Kuo stifles Mets in debut start

DREAM START: Only the third Taiwanese pitcher to start a major league game, Kuo Hong-chih hurled six strong innings to help the Dodgers shut out New York

By Paul Huang  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER AND AP , MIAMI AND ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA

Sun, Sep 10, 2006 - Page 24

Kuo Hong-chih's (郭泓志) starting debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers was a big hit on Friday night, as the Taiwan-born left-hander pitched six shutout innings of three-hit ball with seven strikeouts en route to a 5-0 win over the New York Mets in New York for his first career victory.

The 25-year-old native of Tainan, who was given the nod to make his first career start in place of an injured Chad Billingsley by manager Grady Little after 23 relief appearances earlier this season, made the most of his chance to shine in the Big Apple by no-hitting the NL-leading Mets through the first four innings, before surrendering a leadoff single to David Wright in the bottom of the fifth.

The Dodgers defense also came alive for Kuo, turning two double plays (three on the night) and gunning down a runner at third on an attempted steal to end several scoring threats by the Mets, giving maximum support for the hard-throwing fireballer.

The outstanding effort by the southpaw who had gone through three elbow surgeries over the past four seasons not only gave his team an impressive win in the midst of a ten-game road trip, but also earned him another chance to start in next Thursday's contest against the Chicago Cubs.

"We are proud for him [Kuo]," an extremely pleased Little said after the game regarding Kuo's magnificent outing while naming Kuo as his starter in the game against the Cubs next week.

Kuo was spotted a two-run lead in the top of the first when a throwing error by Mets shortstop Wright on a routine grounder with the bases loaded scored a pair of unearned runs to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.

His fellow hitters would double that lead in the fifth for Kuo with solo homers by Rafael Furcal and Nomar Garciaparra off New York starter John Maine before plating their fifth run of the game in the sixth, courtesy of a standup double by veteran outfielder Kenny Lofton.

Relievers Brett Tomko and Jonathan Broxton threw a scoreless inning each in the seventh and eighth before closer Takashi Saito of Japan retired the side in order in a perfect ninth to seal the shutout win for Kuo.

The Dodgers win, coupled with a San Diego Padres loss to the San Francisco Giants pushed on the same night, upped the Dodgers' NL-West lead over the Padres to 1-1/2 games in a tight race for a postseason berth.

Phillies 3, marlins 2

Ryan Howard hit his 55th and 56th home runs, and Jamie Moyer pitched eight solid innings to help the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Florida Marlins 3-2 on Friday.

Howard hit a two-run drive in the sixth and a solo shot in the eighth for his seventh multihomer game this season.

Moyer (2-1), making his 514th start and his first against Florida, allowed five hits and one run and threw only 90 pitches. He has made four starts for the Phillies since they acquired him Aug. 19 from Seattle.

The Phillies have won the first two games in the four-game series between National League wild-card contenders.

Reds 9, Pirates 1

At Cincinnati, Adam Dunn hit his 40th homer and Javier Valentin connected in consecutive at-bats for Cincinnati's win over Pittsburgh.

Kyle Lohse pitched seven strong innings and Ryan Freel hit a leadoff homer for the Reds, who had lost four of five.

Dunn became the second player in Reds history to hit at least 40 home runs in three consecutive seasons. Ted Kluszewski (1953-1955) was the first.

Valentin snapped a 1-1 tie with his seventh homer of the season, an opposite-field shot to left leading off the fourth inning. The Cincinnati catcher followed in the sixth with a two-run line drive into the visitors' bullpen down the right-field line.

Braves 8, Cubs 4

At Atlanta, Brian McCann homered and drove in three runs, providing a glimmer of hope to Atlanta's fading playoff chances.

After the Cubs jumped ahead with three unearned runs in the second, McCann led off the bottom half with his 18th homer over the center-field wall. Two innings later, he tied it up with a two-run double.

Adam LaRoche and Marcus Giles also homered for the Braves, who began the night seven games back in the NL wild-card race and trailing six teams.

Giants 4, Padres 0

At San Francisco, Matt Cain carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning on the way to his fourth straight victory, and San Francisco gained ground on the NL wild-card leading San Diego.

The Giants, in third place behind the Padres and Philadelphia Phillies, won for the fifth time in six games and ninth in 13 -- getting yet another gem from Cain (12-9).

Jake Peavy (8-14), pitching with an injured fourth toe on his left foot, allowed seven hits and three runs in 6 2-3 innings.

Rockies 11, Nationals 8

At Denver, Chris Iannetta snapped an 0-for-21 skid with a two-out RBI single in the eighth and Brad Hawpe and Jeff Salazar each added three RBIs for Colorado.

Trailing by one in the eighth, the Rockies scored four runs off Jon Rauch (3-4). Todd Helton walked and Matt Holliday singled. Kaz Matsui, pinch running for Helton, went to third on the play and scored the tying run on Hawpe's sacrifice fly.

Troy Tulowitzki was intentionally walked and then Iannetta hit a two-out single to right. Salazar followed with an RBI single and then pinch hitter Vinny Castilla brought home another run when his shot to third was bobbled by Ryan Zimmerman.

Nick Swisher hit a grand slam and Frank Thomas also homered to help the American League West-leading Oakland Athletics beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 8-6 on Friday.

Swisher made it 6-1 with his third-inning shot off James Shields (6-7). It was Swisher's 30th homer of the season, making him the 23rd switch hitter in major league history to reach that plateau.

Thomas added his 33rd homer and drove in three runs for Oakland. Dan Haren (13-11) gave up six runs and 10 hits in six-plus innings. He had lost his previous two starts.

Orioles 9, Yankees 4

At Baltimore, Erik Bedard allowed four hits in six innings to earn his first victory since July 23, and Baltimore beat New York to snap a four-game losing streak.

Melvin Mora, Jay Gibbons and David Newhan homered for the Orioles, who chased New York starter Cory Lidle while building a 7-0 lead in the second inning. Lidle (3-3) retired only five batters in his shortest outing of the season.

Royals 10, Red Sox 9

At Boston, Joey Gathright hit a go-ahead, two-run double with two outs in the ninth inning as Kansas City put another dent in Boston's playoff hopes.

Mike Sweeney homered and had three RBIs for the Royals. After allowing six runs in the eighth inning and falling behind 9-8, they scored twice against Mike Timlin (6-5) in the ninth to extend their winning streak over Boston to four games.

Twins 9, Tigers 5

At Minneapolis, Justin Morneau had two hits and three RBIs and Joe Mauer added three hits, pulling Minnesota within four games of Detroit in the AL Central.

Torii Hunter added two hits and two RBIs and Mauer raised his league-leading average to .348 for the Twins, who entered the night having scored more than two runs just twice in their last 11 games.

White Sox 7, Indians 6

At Chicago, A.J. Pierzynski hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning after Chicago closer Bobby Jenks blew a save by giving up four straight doubles in the top half.

The wild victory kept the White Sox a half-game behind Minnesota in the AL wild-card race and moved third-place Chicago within 4 1/2 games of AL Central-leading Detroit.

Mariners 7, Rangers 2

At Seattle, Richie Sexson set a Mariners record with his fifth grand slam of the season and Baek Cha-seung Baek pitched seven shutout innings to lead Seattle past Texas.

Kenji Johjima hit a three-run homer off Kevin Millwood (14-10) for the last-place Mariners, who won their third straight. They beat their third-place AL West rivals for only the third time in 11 meetings this season and pulled within four games of Texas.

Angels 4, Blue Jays 1

At Anaheim, California, Joe Saunders pitched effectively into the eighth inning, and Garret Anderson and Mike Napoli homered to help Los Angeles beat Toronto for its sixth straight victory.

The two-time defending AL West champs, who were a season-worst 11 games under .500 on May 22, are now a season-high 11 over at 76-65.