LOS ANGELES (AP)—Hiroki Kuroda was so good that Derrek Lee broke his bat in frustration at home plate after striking out in the seventh. Danny Ardoin filled in for All-Star catcher Russell Martin with two RBIs, including one on a suicide squeeze.
Kuroda to Ardoin was one nice combination for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.
Kuroda allowed four hits and struck out a career-high 11 in his first complete game, leading Los Angeles to a 3-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
“I had a great time,” Ardoin said. “Whenever you go out there and compete with a guy who brought the intensity that he brought to the mound tonight, it’s always fun. His slider was very effective tonight. It was a big league slider, definitely. We had a plan going in, and he was great at executing it.”
Martin got a day off for only the second time this season, and joked he might be headed for more time off during Kuroda’s starts.
“Hey, if he wants a personal catcher, he might as well if he’s going to keep throwing like that,” Martin said with a laugh. “It was fun to watch from the bench, but it definitely would have been fun to be a part of that one.”
Kuroda (3-5) did not walk a batter in his 13th big league start, induced two double plays and allowed only one baserunner as far as third—the result of his own throwing error.
It was the first shutout by a Dodgers pitcher Aug. 31, 2005, when Derek Lowe beat the Cubs 7-0 with a one-hitter at Wrigley Field. Kuroda became the first one on the staff to go the distance since Chad Billingsley’s 10-2 win at Houston on July 23, 2007.
Kuroda retired 16 of his last 17 batters and lowered his ERA from 3.93 to 3.49.
“He changed his grip on his slider and brought it into the game tonight,” Martin said. “He was staying aggressive with his fastball and picking the corners pretty good. His breaking ball was a lot sharper and had late break on it, and their guys weren’t recognizing it. We needed a big outing like that. That was tremendous. I’m proud of him.”
The Cubs, who lead the majors with 346 runs and a 39-23 record, were shut out for the third time this season. Kuroda’s gem was the first complete game pitched against Chicago this season.
“He was a different pitcher tonight than when he pitched in Chicago,” Lee said. “He wasn’t bad that time, either, but he didn’t have near the velocity he had tonight and his slider wasn’t as sharp. His slider was extremely good tonight and kept us off balance. I mean, when you have 11 strikeouts, you’re throwing some pretty good stuff up there.”
Sean Gallagher (3-2) gave up two runs and three hits over five innings, striking out six and walking three before he was lifted for a pinch hitter. The right-hander beat Kuroda 3-1 on May 27 at Wrigley Field, allowing a run and four hits over seven innings.
Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent, who homered twice in Thursday night’s 5-4 loss to the Cubs, was ejected for the second time in a span of six weeks after arguing with umpire Marty Foster over a called third strike that ended the fifth inning. Kent tossed the bat away after a 3-2 pitch that was low and inside, then headed toward first base before getting the news.
Kent grinned at Foster, then got closer to plead his case. All the while, first base coach Mariano Duncan stood next to Kent instead of trying to lead him away from Foster—who ejected Kent just as manager Joe Torre started out of the dugout.
“I’m a grown man and I know how to challenge an argument and know that if I do, I run the risk of getting thrown out of a ballgame,” Kent said. “But his excuse just didn’t fly with me, so I got tossed. I just don’t like getting taken advantage of.”
Kent also was ejected on April 24 at Dodger Stadium after a heated argument with second base umpire Andy Fletcher, who ruled during the previous inning that Kent had taken Nomar Garciaparra’s throw off the bag while trying to sidestep baserunner Conor Jackson.
“You know what’s missing in this game in the last probably six or seven years? People don’t challenge plays that are made anymore,” Kent said. “I think the generation gap is so large between me and most of my teammates, I guess I get stuck in that challenge mode more often than not. So everybody looks at me as being more passionate—but I’m not. I’ve been doing the same thing since I was taught the game and started playing the game.”
Trailing 1-0 on Kent’s RBI double in the first inning, the Cubs were the victims of a blown call in the fourth by first base umpire Derryl Cousins with runners at the corners and one out. Shortstop Chin-lung Hu turned Kosuke Fukudome’s grounder into a double play, but replays showed Fukudome was safe at first on the relay from Kent to James Loney.
For the second time in five games, Torre called for a suicide squeeze following pitcher Derek Lowe’s successful attempt in Monday night’s 8-2 win over Colorado. Ardoin laid down a perfect bunt in front of the plate with Loney coming down the line, and ended up with a single as pitcher Kevin Hart held onto the ball.