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Two Is Just as Sweet for Dodgers

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In an almost carbon copy with Wednesday night’s 2-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants, the Dodgers rode to another 2-0 victory on starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda’s lights-out pitching and Matt Kemp’s pop.

“To put wins back-to-back is the most important thing now,” Torre said.

Unfortunately there was no complete game for Kuroda (W, 8-8), but it was more of the same for him facing off against New York Mets’ starter Hisanori Takahashi (L, 7-5). They faced each other six times in Japan with Kuroda coming out ahead with a 4-0 head-to-head record coming into the game.

“There were so many lefties and my outside sinker was really effective,” Kuroda said through translator Kenji Nimura. “Also my split-fingered fastball was really good today.”

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Kuroda pitched eight innings of five-hit shutout ball against a retooled Mets lineup with Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay and Rod Barajas on the bench making it harder to prepare.

“It is a little difficult because you don’t have much information on them,” Kuroda said. “But I rely on Russell [Martin] and Russell sees how they bat. I just follow his lead.”

Through the first four innings, Kuroda faced the minimum 12 hitters despite giving up singles to David Wright in the first inning and Jose Reyes in the fourth. Both were erased by catcher Martin when they tried to steal second base.

“The two key outs were Russell’s throws to second base two innings in a row,” Kuroda said. “That really changed the momentum of the game.”

The fifth inning got dicey for Kuroda after smoothly sailing through the first four. After getting Ike Davis to ground to second, Kuroda gave up back-to-back singles to Jeff Francoeur and Chris Carter. Kuroda struck out Josh Thole and intentionally walked Luis Castillo to load the bases leading to the pitcher Takahashi grounding into a force play to shortstop to end the inning.

“He got out of that jam,” Torre said about Kuroda’s performance in the fifth inning. “He had great stuff tonight.”

Offensively the hero Wednesday night Casey Blake wasn’t so hot with three strikeouts. Instead the heroics fell to Matt Kemp who supplied all the offense necessary for the Dodgers. Kemp’s double in the first inning hit the base of the right field wall scoring Carroll for the first run and his 402-foot leadoff homer in the seventh inning gave the Dodgers the 2-0 cushion.

“I try to go out there and drive in some runs and get something going,” Kemp said. “I did that tonight, and hopefully I can do that a lot more as the season goes on.”

“They’ve been doing their best to stay away from Andre [Ethier], so it was important for [Kemp] to pick up the slack today,” Torre said. “June was a struggle for him. Hopefully he gets back to that pace again.”

In to save the game for the Dodgers was Hong-Chih Kuo, who after making 20 pitches in two innings Tuesday night warmed up in the bullpen in Wednesday night’s game. Torre had no hesitation in bringing him in.

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“He was fine,” Torre said. “He really didn’t get all the way out there last night. I asked that question today.”

Regular closer Jonathan Broxton was sent home prior to the game and was unavailable.

“Broxton was sick,” Torre said of Broxton’s unavailability. “We thought when he first got to the ballpark he had something last night that he ate that didn’t agree with him. We thought he would be all right for the game, but it never got better. So we sent him home.”

Torre added that Broxton should be ready to go for Friday’s game.

The Dodgers have played their 857th consecutive game at Dodger Stadium without a rainout, breaking the previous stadium record of 856 games from April 26, 1988 to April 10, 1999. The last rainout at Dodger Stadium occurred on April 17, 2000.

This was also the sixth all-time meeting between Japanese-born starters and first since the Atlanta Braves’ Kenshin Kawakami faced Boston Red Sox’s Daisuke Matsuzaka on June 19, 2009.