No Furcal, No Runs, No Wins

Rafael Furcal attempted to take batting practice, but when he slammed his helmet to the to the ground, everyone knew the worst: he would miss another game, his fourth in a row. The absence of the team catalyst had coincided with a general slump and Los angeles has now scored a pair of runs over the last 30 innings, and seven runs in four innings.

Rafael Furcal attempted to take batting practice, but when he slammed his helmet to the to the ground, everyone knew the worst: he would miss another game, his fourth in a row. The absence of the team catalyst had coincided with a general slump and Los angeles has now scored a pair of runs over the last 30 innings, and seven runs in four innings. If Furcal has been carrying that much of a load, no wonder his back went out.

But, obviously, it is more than that.

These guys are professionals and don't, or shouldn't, depend that much on a single player. Then again it is perhaps the general malaise that has infected the entire N.L. West.

Along with the Dodgers' three game losing streak, Arizona lost for the second time in succession. Over the past 10 games the Dodgers have been 6-4. The Diamondbacks and Rockies 4-6 while San Francisco and San Diego only 3-7.

Perhaps the slump is indicative of a young and inconsistent club. Whatever the reason, the Dodgers' Dr. Jeckyle and Mr. Hyde performance is puzzling if not a little disappointing.

Starter Chad Billingsley demonstrated the inconsistency during his losing start, allowing five runs in the first two innings, mixing in a hit-batsman and a pair of wild pitches, then retiring the last nine he faced.

"He started using his breaking ball and getting it over," said manager Joe Torre. "He started mixing his pitches better after the second.

"It's just an experience thing. From the little exposure I've had to him, it looks like sometimes he rushes himself a little bit. He throws that pitch and wants the ball back real quick whether it's good or bad, I mean, whether he's struggling or on a roll."

The Dodger bullpen was again above reproach, Chan Ho Park throwing three shutout innings and Joe Beimel adding one.

Chin-Lung Hu, filling in for Furcal, singled to lead off the fourth; James Loney doubled to lead off the fifth and Matt Kemp singled in the sixth for the sum total of L.A. hits.

Chris Sampson gave a Cy Young performances, fanning three, walking one, and matching his longest outing of the season. The right-hander had given up 18 earned runs in 15.1 innings in his previous four outings.

The Dodgers' best scoring chance came in the fifth after Loney doubled and Jones lived on an error with no outs. But Hu bounced out, pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney line to first and Juan Pierre's grounder was gobbled up to end the inning.

Billingsley slid to 2-5 and allowed five runs --four earned-- and six hits in five innings.

"The first two innings, I was getting ahead of hitters and wasn't able to put them away," Billingsley said. "The ball was staying up. They're a good hitting team and they put the ball in play."

The Dodgers have started in the hole in their last three games, trailing 12-0, 7-0 and 5-0 and only avoiding a shutout with a ninth-inning run in the first two. During that stretch, L.A. starting pitchers have allowed 14 runs over the first three innings.

Billingsley threw two wild pitches and hit a batter during the Astros' three-run first. The second wild pitch put two in scoring position and led to an intentional walk, a sacrifice fly, and a two-run double to right-center.

The Astros increased the margin to 5-0 in the second and it could have been more except right fielder Matt Kemp recorded a pair of assists to end in the inning. His throw to the plate was cut off by Loney and resulted in a rundown and his throw to Jeff Kent and the relay to the plate nailed the final out.

The Dodgers fell to 19-17 and are assured of losing a series for the first time since they were swept in Atlanta three weekends ago. They send Hiroki Kuroda to the mound this afternoon hoping to avoid a sweep.
 Score by innings
Houston	        320 000 000-5	
Los Angeles	000 000 000-0

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Pierre lf	4  0  0  0  .282
DeWitt 3b	3  0  0  0  .304
Kemp rf	        4  0  1  0  .315
Kent 2b	        4  0  0  0  .252
Martin c	3  0  0  0  .286
Loney 1b	2  0  1  0  .287
Jones cf	3  0  0  0  .170
Hu ss	        3  0  1  0  .222
Billingsley p	1  0  0  0  .120
 Sweeney ph	1  0  0  0  .091
 Park p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Young p	1  0  0  0  .000
 Beimel p	0  0  0  0  .000
  Totals	29 0 3 0
  Houston	34 5 9 5

 Error- DeWitt (6). 2b hits- Loney (9).
SB- Pierre (13). LOB- Los angeles 4,
Houston 6.

 Los Angeles	ab  h  r-er bb so  era
Billingsley (2-5) 5.0  6  5-4  2  4  4.89
Park	          3.0  3  0-0  0  0  2.16
Beimel	          1.0  0  0-0  0  1  0.69
 WP- Billingsley 2. HBP- by Billingsley. 
T- 2:46. Att- 45,212.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Centerfielder Andruw Jones claims he does not hear the boos but the rained down on him again loss to Houston after he struck out swinging in the second inning, the team-leading 37th time this season. He started play Saturday eighth in the National League in strikeouts. He is hitting .174 with one home run and four RBIs. ...Lance Berkman was 2-for-3 and has 20 hits in his last 27 at-bats, raising his average from .295 to .386. ...3B Blake DeWitt became the seventh different hitter to bat in the second spot for the Dodgers this season, and the fifth in as many games. ...Closer Takashi Saito was out for the second night with what is believed to be the flu. Torre told him to go home and said. "We're going to miss your bat and once the interpreter got that across he smiled -- weakly. ...Esteban Loaiza, on the disabled list with tightness in his right shoulder blade, threw from 120 feet and said his discomfort had subsided considerably. ...The Dodgers will decide whether Nomar Garciaparra will go out on a rehab assignment while the rest of the team is in Milwaukee for a three-game series. Garciaparra, on the DL because of a strained left calf, would likely return next weekend against the Angels if he can get in some rehab games this week. ... Jason Schmidt, out since having shoulder surgery last season, remains on schedule to make a one-inning rehab start for Single-A Inland Empire today at Lancaster. "I don't care what he gives up as long as he feels OK on Monday," Torre said. ... Dodger second baseman Jeff Kent moved passed Jim Gilliam and into fifth place on the all-time list for games played by a second baseman in Los Angeles Dodger history. Kent has now logged 410 games at second, 113 games behind Charlie Neal, who was the first L.A. Dodger second baseman, manning the position from 1958-61. Davey Lopes' 1,150 games at second is the most in franchise history. ...Kristy Yamaguchi threw out the first ball Friday night, demonstrating a nice overhand delivery and Pam Anderson had the honor last night, but neither were signed by Dodgers scouting guru Logan White.

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