Hiroki Kuroda struck out a career-high 11 batters in his first shutout to lead the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 3-0 victory over the Cubs, who lost for the second time in the past 12 games.
Eight of Chicago's last nine wins have involved rallies, but the Japanese right-hander kept them in check. It was the Dodgers' first win over the Cubs in five meetings this year.
"Tip your hat to him," said Cubs starter Sean Gallagher, who took the loss. "He came out and absolutely dominated the whole game. He had his 'A' game today. Some days you have it, some days you don't."
Kuroda (3-5) had it. He frustrated the hitters, including Derrek Lee, who slammed his bat to the ground in the seventh after swinging and missing at a 95-mph fastball.
"I was frustrated," Lee said. "I swung at a pitch over my head. Just a bad at-bat. We're losing at the same time -- it was just frustration.
"He pitched a good game. Give him credit. That was probably the best stuff I've seen all year."
"Of anyone," Lee said. "He was throwing 96, and you couldn't pick up the spin on his slider. He was throwing strikes. He was tough. He was a different pitcher. I think he was throwing 91, 92 in Chicago. I know it was cold and it probably affected him. He was a better pitcher today."
On May 27, when the Cubs faced the Dodgers and Kuroda, the game-time temperature was 42 degrees and the winds were blowing from the north at 19 mph, gusting up to 24 mph. On Friday night, it was a delightful 74 degrees when Kuroda threw his first pitch.
One would think the hitters would have an edge the second time against a pitcher because they know what to expect. Not this time.
"He pitched me completely different," said Lee, who was 1-for-3 against Kuroda in their previous meeting. "He was throwing much harder and his slider was the best slider I've seen all year."
Gallagher (3-2) struck out six, giving up two runs on three hits and three walks over five innings. Two of the batters he walked eventually scored.
"That's what you're taught since you were little," Gallagher said. "Both of the runs today came because of walks."
The Cubs rookie issued one of those walks to Delwyn Young with one out in the first inning, and he scored on Jeff Kent's double off the center-field wall that Jim Edmonds couldn't catch up to.
The Dodgers loaded the bases with none out in the fourth, and added a run as Danny Ardoin grounded out to shortstop Ryan Theriot. Gallagher settled down and struck out four of the next five batters he faced before exiting. What was the difference?
"Believe in your defense," Gallagher said. "At that point, it's the same thing [Ryan] Dempster and [Ted] Lilly and everyone has tried to force upon me is in situations like that: Limit the damage. If you give up a run, so be it. But get outs. Get outs as quick as you can, get out of the inning, get back in the dugout and let your offense get back to work."
Kent was called out on strikes to end the fifth and didn't agree with Gallagher's last pitch. Home-plate umpire Marty Foster listened while "Joy to the World" was playing on the over-amped sound system, then tossed the Dodgers second baseman.
He may have taken the loss, but Gallagher can take some lessons from the outing.
"It's just coming down to execution of pitches," Gallagher said. "I've got to be more consistent and start executing better."
"I like the way he's pitched," manager Lou Piniella said. "He needs to continue to work on certain things to improve. He has a real nice arm, and competes well. You have to like a lot of things about this young man."
The Dodgers added a run in the sixth. They had runners at first and third with one out against Kevin Hart and Ardoin bunted on a suicide squeeze. Hart fielded the ball, and turned to throw to first, but no one was covering and a run scored.
There was plenty to talk about. Piniella questioned first-base umpire Derryl Cousins' calls on two close plays, including a discussion in the fourth after Kosuke Fukudome grounded into a inning-ending double play. Fukudome stared at Cousins, and then threw his helmet on the ground before walking out to right field.
"We didn't get very many good swings off him," Piniella said of Kuroda. "We only had one inning where we mounted some offense and he pitched himself out of a first-and-third situation, although I thought our baserunners beat the relay throw. You look at the replay, and it shows he did. Anyway, give the guy credit for pitching an outstanding game."
Piniella may be a proponent of instant replay after this series.
"We haven't gotten a close call in this series," Piniella said. "Everything's gone against us."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.