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Kuroda, Dodgers Seek to Finish Off D-Backs

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By winning the first two games against the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers have finally won a road series, after losing seven straight series away from home dating back to last season.  They have their first opportunity for a sweep this season, heading into the finale in Arizona. With a win tonight, the Dodgers can reach .500 for the first time in three weeks.

In each of the first two games of the series, the Dodgers scored four runs and led through seven innings, only to expand their lead with 12 of their 20 runs in the series over the final two innings against a beleaguered Arizona bullpen.  The Diamondbacks have allowed 32 runs in the ninth inning this season, nine more than any other team in baseball.  In fact, the only two innings in which Arizona's team ERA is under five are the second inning (4.76) and sixth inning (3.71).

Kuroda Returns

When Jimmy Rollins lined a double to the gap in right center field in Philadelphia, or when the Dodgers' season ended one game later, Dodger spirits were very low.  But nothing compared to the pit-of-your-stomach emptiness felt when, on August 15 in Arizona, Hiroki Kuroda took a Rusty Ryal line drive off his head.  Without question, it was the lowest moment of the year for the Dodgers.  Jim Peltz of the LA Times gives us some insight into the mindset of Kuroda, who makes his return to Phoenix tonight:

"If something happens on the field, it happens," he said. "I'm just going to keep going forward."

Kuroda, 35, said he "intentionally" watched video replays of the accident several times because "I just wanted to see how I was hit."

"I don't really have any fear about watching the video because when you're on the mound, you're a different person," he said. "I could be really objective about watching the video."

Kuroda has been the club's best pitcher this season, with a 2.70 ERA, 3.56 FIP, and 3.81 x-FIP, and leads the club in innings pitched despite having one fewer start than Clayton Kershaw or Chad Billingsley.  However, Kuroda now has the added "burden" of following flavor-of-the-month John Ely in the rotation.  Kuroda throughout his career has been frugal with the free passes, but Ely has taken it to the extreme with no walks and 13 strikeouts in his last two starts.  Kuroda is coming off a start in which he set a career high in walks with five, although two were intentional.

Offensively Minded

Rafael Furcal had a walk in three plate appearances today in his final rehabilitation game with Inland Empire, and is expected to be back Friday, putting the Dodger lineup back at full strength.  All eight members of the regular lineup are league average hitters or better:

Pos Player OPS+ wRC+
C Martin 102 107
1B Loney 125 129
2B DeWitt   100 107
3B Blake 117 110
SS Furcal 108 130
LF Manny 196 188
CF Kemp 124 115
RF Ethier 213 216

Notes

  • Russell Martin is in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak, during which he is hitting .321/.406/.536, with two home runs.  Martin hit his fourth home run of the year last night, in his 32nd game.  Last year, Martin didn't hit his fourth home run until August 20, in his 110th game of the season.
  • Edwin Jackson, first 20 starts of 2009:  6.78 IP/start, 2.59 ERA, 2.92 BB/9, 6.90 K/9, 0.86 HR/9
  • Edwin Jackson, in his 20 starts since:  5.88 IP/start, 6.04 ERA, 3.06 BB/9, 6.20 K/9, 1.61 HR/9
  • Jackson has allowed five home runs in 27 innings at home this season, although his 4.67 ERA at Chase Field looks like Bob Gibson in comparison to his 13.14 road ERA.
  • Clayton Kershaw and Blake DeWitt will host the next "Under the Lights" event at Dodger Stadium, on June 10.

Lineups

Dodgers      Diamondbacks
C Martin LF Jackson
CF Kemp SS Drew
RF Ethier RF Upton
LF Manny 3B Reynolds
1B Loney 1B LaRoche
3B Blake             
CF Young
2B DeWitt 2B Abreu
SS Carroll C Hester
P Kuroda
P Jackson

Xeifrank's simulation of today's game is here.

Game Time: 6:40pm

TV: Prime Ticket

Baseball Reference Preview | Box Score | Gameday