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10/13/08 3:06 AM ET

Dodgers get clutch start from their Hiro

Kuroda delivers in second postseason outing

LOS ANGELES -- Hiroki Kuroda was known as a big-game pitcher while pitching 11 seasons in his native Japan, although he never reached postseason play.

He's done nothing to change that reputation in America after tossing his second straight stellar playoff start when the Dodgers needed it most Sunday against the Phillies in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.

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"His last two starts have been absolutely outstanding, just his command, the aggressiveness he has out there, throwing breaking pitches and just commanding the whole strike zone," said catcher Russell Martin. "He was up and in, down and in, away, changing eye levels and everything.

"He was the aggressor, and when his fastball's down in the zone and he's got movement, he's really tough to hit."

After throwing 6 1/3 shutout innings in Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the Cubs last week, Kuroda yielded two runs on five hits over six-plus innings in his NLCS start.

Kuroda, who held the Phillies to one run on two hits in a pair of regular-season starts, nearly turned that trick against them Sunday night. That was his stat line at the end of six innings, before he was lifted after allowing hits to the first three batters in the seventh.

"After losing two in a row, I wanted to change the momentum, so I feel good that we had a big victory," Kuroda said through a translator.

Kuroda was nearly unhittable for much of the game, retiring 13 Phillies in a row after giving up an RBI single to Pedro Feliz in the second. That streak lasted until the seventh inning, when Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell each tagged him for a hit.

"He mixes his pitches well. He keeps the ball down," said Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino. "You tip your hat to him. He did a good job shutting us down tonight."

Kuroda had a healthy margin throughout the game after the Dodgers erupted for five runs in the first inning off Kuroda's counterpart, Jamie Moyer, which may have helped him just pitch his game.

"The big support was our offense," Kuroda said. "I had a big run support early in the game, so that helped me to get into my rhythm."

Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.