on a squeeze bunt by Chin-lung Hu, as Cueto charged the ball and made a desperation flip with his glove that got to Bako too late.
“We didn’t really produce that many runs. But when a team makes mistakes, you’ve got to capitalize,” Martin said. “Sometimes you’re going to win when the other team kind of gives you the game, and tonight was one of those nights.”
Ken Griffey Jr., still three homers shy of 600, hit a drive that was caught about a foot from the right field fence by Ethier in the sixth inning. Junior singled in four trips to the plate and extended his homerless drought to 90 at-bats, 11 short of the longest dry spell of his big league career.
Baker witnessed several historic milestones while managing the Giants and Cubs, including Barry Bonds’ 500th and 600th home runs, Sammy Sosa’s 500th homer and Greg Maddux’s 300th victory. The Reds skipper is anticipating Griffey’s 600th homer with equal enthusiasm. “I’m looking forward to him getting it so that he can get it over with,” Baker said. “It’s got to weigh on him. He doesn’t show it at all, but it’s got to weigh on you some.”