Dodgers Shut Down by Astros' Pettitte

The downward spiral tightened as the Astros handed the Dodgers a 2-1 defeat before 41,638 at Dodger Stadium. Craig Biggio hit a solo home run off Dodger starter Derek Lowe with one out in the eighth to break a 1-1 tie and Los Angeles could manage only a single run, a home run by Olmedo Saenz that tied the game 1-1 in the seventh. The Dodgers aren't just falling further behind, they are running out of time.

It was the Dodgers' third consecutive one-run loss and kept them in the running when National League West opponents San Diego, Arizona and San Francisco also lost.

Before the game, General Manager Paul DePodesta took responsibility for the failures of the 2005 season. "If there is a finger to be pointed, point it at me," he said. "I'm the GM and ultimately the responsibility is mine."

Again DePodesta made it clear he does not hold Tracy responsible for the disappointing season. "There are definitely things I wish we could do over again," he said. "If I said anything else given our standing, it would mean I'm removed from reality. But Tracy and the coaching staff have been terrific."

The Dodgers, now 57-71, scored only on a leadoff home run by Olmedo Saenz in the seventh against left-hander Andy Pettitte (12-9), who allowed six hits in eight innings. Brad Lidge walked Jeff Kent and gave up a single to Jason Phillips in the ninth, but struck out Jose Cruz Jr. and pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee to end the game.

After pitching coach Jim Colborn's suggestion that Lowe move from the third-base side of the rubber to the first-base side. Lowe tried it, and the outcome was obvious.

Lowe (8-13), who was knocked out in the fourth inning of his previous start, had his best game in a month but the Dodgers' caught Houston starter Andy Pettitte on a night he was almost unhittable. Lowe went eight innings and allowed the two runs on seven hits. He walked two and struck out five.

Lowe has given up a career-high 26 home runs, including 17 in July and August. In nine previous seasons, he gave up an average of nine home runs despite pitching in Fenway Park, a hitter's haven..

He started the game by giving up a pair of singles but a double play got him out of the jam. But in the second, he allowed a run on a pair of singles and a ground ball that first baseman Olmedo Saenz couldn't get out of his glove to put the Astros in front 1-0.

Lowe then retired 12 of 13 batters before giving up the big hit to Biggio with one out in the eighth.

Pettitte worked eight solid innings. He boosted his record to 12-9, allowed six hits, walked one and struck out seven.

The Dodgers put the tying run on second with one out in the ninth, but Astros closer Brad Lidge struck out Jose Cruz Jr. and pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee to earn his 31st save.

The crippled Dodgers' starting lineup Friday included four players hitting .245 or below but he gave Dodger fans a peek at the future.

"We still believe in our long-term vision," DePodesta said. "We've had great success in our player development and it's truly our desire to put together a team of Dodgers that is home grown, our own guys. It's just the beginning of what we hope is a great era of Dodger baseball."

Dodger Blue Notes-- Milton Bradley got a second opinion on his knee but it wasn't what he wanted to hear. In fact, it was the same as the first opinion -- he needs season-ending surgery to repair the patellar tendon in his left knee. His doctor in Cincinnati, Ohio said, "It's obvious his knee has been bothering him for the last four to six weeks. It probably limited his running and his ability to play." No date has been announced for the surgery. …It a season when there has been precious little of it, the Dodgers got good news when Cesar Izturis underwent an MRI afternoon on his back that showed no structural damage. Izturis missed his fourth consecutive game Friday and is still considered day to day. Edwin Jackson makes his second start of the season Saturday night against the Astros. In his first game, Jackson allowed three runs in 4.2 innings against Florida.