Stults didn't pitch badly; only by comparison to his other two starts. This night he allowed five hits and four runs before leaving in the sixth inning. But that was too many for the patched-up Dodgers roster that had almost as many opening day starters on the field in Las Vegas (Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra and Andruw Jones) than were in Houston.
The lineup included four rookies and four starters that have spent time in the Minor Leagues this year. Along with Pierre, team RBI leader Matt Kemp was on the bench with an irritated eye that couldn't tolerate a contact lens.
James Loney's sac fly drove in Andre Ethier, who had doubled, in the first inning but Stults gave the run back in the bottom of the inning in the form of a Lance Berkman home run, then allowed three more runs in the fourth.
With the Dodgers' recent scoring history, that was way too many to make up and they went rather quietly the rest of the game.
Los Angeles piled up 11 hits, nine of them singles, and was 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and that hit only advanced the runner from second to third.
Jeff Kent and Loney had a pair of hits each, Ethier and Blake DeWitt each doubled. Jason Repko, who took a redeye flight to make the game and was pressed immediately into action in place of the injured Juan Pierre, struck out five times but a balk was called on his final time at bat and he avoided the dreaded hat trick plus two with a fly out.
Ramon Troncoso, Joe Beimel and Cory Wade combined to allow just one hit over the final 2.1 innings but in the long run that didn't make much difference.
Roy Oswalt gave the Astros six strong innings, allowing one run and six hits after losing four of his previous six starts. He struck out nine before leaving with a hip injury in the seventh his club won its seventh game in the last 10.
The suddenly inept Dodgers' offense again managed only one run. They have scored two runs in their last three games and one run or fewer in five of the last seven. They left 10 on base
Oswalt gave up a one-out double to Ethier and hit Russ Martin and Jeff Kent with pitches before Loney put the Dodgers on the scoreboard for the fist and last time.
Berkman's homer was the first allowed by Stults in three starts this season. "I left a lot of pitches up," Stults said. "My changeup was in the zone. That's what hurt me tonight."
After the home run, Stults set down eight straight before walking Berkman with one out in the fourth. A bloop single to center bounced away from Repko for a double and an intentional walk loaded the bases. Mark Loretta singled to put Houston up for good and Brad Ausmus added a single. Suddenly Houston led 4-1.
The Dodgers put two runners on base in the fifth and sixth, but Oswalt wiggled out of trouble. Loney and Delwyn Young singled after Oswalt left but Wesley Wright, formerly a Dodger who was picked up in the Rule V draft, got pinch-hitter Andy LaRoche to fly out to end the threat.
The Dodgers have lost 44 games this year, scoring one or no runs in 26. Houston has won all four games between the two teams.
Los Angeles calls on Clayton Kershaw (0-2, 4.36 ERA) to hopefully get them back on the winning side of the scorebook. The 20-year-old continues to have command problems, has issued 22 walks in only 33 innings and eight of the 16 runs he's allowed have reached base via walks.
He will be opposed by LHP Wandy Rodriguez (3-3, 2.58 ERA) who tied a career-high with nine strikeouts in his last starts and has allowed two earned runs or less in seven of 10. His ERA at Minute Maid Park over the last two seasons is 2.64. Rodriguez is 2-1 with a 2.29 in four career games (three starts) against the Dodgers.
It looks like a terrible matchup, but these are the Dodgers and they don't do things like other clubs do.
Score by Innings Dodgers 100 000 000-1 Houston 100 300 00x-4 Dodgers ab r h bi ave Repko cf 5 0 0 0 .000 Ethier rf 5 1 1 0 .271 Martin c 3 0 1 0 .307 Kent 2b 3 0 2 0 .257 Loney 1b 3 0 2 1 .302 Young lf 4 0 1 0 .287 DeWitt 3b 3 0 1 0 .263 LaRoche ph-3b 1 0 0 0 .222 Maza ss 4 0 2 0 .250 Stults p 2 0 0 0 .125 Troncoso p 0 0 0 0 .000 Sweeney ph 1 0 0 0 .097 Beimel p 0 0 0 0 .000 Wade p 0 0 0 0 .000 Berroa ph 1 0 1 0 .183 Totals 35 1 11 1 Houston 29 4 6 4 2B- Ethier (18), DeWitt (10). RBI- Loney (41). SF- Loney. LOB- Dodgers 10, Houston 6. DP- Kent, Maza and Loney. Dodgers in h r-er bb so era Stults (2-1) 5.1 5 4-4 3 3 2.21 Troncoso 0.2 0 0-0 1 0 4.91 Beimel 1.0 0 0-0 1 0 1.08 Wade 1.0 1 0-0 0 0 2.32 HBP- by Stults, by Troncoso. T- 2:47. Att- 28,827.Pierre out 4-6 weeks
Outfielder Juan Pierre has a sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee and will be sidelined four to six weeks. He should be able to start doing some form of exercise in about six days. It is the first trip to the disabled list in Pierre's major league career.
Rehabs in Action
Andruw Jones hit a home runs, Rafael Furcal was 1-for-3 and Nomar Garciaparra was 0-for-2 with a walk at Las Vegas. After a second-inning walk, Jones fouled off three straight pitches, then lined a curveball over the left field wall. He finished 1-for-3 as the designated hitter. Furcal and Garciaparra reported they felt good after each of them played four innings in the field.
Dodgers trainer Stan Conte plans debrief all three players before the team makes further plans, but Furcal is expected to play shortstop tonight after originally being slated as a DH, Garciaparra is tentatively scheduled for third, although he could man short if Furcal does DH, and Jones is expected to get his first start in center field.
"Today Jones stayed within the strike zone," Las Vegas Manager Lorenzo Bundy said. "He didn't go out of the strike zone. Some of the games I've seen on TV he swung at some balls that were off the plate, outside of the strike zone. Today he was more selective, more patient, he walked, he got the home run on a breaking ball up in the zone. I think it's a good start."
Dodger Blue Notes-- By striking out four times, Repko fell one short of the single-game franchise record of five set by Bill Russell in 1971 and matched by Darryl Strawberry in 1991. ... The Dodgers are 16-24 on the road ... The club finished June 11-15. The last time it had a winning record in the month was 2003. ... Club officials worked out 11th-round pick Nathan Eovaldi, a right-handed pitcher from nearby Alvin High School who has not yet signed. ... Joe Beimel worked in his 10th consecutive scoreless appearance. ... Mark Sweeney flied out pinch-hitting in the seventh inning and is in an 0-for-16 slide. His average slipped to .097, below even Mendoza's mother ...Outfielder Delwyn Young turned 26 today and right-hander Chan Ho Park turned 35. They share a birthday with former Dodger Mark Grudzielanek. ...Jeff Pentland, who was fired as the hitting coach in Seattle, was hired as a hitting instructor for triple-A Las Vegas.