LOS ANGELES -- Just when it appeared the Los Angeles Dodgers might have made a grievous error by signing Hiroki Kuroda to a three-year, $35.3 million contract last winter, the 33-year-old Japanese right-hander turned things around.
Now, he's back to being a key member of their rotation.
Kuroda allowed only two baserunners in seven brilliant innings, Matt Kemp homered and the Dodgers beat Philadelphia 3-1 Thursday night to complete their first four-game sweep of the Phillies in 46 years.
The Dodgers' sixth straight win over the Phillies dating back to last season kept them tied with Arizona atop the NL West, and dropped Philadelphia one game behind the first-place New York Mets in the NL East.
The Dodgers hadn't swept a four-game series since accomplishing the feat on the road against the Arizona Diamondbacks in July 2004, and hadn't done so in Los Angeles since June 1995 against the San Francisco Giants. They won four straight over the Phillies in July 1962 during the inaugural season at Dodger Stadium.
Kuroda (7-8) walked none and struck out seven before being lifted for a pinch hitter. After allowing 25 hits and 17 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings over three starts, he has given up just three runs and 14 hits in 22 1/3 innings in his last three outings.
"If I knew the difference, I would have made the adjustment right away," Kuroda said with a smile through a translator.
Catcher Russell Martin said he believes the recent transformation is mainly a matter of location.
"He's got the stuff. We've seen it a couple times this year, where he was really dominating," Martin said. "That's the way it was tonight. He was just executing pitch after pitch. He's locating his fastball really well. His slider was outstanding. The main thing was he could throw it for strikes early in the count."
Kuroda retired the first 11 Philadelphia batters before Chase Utley grounded a full-count pitch inside first for a two-out double in the fourth. But Ryan Howard struck out for the second time to end the inning.
The Phillies scored their run in the seventh to cut the Dodgers' lead to 2-1 when Jayson Werth led off with a double, took third on Utley's infield out and scored on Howard's sacrifice fly.
Hong-Chih Kuo worked two hitless innings with one walk and two strikeouts for his first career save.
"Kuroda was mixing it up, throwing sliders and curveballs, mixed his fastball in and changed speeds on his fastball trying to keep hitters off-balance," Howard said. "It's tough, man. We've been just in an offensive lull. Everybody's going out there and trying. I've never really been a part of anything like it before."
Nomar Garciaparra, back to his original position of shortstop, made three outstanding plays to take away potential Philadelphia hits.
"I believe I can do it. I never thought I couldn't," said the 35-year-old Garciaparra, who moved to third base with the Chicago Cubs in 2004 and to first base with the Dodgers two years ago. "When I went to first, it didn't have anything to do with playing short. For me, short is just familiar."
Brett Myers (5-10) was the hard-luck loser, allowing five hits and three runs in seven innings with two walks and eight strikeouts. He has given up just nine runs, eight earned, and 20 hits in 32 2/3 innings in five starts since being recalled from the minors last month.
"Myers definitely was up to the task, but their pitcher was good, too," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We're all right. I mean, we're a game back. If you had asked me if I would take being a game back with 41 to play, I would have said yes. So there's no sense in us getting all bent out of shape."
The Dodgers took a 1-0 lead in the second when James Loney hit a leadoff triple and scored on Garciaparra's one-out grounder to second. An apparent single by Loney turned into a triple when right fielder Geoff Jenkins failed to make a diving catch and the ball rolled past him to the bullpen gate.
Kemp opened the sixth with his 14th homer, hitting a 2-1 pitch from Myers into the right-center field pavilion to make it 2-0. The Dodgers got their final run in the bottom of the seventh when Martin singled, stole second and scored on Casey Blake's two-out single.
- The Dodgers placed RHPs Brad Penny and Cory Wade on the 15-day disabled list because of inflammation in their pitching shoulders. Penny was pounded for six runs and six hits in three innings by the Phillies on Wednesday night in his second start since coming off the disabled list. The Dodgers recalled LHP Eric Stults from Triple-A Las Vegas and purchased the contract of RHP Tanyon Sturtze from Las Vegas.
- Phillies OF Shane Victorino didn't start for the second straight game because of lower back stiffness, but struck out as a pinch hitter in the eighth. In addition, 3B Greg Dobbs was a late scratch because of a sore left quad.
- The Phillies have at least one extra-base hit in 47 straight games and rank third in the majors with 407, trailing Texas (448) and Milwaukee (431).