Garciaparra Grand Slams Houston

Some 21 days after the Dodgers opened the 2006 National League season, they finally had their projected opening day lineup intact -- and it didn't look like things were going to work out very well at all for them. They didn't get their first hit until the seventh inning and trailed 2-1 into the top of the ninth with Houston's ace closer on the mound. But it is becoming more clear every day -- this isn't your father's 2005 baseball team.

Nomar Garciaparra, just off the disabled list and playing only his second game of the season, slammed a shot into the left-center field seats off Houston's closer Brad Lidge with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth and trailing 2-1. It was his first homer and first runs batted in of the year.

They were up against the hottest team in the National League, Houston cruising with a 13-5 record, and ran into an even hotter Andy Pettitte, who was in complete control through the first six innings.

Pettitte did not allowed a hit or even a hint of a hit and had faced only one man over the minimum going into the top of the seventh. He had walked a pair but a double play cut one of them down.

Derek Lowe almost matched him pitch for pitch, allowing just a walk and a run-scoring double in the second inning and trailed 1-0 having allowed two hits, both doubles by Brad Ausmus.

Lowe has pitched in bad luck since the opening game against Atlanta. Excluding that disaster (five innings, seven earned runs) he has worked 26 innings and allowed six runs for a 2.08 earned run average but has only a 1-1 record to show for it.

J.D. Drew, who had struck out his first two times up, banged a long shot into the right field seats with one out in the seventh inning to snap the potential no-hitter and tie the game 1-1. Bill Mueller doubled the L.A. hit total with a single in the eighth.

But in the bottom of the eighth, with Takaski Saito on the mound, Lance Berkman homered to left field -- the first run Saito has surrendered this season -- and things went into the ninth looking pretty bleak for the Dodgers.

Then, with one out in the ninth and Lidge on the mound, Kenny Lofton hit a shot over the center fielder's head and sped into third base with his third triple of the young year.

Drew and Jeff Kent worked walks to load the bases and then Garciaparra hit a 2-2 pitch out of the park to left-center, handing the Dodgers their first lead of the evening.

Jose Cruz doubled with two out and scored on Dioner Navarro's single to give the Dodgers a four-run cushion.

Lance Carter, in relief of Saito, quickly surrendered a single and a walk and was just as quickly given the rest of the night off.

Danys Baez polished off the final three hitters, ending the game with a double play, and saving his sixth game in seven opportunities.

Los Angeles evened their record to 10-10 and will start Brad Penny in the second game of the series tonight.
  Score by innings
Los Angeles  000 000 105-6
Houston      010 000 010-2

  Dodgers      ab r h bi ave
Furcal ss       4 0 0 0 .215
Lofton cf       2 1 1 0 .233
Drew rf         3 1 1 1 .338
  Repko pr      0 1 0 0 .333
Kent 2b         3 1 0 0 .200
Garciaparra 1b  3 1 1 4 .429
Mueller 3b      4 0 1 0 .323
Cruz lf         4 1 1 0 .270
Navarro c       4 0 1 1 .222
Lowe p          2 0 0 0 .000
  Ledee ph      1 0 0 0 .250
  Saito p       0 0 0 0 .000
  Sanez ph      0 1 0 0 .306
  Carter p      0 0 0 0 .000
  Baez p        0 0 0 0 .000
    Totals     31 6 6 6
    Houston    32 2 6 2

  Error- Furcal. 2B hit- Cruz (4). 
HR- Drew (4), Garciaparra (1). RBI- 
Drew 1 (15), Garciaparra (4), Navarro 
(5). LOB- Dodgers 3, Houston 6.
DP- Mueller, Kent and Garciaparra.

  Dodgers      in h r-er bb so era
Lowe          7.0 4 1-1  2  4 3.77
Saito (W,2-0) 1.0 1 1-1  0  3 0.90
Carter        0.0 1 0-0  1  0 5.87
Baez (sv 6)   1.0 0 0-0  0  0 0.00