Kuroda, Dodgers deal costly blow to Giants

Hiroki Kuroda figures if he got hit with both a ball and a bat within a month he might need to quit pitching and walk away from baseball all together.

Kuroda dodged the barrel of a broken bat that flew in his direction and retired 19 straight during one stretch, Casey Blake homered and the Los Angeles Dodgers matched their 2008 win total by beating the archrival San Francisco Giants 10-3 on Friday night.

Los Angeles (84-58) maintained a two-game division lead over Colorado, which rallied to win at San Diego. The Rockies extended their NL wild-card lead to 5 1/2 games over the Giants.

Kuroda (6-6), making just his second start since missing three weeks after sustaining a concussion Aug. 15 when hit in the head by a line drive, quickly ducked out of the way and off the mound when Matt Cain‘s bat splintered on his third-inning groundout and sailed onto the dirt past second base. That had to be a scary moment for the right-hander, who gave up two hits to start the second then got 19 straight outs before John Bowker‘s one-out triple in the eighth.

“At first I didn’t know if it was a ball or bat coming at me,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “Since I got a ball hit at my head, I didn’t think a bat could get there that fast. If I get hit by a bat, I think I’m going to retire.”

Blake returned to the lineup following a five-game absence with a hamstring injury and hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning and James Loney drove in three runs for the first-place Dodgers, who won for the third time in four games.

Kuroda is showing the kind of form that made him so good down the stretch last year, when he also won a game in the NL division series against the Cubs.

“This year I had to go through a lot,” he said. “I had to go on the disabled list twice and got hit in the head for the first time in 13 years. … I was able to keep a really good rhythm this game, close to what I had last year. Of course I would like to finish as strong as I did last year.”

He struck out five and didn’t walk a batter in eight efficient innings to win for the third time in his last four decisions, bouncing back from a loss to San Diego on Sept. 6. He threw 86 pitches, 55 strikes.

Kuroda retired 21 straight batters against the Braves on July 7, 2008, a one-hit shutout.

Manager Joe Torre was scared when the bat headed toward Kuroda.

“You just sort of shake your head and say, ‘You’re shooting at this guy,”‘ Torre said. “In his rehab start, he had a line drive back at him and a bat fly back at him and he didn’t flinch at all. You never know how they’re going to react.”

Blake also singled in a run in the Dodgers‘ five-run seventh, when Russell Martin hit a two-run double, Manny Ramirez added an RBI single and Loney had a sacrifice fly. Loney’s two-run double in the first gave Los Angeles an early lead against Cain (13-5). Matt Kemp hit an RBI double in the eighth.

“It was a huge mistake to Loney and a huge mistake to Blake,” Cain said. “I’m disappointed I let the guys down but it’s not a situation where we can think negatively. We just can’t think like that.”

The Dodgers came out with an energy and intensity following an off day Thursday. On Wednesday, they concluded a grueling stretch of 46 games in 48 days.

Los Angeles entered Friday’s game without at least a share of the best record in the National League for the first time since May 2 – and the team’s two-game lead in the NL West was its smallest since Aug. 25, when it also led Colorado by the same margin.

San Francisco needs to get back on track in a hurry before it loses even more ground in the playoff chase. The Giants have lost four of five and six of 10, including two of three at home to San Diego before Thursday’s off day.

“We’ve fallen back and now it’s up to us to be resilient, be tough about this and bounce back,” San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy said.

NOTES: Both clubs sported red caps in memory of Sept. 11. A moment of silence was held before the national anthem, followed by a flyover. … Jim Thome didn’t play for the Dodgers as he nurses a left heel injury. … C Buster Posey, drafted fifth overall by the Giants in ’08, made his highly anticipated major league debut in the eighth. He received a warm ovation and fans chanted his name when he batted in the bottom half. He struck out. “My heart started beating a little harder. I just tried to get loose and enjoy it,” Posey said. “It was a fun feeling I know I won’t ever have again.” … Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval sported a new ‘do: zigzag cornrows. … The Giants‘ short-season Class-A team, Salem-Keizer (Ore.), won its third Northwest League title in four years Thursday. … San Francisco failed to sell out a game with the Dodgers for the fourth time in seven home meetings this year.