HOUSTON (AP)—Joe Torre sure wasn’t expecting a start like this from Hiroki Kuroda.
The Japanese right-hander threw seven shutout innings after coming off the disabled list, and Jeff Kent had a pair of RBI doubles to lead the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 4-0 win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.
Kuroda (4-6) allowed five hits with one strikeout, looking strong in his first start since going on the DL on June 18 with tendinitis in his right shoulder. Kuroda threw 83 pitches and also saved the Dodgers bullpen after Torre used six relievers in Tuesday’s 7-6 win.
“I expected him to have a good outing,” Torre said, “but to give us seven innings like that and to have his pitch count where it was and to be as sharp as he was, I didn’t expect him to be that good. He was great and saving the bullpen to boot.”
Kuroda allowed only a broken-bat single to David Newhan and a walk to Lance Berkman through the first four innings, throwing only 48 pitches. He hadn’t pitched since June 12, when he allowed six runs in 2 1-3 innings against San Diego.
He said he worked hard during the break to stay in shape and keep command of his pitches.
“It was a break, but I wasn’t really resting that much,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “In my head, I always wanted to come back and pitch as many games as possible. Mentally, it was a struggle. But I was able to rest my body.”
The out cost Houston a run: Erstad doubled into the left-field corner and Towles stopped at third. Michael Bourn grounded out to end the inning.
Kuroda gave up only a single to Lee in the sixth after that. He felt fatigued by the seventh and wasn’t as impressed by his performance as Torre seemed to be.
“I wasn’t really surprised,” he said. “It turned out really well for the team and for myself. It was nice.”
Though Torre was hoping to rest his bullpen, he didn’t consider leaving Kuroda in for another inning.
“We didn’t want to push him at that point,” Torre said. “He made the decision-making easy.”
The Dodgers scored all their runs off Runelvys Hernandez (0-2), who was making his second start since replacing Shawn Chacon in the Astros’ rotation. Hernandez was recalled from the minors when Chacon was waived after a physical altercation with general manager Ed Wade in the clubhouse June 25.
Kent’s RBI double off the left-field scoreboard in the first inning gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. His 498th double as a second baseman broke a tie with Roberto Alomar for first all-time at the position.
Matt Kemp led off the third with a triple over Bourn’s head in center. Two outs later, Kent doubled again to make it 2-0.
“I missed my spots a couple of times against Kent,” Hernandez said. “With those pitches, the game was changed.”
DeWitt led off the fourth with a single to right. He stole second and went for third with Towles’ throw sailed into center field. Towles was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock on Tuesday night after regular catcher Humberto Quintero was hit by Maza’s bat on a swing and suffered a concussion.
Maza dropped a perfect bunt down the first-base line to score DeWitt for a 3-0 lead. Ethier led off the fifth with a homer high into the upper deck in right, his eighth of the season.
The Dodgers have scored 11 runs on their last two games after mustering only 14 in their previous seven games.
“What I like about what we’re doing right now is we’re scoring in more than one inning and we’re manufacturing stuff, doing little things,” Torre said. “We’re playing heads-up baseball. We need to do more of that, for our own confidence, that we can come to the ballpark with a good feeling, rather than just wondering.”
Dave Borkowski, recalled from Triple-A Round Rock before the game, started the sixth in relief of Hernandez. Borkowski gave up no runs on two hits in two solid innings.
Kent has 551 career doubles. … In the corresponding move for Borkowski’s callup, the Astros designated RHP Oscar Villareal for assignment. Villareal gave up a run in one inning of Tuesday’s 7-6 loss. … The Dodgers optioned LHP Clayton Kershaw to Double-A Jacksonville to make room for Kuroda on the roster. … After the game, Torre said SS Rafael Furcal will undergo back surgery Thursday. Torre said Furcal, already on the disabled list, will miss at least eight more weeks.