Kuroda looks to kick-start Dodgers
Right-hander was 1-0 with 1.38 ERA in two starts vs. Phillies
LOS ANGELES -- Hiroki Kuroda twice faced the Phillies in the regular season and twice tossed two-hit, one-run gems.But just because he was the Dodgers' best pitcher against Philadelphia during the regular season, he knows that does not necessarily mean he will shut down the Phillies again when he takes the ball in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday with Los Angeles trailing, 0-2.
"Regular season and postseason is a totally different thing," Kuroda said through a translator. "Just because I did well in the regular season doesn't mean it's going to be the same during the postseason."Still, Kuroda proved against the Cubs in the NL Division Series that he can carry regular-season success into the playoffs. The Japanese right-hander went 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA in two outings against the Cubs during the regular season and then shut them out over six innings to clinch the NLDS in his last appearance. The pressures of the postseason did not seem to faze Kuroda, who spent 11 years in Japan without reaching the postseason but was known as a big-game pitcher. "He's still that pitcher that will go out there and get himself in a good rhythm and, usually, you find that out early in the game," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "When he's on his game, you really can't sit on any one pitch because he's got about four or five pitches he can throw at any time, and they can all put you away. "So he had a real good outing his last outing against the Cubs and hopefully we'll see that tomorrow because we're going to need it." The series shifting to Dodger Stadium for Game 3 figures to help Kuroda as well. He compiled a 6-2 record at home during the regular season compared to a 3-8 mark on the road, but his ERA did not differ significantly, 3.68 at home and 3.78 on the road.
TALE OF THE TAPE: GAME 3 STARTERS
|2008 REGULAR SEASON|
|Overall||33 GS, 16-7, 3.71 ERA, 62 BB, 123 K||31 GS, 9-10, 3.73 ERA, 42 BB, 116 K|
|Key stat||Allowed 6 HR last 100 IP (incl. NLDS)||Opponents slugged .359 (8th best in NL)|
|2008||1 GS, 0-1, 4.50||1 GS, 1-0, 0.00|
|Career||6 GS, 3-2, 2.67||1 GS, 1-0, 0.00|
|AT DODGER STADIUM|
|2008||NR||14 GS, 6-2, 3.68|
|Career||6 GS, 1-3, 6.83||14 GS, 6-2, 3.68|
|AGAINST THIS OPPONENT|
|2008 regular season||NR||2 GS, 1-0, 1.38|
|Career||11 GS, 3-5, 5.19||2 GS, 1-0, 1.38|
|Loves to face||Casey Blake, 2-for-17, 2 HR||Ryan Howard, 0-for-5, 3 K|
|Hates to face||Manny Ramirez, 18-for-53, 10 HR||Chase Utley, 2-for-6, 1 2B|
|Why he'll win||10-3, 2.92 on road (4.61 ERA at home)||Including NLDS start, has 2.34 ERA since Aug. 1|
|Pitcher beware||Opponents hit .287, slugged .452 w/RISP||0-4, 4.42 in day games (7 GS)|
|Bottom line||Fine-tuned at 45||Hiroki (Heart) L.A.|
He may also have an advantage facing a Phillies club away from its bandbox stadium, Citizens Bank Park, at more of a pitcher's park in Dodger Stadium after Philadelphia hit a pair of homers off Derek Lowe in Game 1 and knocked around Chad Billingsley for eight runs (seven earned) in Game 2."The Phillies have great hitters and great home run hitters, and the Phillies' stadium, it's a lot smaller than Dodger Stadium," Kuroda said. "I think it's a little bit more difficult to hit home runs on Dodger Stadium, but that doesn't mean that they're not going to hit. So I'd like to be aware that there's some great home run hitters, but I think the Phillies have more advantage with their small field." Kuroda's sub-.500 regular-season record is a bit misleading because he earned only nine wins with 18 quality starts when he was the victim of bullpen struggles a few times and lack of run support on other occasions, both of which occurred in his Aug. 24 start at Philadelphia when the 'pen blew a 2-1 lead. But Kuroda just focuses on what he can control, so he does not see much of a difference in his circumstance entering this start with the Dodgers down 0-2 in their series as compared to his NLDS start, when his club held a commanding 2-0 lead. "I try not to think about the situation right now, win or lose, wins or losses," Kuroda said. "I'm going to challenge them the same way I did the last outing. I'll try not to lose under this pressure and try to pitch my game as always." Torre has been around long enough to know what a standout outing could do for the Dodgers. After all, Torre's Yankees rode the momentum of Mike Mussina's Game 3 gem in the 2001 American League Division Series to become the first team to win a Division Series after dropping the first two at home. Although 16 of the 18 teams to take a 2-0 lead in the NLCS have finished off the series, a similar outing from Kuroda could go a long way toward changing the feeling of this NLCS. "It's a momentum switcher is what we need tomorrow," Torre said. "We need to get things back on our side."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.