Little Game Pays off Big for Houston

Manny Ramirez and Carlos Lee each hit important home runs for their teams but the deciding factor in the game was the way the Astros used the bunt. On four different occasions, all in the final six innings, Houston's bunting game payed off, while the Dodgers got one of two down, costing them a run on the occasion it didn't work.

The Astro's came into the contest 4-7 and averaging three runs per game. The Dodgers were leading the league in run scored and batting average (.302) but four successful Houston bunts resulted in three runs, exactly the margin of victory.

Starter Clayton Kershaw for squandered a three-run first inning and ran out of pitches after striking out the first hitter in the fifth trailing 6-3. Guillermo Mota finished the inning and was KO'ed himself in the sixth. Ramon Troncoso worked 1.2 scoreless innings before Ronald Belisario allowed a run in the eighth on a blooping handle hit with two out..

The Dodgers offensive attack seemed to have been lost by the airlines, or the day off cost them their edge. Although they scored five runs, three of them were knocked in by Manny Ramirez. They collected five walks, three hits and had a hit-batsman but scored just one run over the first five innings. Overall they left 10 runners on base and were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson walked in the first and Ramirez knocked in his first run with a single. Ethier and Loney grounded out, Loney collecting an RBI and Russ Martin singled in the third run.

Kershaw gave one back in the first and them Houston tagged him for three in the third to take a lead they never let go of. The key blow was a home run by Carlos Lee that carried completely out of the park but Minute Maid Field is so small it only took a 400-foot shot to clear everything.

With one out, Matt Kemp led off with a triple in the third and Casey Blake was hit by a pitch but Kershaw couldn't bunt the runner to second and Furcal hit into a force play.

In the fourth a perfect bunt in the fourth inning moved both runners up and a two-out single scored both of them. Mota allowed an opening double in the sixth and they elected to got to third, too late, on a bunt and the Astros increased their margin to 7-2.

Hudson singled and Ramirez hit a drive into the center field seats over 400- feet away to cut the lead to 7-5.

Belisario was victimized in the eighth. After allowing a leadoff single, another perfect bunt went for a hit, the runners were bunted up a base and a sac fly gave Houston their eighth run.

Furcal, taking a page out of the Astro playbook, led off the ninth with a bunt that was fumbled for an error and Hudson singled off the pitcher's shin to put the tying run at the plate with none out. Ramirez just missed a second home run, smacking a fly to right that was caught just in front of the right field foul pole. Andre Ethier then worked his third walk of the game to load the base.

James Loney, who went 0-for-5 on the evening, struck out for only the third time this season, missing a low and inside sinker. Martin was the Dodgers' last gasp and he opted for swinging at the high strike and suffered the same fate. Loney and Kershaw, both Texas natives, had a less than enjoyable homecoming.

Los Angeles was out-hit 11-8 and Hudson, Ramirez, Martin and Kemp collected two each.

San Diego lost again and the Dodgers held on to their one-game lead in the N.L. West. The two clubs go at it again tonight with LHP Randy Wolf (1-1, 3.93) starting against. RHP Roy Oswalt (0-2. 4.26)  

 Score by innings
Los Angeles	300 000 200-5
Houston	        103 201 01x-8

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	4  1  0  0  .255
Hudson 2b	4  2  2  0  .393
Ramirez lf	4  2  2  3  .340
Ethier rf	2  0  0  0  .266
Loney 1b	5  0  0  1  .264
Martin c	5  0  2  1  .261
Kemp cf	        4  0  2  0  .392
Blake 3b	2  0  0  0  .214
 Troncoso p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Pierre p	1  0  0  0  .333
 Belisario p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Kershaw p	1  0  0  0  .167
 Mota p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Loretta 3b	2  0  0  0  .455
 Totals	        34 5  8 5
 Houston	30 8 11 8

 Three-base hits- Kemp. HR- Ramirez (3). 
RBI- Ramirez 2 (10), Loney (10). Martin (6). 
LOB- Los Angeles 10, Houston 6.

 Los Angeles	 in  h r-er bb so  era
Kershaw (0-1)	4.1  8  6-6  2  3  4.41
Mota	        1.0  1  1-1  1  0  6.75
Troncoso	1.2  0  0-0  0  2  2.35
Belisario	1.0  2  1-1  0  0  1.86
 HBP- by Mota; Blake. T- 3:34. Att- 26,360.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Shoulder surgery went well for Doug Mientkiewicz and he won't be back in action until September but he has opted to stay with the team instead of rehabbing when they are on the road. ... The Dodgers through their first six games at home are batting .367 (77-for-210) with 11 home runs and 50 runs scored, an average of 8.3 runs per game. On the road, the Dodgers have batted just .243 (65-for-267) with four home runs, while scoring 37 runs for an average of 4.64 per game. ...Brand-new play-by-play broadcaster Eric Collins called his first Dodgers game in the television booth tonight alongside Steve Lyons. ...Matt Kemp extended his season-opening hitting streak to 14 games with a single and his second triple. Kemp is batting .392 (20-for-51) during the tear. ...On this day in 1967, the Dodgers suffered their first rain-out at home since moving to Los Angeles in 1958, a span of 737 games. The club has gone 732 games since being last rained out in 2008. The record is 856 games from April 21, 1988 to April 11, 1999.