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06/13/10 5:44 PM ET

Back on track, Kuroda and Harang collide

Veteran starters Hiroki Kuroda and Aaron Harang have both experienced their share of rocky points this season, but of late, they seem to be putting the pieces together. Those twin paths to success will come into conflict on Tuesday, when Kuroda and Harang square off in the opening game of the series between the Dodgers and Reds.

Harang, Cincinnati's starter, has won three straight decisions after starting the season with a 1-4 record. And it's no coincidence: Harang is working deeper into ballgames which is helping him find success.

In his last start, in which he turned in seven innings of work for the second time in three starts, Harang allowed two runs on five hits. But it was his ability to give the bullpen a rest that really drew the attention of his manager.

"That's what aces do," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They reach back and get some more. He had a lot of pitches, but the bullpen's been used a lot and that was huge. Boy, he was throwing as hard at the end as he was at the beginning."

The Dodgers' starter, Kuroda, knows something about that as he climbed back nicely after a rough May. June has been much kinder to the right hander, who is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA after two starts. He may have thrown his best game of the season the last time out against the Cardinals, tossing seven shutout innings.

"I was really frustrated and put a lot of pressure on myself before the game," said Kuroda, who brought a three-game losing streak into his last start. "This was my best game. I seem to perform well under pressure."

The pressure stays on for both pitchers and teams as they fight to stay at the top of their respective divisions, with the All-Star break now looming in the not-too-distant future. Both the Reds and Dodgers are involved in hard-fought battles for their division lead, and they'll need their veterans to perform to the best of their abilities to stay afloat.

Reds: Phillips, Rolen get breather
The Reds gave a nod to the long-term picture on Sunday, when they sat down both Scott Rolen and Brandon Phillips. Phillips, who is riding a league-best 15-game hitting streak, has been slowed by an ailing right hamstring. Rolen has just been played heavily in recent weeks, and Baker wants to make sure he keeps everyone fresh.

"Scotty gave us all he had this week and Brandon was so hot," said Baker. "So I'm hoping Scotty can get some rest and Brandon can get some treatment on that leg because we certainly can't afford to lose Brandon for 10 days or two weeks. At this point with 98 games to go, that's still a long way to go and you don't want to risk losing those guys."

Dodgers: Kemp gets day off
Manager Joe Torre gave Matt Kemp, who has been struggling at the plate, the day off on Sunday. Kemp is in an 0-for-15 slump. His average is down to .266, but it's more that Kemp is trying too hard to make something happen. Kemp said he had been looking at video from last season in an attempt to snap out of his funk. With any luck, the back-to-back off-days will be a boon when he returns on Tuesday.

"It looks like he's just trying to put the ball in play, and that's certainly not what we want from him," said Torre. "The day off today, coupled with an off-day tomorrow and he'll come back Tuesday. He's gone through stretches like this. He just doesn't look like himself. I just thought, 'Let's try it.' A mind break, more than anything physical. He's as strong as an ox."

Worth noting
Cincinnati's players have had just eight multi-homer games this season, but Jonny Gomes came through with two homers on Saturday and Joey Votto followed with two more on Sunday. ... Phillips had started every game of the season before sitting out on Sunday. Kemp -- who had started 86 straight games -- got his own day off on Sunday. ... The Dodgers were swept at home this weekend for the first time since May 2008. ... Shortstop Rafael Furcal hit his 26th career leadoff home run -- and his 14th in a Dodgers uniform -- on Sunday. ... Manny Ramirez had his first game with multiple extra-base hits on Sunday. ... The Dodgers' Vicente Padilla allowed four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings in a rehab start on Sunday. ... Veteran Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo has a scoreless streak of 17 2/3 innings and 18 appearances.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.