Rookies Boost Dodgers to Win in Houston

Rookie Rubby De La Rosa, the organization's top pitching prospect, lived up to the hype with a dominant eighth inning of relief in his major league debut. Javy Guerra, another rookie, worked the ninth for the save and a third rookie, Jerry Sands, slugged a grand slam homer.

When the pitcher's spot came up in the top of the ninth with two runners on base and two outs, Mattingly lifted De La Rosa for a pinch hitter.

Instead of De La Rosa getting the save in his major league debut, Javy Guerra closed out the game in his sixth career appearance. Guerra needed just eight pitches, all strikes, to earn the save in the Dodgers' 5-4 victory over the Astros.

Not a bad day for the much-maligned Dodgers farm system. Jerry Sands, the organization's hitter of the year in 2010, hit a grand slam in the third inning.

Before the game, Mattingly said, "If a starter got in trouble, (De La Rosa) could be right there. But he could be used anywhere." Anywhere became the eighth -- and nearly the ninth. How did the Dodgers get to this point?

Four relievers are on the disabled list: Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla and Blake Hawksworth. Kenley Jansen threw 38 pitches Monday as he blew a two-run lead. Matt Guerrier had thrown 25 pitches Monday and 90 total in his last four outings over the past eight days.

Mike MacDougal pitched a scoreless seventh inning Monday. The other options were Scott Elbert, and Ramon Troncoso (4.91 ERA minors, 8.10 in the majors).

"We couldn't wait any longer," general manager Ned Colletti. "He's still young, in a lot of ways. But his stuff is pretty strong. His poise far exceeds his experience."

De La Rosa, 22, got the call earlier in the day from Class AA Chattanooga. He had posted a 2.93 ERA in eight minor league games this season (all starts), striking out 52 in 40 innings, and allowing a .199 opponents' average.

The rundown of his impressive inning through the heart of the Astros lineup:

--Whiffed Hunter Pence with a 97 mph fastball on a 3-2 pitch.

--Broke the bat of Carlos Lee for a routine grounder to short.

--Whiffed Brett Wallace on a nasty biting slider that exploded out of the zone.

If Mattingly were to make double switch, he wouldn't have removed cleanup hitter Matt Kemp, who made the final out in the eighth. It's doubtful he would have removed No. 3 hitter James Loney, who is so good defensively at first base.

He could have used Juan Castro at second base for Jamey Carroll in the No. 2 spot in the lineup, which would have meant the pitcher would have been due up seventh instead of fifth.

Instead, Andre Ethier was the pinch hitter. He was intentionally walked to load the bases. Rafael Furcal struck out looking, and he's now 1-for-14 since coming off the disabled list.

Mattingly confirmed that if De La Rosa's spot hadn't come up in the order, he'd have pitched the ninth.

"He has a power arm," Mattingly said before the game. "We wanted to put another quality arm out there. It's his power stuff. We saw it all spring. It's one of those arms you don't see very often. He has pretty good command with it. The changeup is basically dirty, and his slider is getting better and better."

NOTES, QUOTES
--RHP Chad Billingsley received four total runs of support in his last four starts, then was given five runs after three innings Tuesday in Houston. Billingsley allowed four runs and departed with a 5-4 lead after six innings, and he picked up his third win. --C Rod Barajas probably won't need a trip to the disabled list. His left wrist was injured in Sunday's game, and while he didn't play Tuesday and won't start Wednesday, the Dodgers are hopeful he'll be fine by Friday.

--RF Andre Ethier also won't need to go on the disabled list, and he should start Wednesday. Manager Don Mattingly figured Ethier, who's in a 1-for-31 slump, would be better getting an extra day off with Astros J.A. Happ on the mound. Ethier crashed into the right field wall Sunday, injuring his back, elbow and toe.

--3B Casey Blake (staph infection in left elbow) doubled home a run and also walked twice among his four plate appearances for Class AAA Albuquerque in his second rehab game. He could return from the disabled list Friday.

--RHP Lance Cormier was designated for assignment to make room for RHP Rubby De La Rosa on the roster. Cormier was the mop-up reliever for the Dodgers. The only time he was used in a crucial spot, he allowed a three-run homer in the ninth to San Francisco OF Cody Ross on May 18 in an 8-5 loss. Cormier had a 9.88 ERA in nine relief appearances.

--CF Matt Kemp became the ninth-fastest player in Dodgers history to reach 100 career home runs Monday. Kemp did it in his 2,673rd plate appearance, a little slower than Eric Karros (2,561) and a little faster than teammate Andre Ethier (2,893). The fastest in team history was Gary Sheffield (1,727), followed by Mike Piazza (1,735) and Shawn Green (1,781).

BY THE NUMBERS: 50
-- Games this year before the Dodgers hit their first grand slam. It came off RF Jerry Sands' bat in the third inning. Sands has two home runs in his last four games, and he has reached base safely in 10 of his last 14 plate appearances.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I need him to be 100 percent. Last year he got banged up. He was hobbling around the whole second half of the year. You just don't want to see that." -- Manager Don Mattingly, on giving RF Andre Ethier another day out of the starting lineup Tuesday. Ethier crashed into the right field wall Sunday, injuring his back, elbow and toe.

*M*A*S*H* 4077 MEDICAL WATCH
--RF Andre Ethier (bruised right elbow, bruised lower back, sprained big toe) was removed from the May 22 game after running into a fence. X-rays were negative. He didn't play May 23, and he appeared as a pinch hitter May 24. He is day-to-day.
--C Rod Barajas (right wrist strain) left the May 22 game after he was spiked while trying to make a tag at home plate. X-rays were negative. He didn't play May 23-24, and he won't start May 25, but he isn't expected to go on the disabled list.
--INF Juan Uribe (strained left hip flexor) was placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 22.
--RHP Vicente Padilla (stiff right forearm) went on the 15-day disabled list May 14. He might return in late May or early June.
--RHP Blake Hawksworth (strained right groin) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 11. He pitched May 23 for Class A Rancho Cucamonga and will do so again on May 25. He could return to the Dodgers in late May.
--LHP Hong-Chih Kuo (anxiety disorder) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 10. How long he will be out is a mystery. The exact issues affecting Kuo also are a mystery.
--RHP Jonathan Broxton (bone bruise on right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 4. He is expected to be out until mid-June.
--OF Marcus Thames (strained right quad) went on the 15-day disabled list May 3. He is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Albuquerque on May 27.
--3B Casey Blake (staph infection in left elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 25. He began a rehab assignment May 23 with Class AAA Albuquerque, and he could be activated May 27.
--C Hector Gimenez (sore right knee) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 9. He had arthroscopic surgery April 26, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 13.

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