LOS ANGELES (AP) - If this was indeed Hiroki Kuroda's final start for the Los Angeles Dodgers, it was typical of what's been plaguing him for most of his fourth season in the major leagues - little run support.
Kuroda gave up three runs, seven hits and three walks in 6 1-3 innings and struck out seven in a 7-2 loss to the Washington Nationals on Friday night, the opener of the Dodgers' nine-game homestand. Two of the hits off him were by opposing pitcher John Lannan, who hit his first big league home run in the second inning with a man on and chased the 36-year-old right-hander with a one-out single in the seventh.
Kuroda (6-12) has been the subject of trade speculation leading up to the July 31 non-waiver deadline, with the club 13 1-2 games out of first place in the NL West and 13 below the .500 mark. He is 1-9 over his last 11 starts despite a 3.55 ERA during that stretch.
``I haven't really tried to evaluate any of the guys that may or may not be here, but I know Hiro likes it here and he's been pitching good,' manager Don Mattingly said. ``I don't know what's going to happen with that, but I'm sure it's something he thinks about a little bit because he's not quite sure what's going on. There's been a lot of talk about it, but this time of year there gets to be a lot of rumors and names thrown around. I just look at it like it's not really my decision.'
One decision Mattingly made put the game out of reach. He brought in Matt Guerrier with one out and the bases loaded in the ninth to face Jerry Hairston Jr., who drove a 3-2 pitch to left field for his fourth homer of the season and third career slam.
``That's our version of a laugher - playing a one-run game until the ninth inning and then scoring four,' said Nationals manager Davey Johnson, whose team has lost it's last six one-run decisions.
Lannan (7-6) allowed two runs and three hits in 6 1-3 innings with six strikeouts and four walks to win for the fifth time in his last six decisions. The left-hander has a 2.28 ERA over his last 11 starts since giving up six runs in an 8-3 loss at Baltimore on May 21.
Lannan, listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, increased the margin to 3-0 in the second with a two-run shot that just cleared the right field fence. It was the first home run Kuroda allowed against an opposing pitcher in four major league seasons, and it came in Lannan's 196th big league at-bat.
Aaron Miles, who entered the game in a double-switch, chased Lannan with a double off the fence in left-center and took third on a groundout by Tony Gwynn, Jr. But lefty Sean Burnett threw a called third strike past Rafael Furcal to end the threat. Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen each pitched a perfect inning.
The Dodgers closed to 3-2 in the fourth with a pair of fielding errors by shortstop Ian Desmond. The first one came on a grounder by Juan Uribe that Desmond tried to short-hop, and it got past him as two runs scored.
``This is a hard infield and a fast infield,' Johnson said in Desmond's defense. ``Uribe hit that ball pretty hard, he tried to play it on a short hop and had no chance. This is the kind of infield that when the ball's hit hard, you don't need to charge it. But he's young and hasn't played here much.'
Uribe, who was credited with one RBI, got to second when Desmond booted Jamey Carroll's routine grounder for his 15th error of the season - and then made a comical attempt at swatting the ball to Danny Espinosa at the bag. But Lannan minimized the damage by getting Gwynn to ground out after Kuroda advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt.
The Nationals took the lead in the first, ending a streak of 16 consecutive games in which the Dodgers did not allow a first-inning run going back to their 1-0 loss at Minnesota on June 29. Ryan Zimmerman singled with two out, stole second, and scored when Michael Morse grounded a double inside third base and off the glove of Uribe as he tried to backhand it.
Notes: Only one player from Johnson's last team in L.A. is currently in a Dodgers uniform - Dave Hansen, who was named as hitting coach on Wednesday after Jeff Pentland was fired. Hansen hit seven homers as a pinch-hitter for Johnson in 2000. ``He'll do great,' Johnson said. ``He had a pure stroke. I enjoyed sending him up there. He got a bunch of key hits for us.' ... The last time the Dodgers had given up a first-inning run at home was June 22 against Detroit, when Casper Wells led off the game with a home run against Ted Lilly. ... RHP Kenley Jansen struck out all four batters he faced on 17 pitches and extended his scoreless inning streak to 13, the longest by a Dodgers reliever this season. ... Two of Lannan's strikeouts were against slugger Matt Kemp, who has fanned nine times in his last 15 at_bats.
The Associated Press News Service
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