Houlton Outduels Martinez But Dodgers Bullpen Falt

NEW YORK, New York-- It was a case of the young in battle with the old as rookie D.L. Houlton, Dodgers Rule V selection last fall met former Dodger Pedro Martinez, Hall of Fame lock and with a Cy Young Award on the mantle over his fireplace in the Dominican. Well, anyway, on a shelf in his home. And in this odd year, an odd thing happened -- Houlton held his own against the former Montreal and Boston ace and the current ace of the New York Mets.

However, the bullpen crumbled in a 7-5 loss to the Mets that ended the Dodgers' three-game win streak and kept them from cutting another game off the lead of the struggling first-place Padres, who lost 2-0 to the Phillies.

Despite the win streak that is now history, the Dodgers have lost nine of their last 13 games and the bullpen has been tagged with seven of them.

Houlton allowed four runs on eight hits in six innings, but actually pitched better than that despite the fact it was his first start since July 8, when he opposed another Hall of Fame lock, Roger Clemens. Four of the first five hits Houlton allowed didn't leave the infield.

Martinez boosted his record to 12-3 while working with less than his normal stuff.

Milton Bradley, who arrived from Colorado on the red-eye and banged out a pair of hits and collected an important walk.

They wasted a home run and three RBI from Olmedo Saenz and took a three-run lead in the first inning but the Mets scrambled back with leadoff man Jose Reyes banging out four hits, scoring three runs, stealing two bases, tripling home the tying run in the seventh, scoring the go-ahead run looping an RBI single for an insurance run in the eighth.

Giovanni Carrara (6-4) gave up a walk and a triple in the seventh to tie the game and Wilson Alvarez gave up a soft single to center to put the Mets on top to stay. Duaner Sanchez put down the inning with a double-play grounder from David Wright, but the Mets scored again in the eighth.

Saenz's sixth-inning home run was his first since June 3. He added a double and had three runs batted in.

Cesar Izturis singled with one out in the first and Milton Bradley, just reinstated from the disabled list, walked. Jeff Kent lofted a pop fly to short right field that second baseman Miguel Cairo was unable to handle but he forced Bradley at second base.

Ricky Ledee singled home Izturis, and Saenz followed with a fly ball to deep center that the Mets' center fielder lost in the sun. The ball fell for a double, scoring two more runs.

The Mets came right back in the bottom of the first with two runs. They then tied the game in the third but Los Angeles regained the lead when Jayson Werth' banged a double and Jason Phillips followed with an RBI single.

Saenz opened the sixth with his eighth home run of the season, making it 5-3, but the Mets got that run right back on a double, a sacrifice and an infield out.

That set the stage for New York's winning rally and the Dodgers 44th loss.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Milton Bradley was taken off the disabled list almost exactly eight weeks after suffering a torn finger ligament on a left-handed swing in Arizona. Chin-Feng Chen was designated for assignment to make room. The Dodgers have 10 days to trade him, release him or, if he clears waivers and accepts, return him to Triple-A. …Jose Valentin was the DH for Las Vegas Friday night as he nursed a tender elbow. Valentin continues to rehab his healing knee, but Tracy said he does not intend to give him back the third-base job when he returns. Tracy said he would not take Oscar Robles out of the lineup, which means Ricky Ledee may see some action in the outfield. … Brad Penny starts at Shea on Sunday. He has the lowest ERA among Dodger starters and has been the most consistent. But has a 2-8 lifetime against the Mets with a 6.43 ERA