Through the first 109 starts of Hiroki Kuroda‘s career in America, he’d never once allowed three homers in a game. This afternoon in Washington, it took the Nationals all of 21 pitches in the first inning to take Kuroda deep three times, as Ian Desmond, my boy Michael Morse, and Jayson Werth each gave Labor Day souvenirs to fans in left field. (Morse added a second blast in the sixth inning, and while it was tough to see Kuroda get hit so hard, I can’t pretend that watching one of my non-Dodger favorites produce wasn’t enjoyable.) Despite the dingers, Kuroda still struck out nine – tied for second-most in his career, behind only a 2008 shutout in which he whiffed twelve on the day the Dodgers acquired Angel Berroa – without walking any, and settled down to retire 14 of 16 between Werth’s homer in the first and Morse’s in the sixth.
Of course, the Dodger offense didn’t do much to support Kuroda, getting back to their usual pattern after scoring 32 runs in his previous four starts. After taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on back-to-back doubles by Jamey Carroll and Matt Kemp, the Dodgers managed just five scattered singles against Washington starter John Lannan and several relievers until A.J. Ellis and Justin Sellers also had back-to-back doubles for the second run. The 7-2 final, oddly, was identical to the score of the July 22 game which had also featured Kuroda against Lannan. That game was also the last time the Dodgers had lost by more than three runs, as pointed out by KABC’s Joe Block.
On the plus side, since James Loney stepped aside in favor of Russ Mitchell until entering as a pinch-hitter and going 1-2, we didn’t have to suffer him bunting ahead of Kemp. So that’s something. Speaking of Mitchell, I don’t mind getting him a start every now and then, but I’m not sure what the point is of putting him at first base, regardless of trying to get Loney out against a lefty. With Casey Blake & Juan Uribe each out for the season, the Dodgers’ third base depth is thin; while Aaron Miles has been okay at second, he’s ill-equipped to handle third, since he doesn’t have a strong arm and has made errors there in each of the last two days. If Mitchell is going to start, it should be at third, though if anything, I’d be interested to see how Sellers can handle the position in anticipation of his future career as a utility man.
Dee Gordon went 0-5 with three strikeouts today, marking the first time in the five games since his return that he hasn’t had at least one hit. He hit leadoff, as he has done in each of his last ten starts (dating back before his shoulder injury), and since his OBP is now at only .276, I’ve already seen some question whether Mattingly is too blinded by his speed and not cognizant enough of on-base skills at the top of the lineup. It’s a very fair point, because OBP is king at the top, and Carroll – hell, even Ellis, now hitting .281/.410/.391 after a 2-4 today – would seem to be better equipped to get on base in front of Kemp and others. In this case, however, I’m not sure I agree. Remember, the goal in September for this club should not be so much to win games as it should be to gain information on players going forward, and in Gordon’s situation, you want him to get as many plate appearances as possible. It’s the same reason why watching him make errors on balls that Sellers or Carroll may have had doesn’t bother me that much. If hitting him leadoff for the rest of the year slightly hurts the team’s run expectancy but gets him another 10-15 plate appearances, that’s a trade I’m more than okay making. We can revisit the ideal batting order next year; for now, let Gordon see as many pitches as he can.