Lowe Battered in 7-1 Loss

Houston had it and the Dodgers didn't. Houston's hot hitter, Lance Berkman was in fine form, the Dodgers top man, Rafael Furcal, missed another game with a stiff back. Houston got a great game out of a 36-year-old in his first start of the season. The Dodgers Derek Lowe was thumped for six runs. The result was rather predictable: a 7-1 Astro win.

Berkman is on fire. He went 3-for-4 with a home run. He doubled and scored in the first and made it 6-0 in the fifth with his 12th homer, a two-run shot off Lowe. He has hits in 16 of his last 20 at-bats and leads the NL with 35 RBIs, 38 runs scored, and is second in the league in home runs and batting average (.380).

Furcal ranks second in the majors in runs (34) and third in batting average (.366) and has a .448 on-base percentage. His .597 slugging percentage is remarkable for a shortstop and his OPS is 1.045 OPS.

But his stiff back held him out of the game for the third time and when asked if he would play tonight said, "It's tough for me. I want to play, but there's nothing you can do when you're hurt. If I play today, I don't think I could play later in the game. Practice is different than the game. It's better to miss two or three games and don't miss like a month."

The Astros needed a spot starter for injured Wandy Rodriguez and called Brian Moehler out of the bullpen. The former starter scattered five hits through five innings and didn't allow a run. He collected his first win of the year in his first start since September of 2006.

When Dodger starter Derek Lowe is getting ground balls, you know he is on his game and after a seven-pitch, 1-2-3 first inning it looked like that was the case but it was the best inning he had before leaving with one out in the sixth having allowed eight hits, six runs and a pair of walks.

He hasn't made it past the sixth inning of any of his last five starts. "It was a very frustrating game," Lowe (2-3) said. "I thought I had good stuff, but the batters are the ones who'll tell you how good your stuff is. As hot as Lance Berkman is—a double and a home run—that speaks for itself."

Yhency Brazoban, replacing the injured Esteban Loaiza and making his first big league appearance since May 31, 2007, pitched one inning and got out of a bases-loaded jam by starting a 1-2-3 double play. He underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on June 22 last year.

Cory Wade kept his ERA at a tidy 0.00 in one inning of work and Scott Proctor gave up a run scoring double in the ninth.

Los Angeles eked out a ninth-inning run on Andruw Jones' double and Chin-lung Hu's ground ball to second base in the ninth inning.

Offensively, the top three Dodgers hitters went 1-for-12 and they opened the series against Houston the same way they ended with the Mets, getting blown out. They have been outscored in the two defeats by a total of 19-2.

Against Houston, they were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, failing to hit the ball out of the infield in eight of those at-bats.

And at the same time the starting pitching has staggered. Lowe was unable to complete six innings for the fifth consecutive time after beginning the season with three quality starts. In his last three starts, his ERA has ballooned from 2.46 to 4.43.

Brad Penny went only 4.2 innings on Wednesday, allowing 10 runs. Hiroki Kuroda was gone after 3.1 innings on Tuesday and Esteban Loaiza made it only 2.1 innings last Saturday and immediately went on the disabled list.

The last complete game by a Los Angeles pitcher came when Chad Billingsley went nine against Houston last July. In over half, 16 of 35 games, the starters haven't pitched past the fifth inning and no starter other than Penny or Billingsley has won since April 12.

Don't think the image of Clayton Kershaw doesn't dance in their heads at night.

"We're just fighting it right now," said Torre. "We're not being patient. We need to get back to that. We miss a lot of things about Furcal, we miss his offense, his defense, his leadership ability on the field. The most important thing is to get him healthy. We're not going to let a couple losses force us into something we'd be sorry for later."

Jeff Kent, James Loney and Blake DeWitt had a pair of hits each but none of them scored a run. The only good news of the evening came when Furcal said, "I think I'll play tomorrow."

The Cubs beat Arizona 3-1, and despite the Dodger loss they remained 3.5 games (3 in the loss column) behind the Diamondbacks. Colorado beat San Diego 4-2, Philadelphia dropped San Francisco 7-4.
  Score by Innings
Houston	        022 020 001-7
Los Angeles	000 000 001-1

  Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi ave
Pierre lf	2  0  0  0  .296
Martin c	4  0  1  0  .293
Kemp rf	        4  0  0  0  .317
Kent 2b	        4  0  2  0  .262
Loney 1b	4  0  2  0  .284
Jones cf	3  1  1  0  .280
DeWitt 3b	4  0  2  0  .315
Hu ss	        4  0  0  1  .213
Lowe p	        2  0  1  0  .333
 Wade p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Young ph	1  0  0  0  .316
 Brazoban p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Sweeney ph	1  0  0  0  .125
  Totals	31 1  7 7
  Houston	36 7 12 7

  Error- Kent. 2B- Loney (8), Jones (6). 
RBI- Hu (4). S- Pierre. LOB- Los Angeles 
8, Houston 8. SB- Pierre (12). DP- Loney, 
Hu and Loney; Brazoban, Martin and Loney;
Lowe, Hu and Loney.

  Los Angeles	in  h  r-er  bi ave
Lowe (2-3)	5.1  8  6-6  2  5  4.43
Wade            1.2  1  0-0  0  1  2.35
Brazoban	1.0  1  0-0  2  0  0.00
Proctor	        1.0  2  1-1  1  0  6.11
  T- 3:05. Att- 52,658.
Schmidt. Nomar to Make Rehab Start
Jason Schmidt will seeing his first game action since last June, when he underwent right shoulder surgery when it was announced he would pitch one inning for Inland Empire at Lancaster today and (hopefully) progress from there over the next month.

Nomar Garciaparra, disabled with a strained calf muscle, is taking batting and fielding practice and moving around athletically. "It felt better than I expected," Garciaparra reported.

Torre said the plan is to leave Garciaparra in Los Angeles when the club leaves Monday for a three-game series in Milwaukee. At some point next week, he will go on a Minor League rehab assignment to be sure he can handle game conditions.

When Garciaparra is activated, the Dodgers must decide whether he or Blake DeWitt, who is hitting .315, will start at third base. The club must decided whether to carry 11 or 12 pitchers. With 12 they have only five bench players and two of them -- Mark Sweeney and Delwyn Young -- are used mostly as pinch-hitters.

Torre said he spoke to third baseman Andy LaRoche, whose return from injury to the major leagues has been stalled by Blake DeWitt's hot start, and "expressed to him how proud I was of the fact that he worked his tail off to get back as soon as he did."