PHOENIX (AP)—Unable to shake the memory of getting hit in the head here nine months ago, Hiroki Kuroda(notes) felt more nervous than usual when he took the mound Wednesday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He needed less than an inning to calm down.
“I am a human being so I was a little bit nervous facing that first hitter,” Kuroda said through an interpreter.
The right-hander walked the first batter he faced on four pitches but then retired nine straight en route to improving to 4-1.
“What happen happened, and I can never forget that,” said Kuroda who sustained a concussion when he was drilled in the side of the head by Rusty Ryal’s(notes) comebacker on Aug. 15. “I think that’s one of the reasons why I wasn’t pitching very well to the first batter in the first inning. That came into my mind a little bit there. I had to regroup myself in the second inning and started to cruise afterward.”
Kuroda struck out nine while allowing three runs in 7 1-3 innings.
“I thought he was terrific,” manager Joe Torre said. “It looked like he had real good action on his pitches and was in pretty good counts all day.”
“We definitely carried over momentum from that Colorado series,” Ethier said. “It was definitely a momentum changer beating Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) on Sunday, and we didn’t have a let down coming in here.”
After playing 20 games in 20 days, the Diamondbacks have an off day Thursday before heading to Atlanta and Florida to try and break out of its slump.
“It’s a much needed off day,” LaRoche said. “Hopefully we’ll regroup a little bit and realize we’re a lot better team than this.”
Trailing by one with two outs in the seventh, the Diamondbacks intentionally walked Ethier—the National League leader in average, home runs and RBIs—to load the bases for Ramirez, a 12-time All-Star. He responded by lining a three-run double off the wall in center for a 6-2 lead.
Ethier said he was “shocked” by the move.
“It’s a tough call,” Arizona manager A.J. Hinch said. “The way it turns out, obviously, it’s a bad call. Two of the hottest hitters in the league with kind of all the money on the table. Unfortunately we’ll never know if we go the other way, how that plays out.”
Torre said when he was manager of the New York Yankees he intentionally walked the bases loaded ahead of Ramirez.
“He almost knocked the wall down in Fenway. It’s not an easy spot for an opposing manager, knowing how hot Ethier is and knowing the reputation of Manny,” he said. “We’re in a good spot in that situation for sure.”
Kuroda, who returned three weeks after he was hurt, gave up a leadoff single to Conor Jackson(notes) before departing in the eighth with a four-run lead. Justin Upton(notes) and Mark Reynolds(notes) later drew back-to-back walks to load the bases with one out, but Arizona managed only one run, on a sacrifice fly by LaRoche.
The series sweep was the first of the year for Los Angeles, which improved to 7-11 on the road.
“We haven’t won a series on the road and to get a sweep here is great,” Torre said.
Notes: Seeking help for their struggling bullpen, the Diamondbacks called up RHP Carlos Rosa(notes) from Triple-A Reno prior to the game and optioned RHP Daniel Stange(notes), who has a 13.50 ERA in four innings, to Reno. Manager A.J. Hinch indicated this could be the first of multiple moves involving his bullpen, which came into the day with a major-league worst 7.55 ERA. … Dodgers C Russell Martin(notes) extended his hitting streak to eight games. It is his longest since 2008. … The last time the Diamondbacks were swept on a homestand of at least six games was July 15-25, 2004, when they lost 11 straight.