Dodgers Ambushed Again in Texas

A three-home run outburst in the sixth inning wasn't enough as a Houston team with only four wins when the series opened won their second in a row over a Dodgers' team that was riding an eight-game winning streak when they arrived at Minute Maid Park. The Astros came from behind twice to take a 6-5 decision.

The game was a pitchers' duel between the Dodgers Randy Wolf and the Astros Roy Oswalt. Houston had only a pair of bloop singled before the fourth inning when Hunter Pence lined a two-run home run over the left field fence.

The score remained 2-0 into the top of the sixth when Manny Ramirez sparked a three-home run outburst to shove the Dodgers on top 4-2. Houston tied in the sixth, James Loney broke the tie in the top of the eighth with an RBI double but another home run and an RBI single off Ron Belisario scored two for a 6-5 victory.

San Diego lost their third in succession and the Los Angeles 10-5 record was still the best in the National League West.

Andre Ethier had three straight hits after striking out in the first inning with two on. Casey Blake singled and homered, knocking in two to lead the Dodgers.

After a strong start, Wolf finished his seven-inning stint by allowing eight hits and four runs. Belisario blew the save and took his first loss of the season, his ERA climbing from 1.86 to 3.38.

The Dodgers were am impossible 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and it started in the first inning after Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson led off with consecutive singles. Ramirez, Martin and Loney could not drive either of them across. And Furcal and Hudson didn't reach base again after that inning.

In fact were it not for Ethier's double in the fourth, 13 Dodgers would have been retired in in order.

Wolf allowed a bloop single in the first, worked around Furcal's error to open the second with the help of a remarkable stop by third baseman Casey Blake, gave up a second bloop single with one out in the fourth before a line drive home run by Pence made it 2-0.

Oswalt buzzed Ramirez leading off in the top of the fifth and Manny got that little grin on his face. On the third pitch, he absolutely crushed the ball (#4), booming it over the huge Citco sign behind the left-center field wall and out into the darkness heading for Oklahoma City.

Ethier, who leads the National League in most pitches seen, waited patiently until he found what he wanted and then banged it into the left-field seats. Loney bounced out, deepining his slump to three hits in 25 trips to the plate (.120), Russ Martin walked, Matt Kemp struck out and Casey Blake boomed a long shot just inside the left field foul pole and out into the night.

The 4-2 lead lasted only into the bottom of the inning when Wolf, visible weakening, allowed a walk, his third pop single of the game and a two-run double to deep center that tied the game. Kemp made a remarkable throw to nail Jason Michaels attempting to stretch the hit into a triple.

Ethier singled and Loney sliced a double into the left field corner to boost the Dodgers into a 5-4 lead. He moved to third on a ground ball by Martin but Kemp bounced out and Blake fanned, leaving the 10th runner of the evening in scoring position.

Ronald Belisario took over for Wolf, attempting to bridge the game into the ninth for closer Jonathan Broxton but things didn't work out that way.

He obviously didn't have his best stuff, giving up a line drive to Hudson, a long home run by big Lance Berkman, a two-out double to Pence, a wild pitch on an intentional walk and an RBI single to Ivan Rodriguez that put the Astros in front for good. It was the third blown save of the season and the third time in five appearances he has allowed a run or more.

The Astros were without their regular closer but LaTroy Hawkins had no trouble at all setting down pinch-hitter Juan Pierre, Furcal and Hudson to end the game.

Wolf, who allowed four runs in seven innings, blamed himself for the loss. "We scored four runs against a tough pitcher and I gave the lead right away. You just can't do that."

Matt Kemp took a 14-game hitting streak into the game but struck out twice and grounded out twice. He holds the fourth best season-opening streak in team history behind Steve Garvey (20), Ron Cey (17) and Loney (15).

Suddenly the Dodgers will be trying to avoid being swept. They send Chad Billingsley to the mound to face Wandy Rodriguez, who fanned 10 Reds in his last start.

Billingsley (3-0, 2.84 ERA) was nearly unhittable through five innings against the Rockies on Saturday. He left after the inning. having allowed three runs on just four hits in six innings, while striking out six. Rodriguez (1-1, 1.89 ERA) tied a career high with 10 strikeouts during one of the best outings of his career in his last start, against the Reds. Rodriguez threw 105 pitches in seven innings, allowing two hits and walking two.

  Score by Innings
Dodgers	000 004 010-5
Houston	000 202 02x-6

  Dodgers	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	5  0  1  0  .250
Hudson 2b	5  0  1  0  .377
Ramirez lf	4  1  1  1  .333
Either rf	4  2  3  1  .321
Loney 1b	4  0  1  1  .263
Martin c	3  1  0  0 .245
Kemp cf        	4  0  0  0  .364
Blake 3b	4  1  2  2  .239
Wolf p        	3  0  1  0  .100
 Belisario p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Pierre ph	1  0  0  0  .300
  Totals	37 5 10 5
  Houston	33 6 11 6

  Error- Furical (12). 2B- Ethier (4), 
Loney (2). HR- ramierz (4), Ethier (5), 
Blake (4). RBI- Ramirez (11), Ethier (17), 
Blake 2 (10), Loney (11). LOB- Dodgers 6, 
Houston 5. DP- Hudson, Furcal and Loney; 
Loney, Furcal and Loney. 

 Los Angeles	in  h r-er bb so  era
Wolf        	7.0  8  4-4  1  6  4.26
Belisario (0-1)	1.0  3  2-2  1  0  3.38
 WP- Belisario. T- 2:46. Att- 26,725. 
Dodger Blue Notes --After the final game in Houston today (which will be televised on the Major League Network), the Dodgers play a three-game weekend series at Coors Field and then a three-game set in San Francisco next week. Yesterday began a stretch of 20 games in 20 days for Los Angeles. ...Ramirez's fourth homer of the season and the 531th of his career ranks him 17th all-time, three behind Jimmie Foxx for 16th place.  

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