PITTSBURGH – At age 36, Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Hiroki Kuroda no longer tries to blow people away.
The veteran right-hander relies more on moxie than might these days, though he showed plenty of both in a 2-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.
Baffling the lifeless Pirates all night, Kuroda (4-3) allowed three hits while striking out eight over seven innings to provide the Dodgers with their first two-game winning streak in three weeks.
"He can do pretty much what he wants with the baseball, if he's going," manager Don Mattingly said. "And that allows him to stay in ballgames."
Kuroda gave Mattingly little reason to take him out, holding the Pirates hitless for more than four innings then deftly getting his way out of a minor jam late.
"He had a real good fastball tonight, and then he mixed in a slider," catcher Rod Barajas said. "Once we knew that was working, we threw a lot of them. And when he has those going for him, he's going to win a lot of ballgames."
Matt Guerrier worked the eighth and Vicente Padilla gave up a two-out double in the ninth before finishing the four-hitter for his third save.
Kuroda needed to be sharp. The Dodgers managed just five hits of their own, but were able to muster just enough offense to make Pittsburgh start Paul Maholm another hardluck loser.
Maholm (1-5) allowed just two runs in six innings but remained winless against the Dodgers, one of three National League teams he has never beaten. The Pirates have dropped two straight to slip below .500 at 18-19.
Maholm matched Kuroda zero for zero until the sixth.
Ivan De Jesus walked on four pitches and Andre Ethier lucked out when a moment of miscommunication between Maholm and first baseman Lyle Overbay allowed him to beat out an field single.
Both Maholm and Overbay broke on the chopper up the first-base line and neither was in position at the bag.
"It was just one of those plays where it was hit and where we weren't able to make a play," Maholm said.
Matt Kemp walked to load the bases and Juan Uribe followed with a grounder Maholm thought he could make a play on but chose to let Wood turn a double play instead of trying to stab the ball and throw home for the force.
Then a bit of strategy by the Pirates backfired.
Maholm intentionally walked Barajas to get to Sands, who came in batting .206. Sands delivered a double into the right-field corner to plate Andre Ethier and give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.
It was all the support Kuroda would need.
Pittsburgh twice flirted with rallies. The Pirates put runners on second and third with two outs in the bottom of the sixth but Chris Snyder whiffed at an 86 mph fastball from Kuroda to end the threat.
They had one more chance an inning later as pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit came to the plate with an opportunity to tie the game. Doumit hit a dramatic three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth on Sunday to give the Pirates a victory.
Not this time. He struck out swinging and the Pirates never threatened again.
The apathetic night at the plate ruined another solid start for Maholm. Pittsburgh has scored just 11 runs in his eight starts this season. Maholm allowed two runs and struck out three in six innings but fell to 0-5 all-time against Los Angeles even as his ERA dropped from 3.68 to 3.60.
"My job is to get outs, to get deeper in the game," Maholm said. "In the sixth I didn't do the job."
Playing without regular second baseman Neil Walker didn't help. The team leader in RBIs was scratched about an hour before the first pitch with flulike symptoms.
The move forced manager Clint Hurdle to get creative with his lineup card. He gave usual shortstop Ronny Cedeno his first start at second base in nearly two years while moving Wood into Cedeno's spot.
The duo played flawless defense, but were part of another inept offensive effort by one of the National League's weakest hitting teams.
Pittsburgh has relied almost exclusively on its pitching during its better-than expected opening six weeks of the season. The Pirates entered the day batting just .236 as a team.
The Dodgers haven't been much better during their sluggish start, but didn't need to be as Kuroda had his way with the Pirates.
"He's been great. The staff has been great," Mattingly said. "They've given us a chance to win, pretty much, every night."
Kuroda's only real mistake came in the seventh when Pedro Alvarez crushed a fastball to the last row of the bleachers in right field, but the ball missed the foul pole by a couple of feet. Alvarez lined to second a few pitches later.
NOTES: The Pirates gave outfielder Jose Tabata the day off. Tabata has struggled since a hot start. Tabata is hitting just .125 (2 for 16) in his last five games ... Pittsburgh's Evan Meek threw off a mound for the first time since being sent to the disabled list on April 30 with shoulder tendinitis ... Dodger reliever Blake Hawksworth is day to day with a mild groin injury sustained while pitching on Tuesday.