Houston struggles to keep Los Angeles off the bases
By Elliott Teaford / Special to MLB.com
Craig Biggio smacks a two-run home run in the third inning of Thursday's contest. (Jill Weisleder/Dodgers)
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers threw the baseball better, caught it
better and hit it better than the Astros on Thursday at Dodger Stadium.
It was that simple, according to Astros manager Jimy Williams.
And that difficult to watch for Williams, whose team lost its fourth game
in its last five with a 7-2 defeat to the Dodgers before a crowd of 33,324.
"We didn't have many chances," Williams said after the Dodgers erased a
two-run deficit with seven unanswered runs.
Credit for the Astros' frustrations at the plate went to Dodgers starter
Edwin Jackson and three relievers, according to Williams. Dodgers pitchers
retired 12 consecutive batters after third baseman Jose Vizcaino's
fourth-inning infield single off Jackson (2-0).
Credit for the Astros' frustrations in the field went to the Dodgers
hitters, including catcher Paul Lo Duca, who had a bases-empty homer in the
fifth, and third baseman Robin Ventura, who singled twice and scored twice,
It also didn't help the Astros fortunes that Werth and center fielder Milton
Bradley made diving catches on line drives off the bats of Vizcaino and Adam
Everett to start the seventh inning.
The game also turned on Ventura's popup to center field to start the fourth
inning. The Astros had a 2-1 lead at that point, with Brandon Duckworth
pitching as well as hoped after his recall from triple-A New Orleans.
But the Astros lost track of Ventura's lazy fly ball in the twilight and
trouble soon followed, with Werth and Jackson producing run-scoring singles
that propelled the Dodgers to their sixth consecutive victory. Jackson's
single to center field was his first Major League hit.
Duckworth (1-2) gave up three runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings,
prompting Williams to say, "You want to know the truth? He didn't pitch that
poorly. The results might not show it. His command was a lot better, a lot
Brandon Duckworth / P
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Lack of command was one of the reasons Duckworth was sent to the minors
June 10 with a 1-1 record and a 7.56 earned run average. He gave up 11 runs
on 22 hits with eight walks and 21 strikeouts in 21 innings at New Orleans,
which hastened his recall this week.
Against the Dodgers, he walked only one and had two strikeouts before
Williams replaced him with reliever Mike Gallo with two runs home and two
out in the fourth inning.
"That pop fly that was lost in the twilight was probably a big play for
them," Williams said, referring to Ventura's blooper to lead off the fourth
inning. "[Duckworth] made a good pitch and wasn't rewarded."
As has become their method of operation during their six-game winning
streak, the Dodgers proved to be difficult outs, fouling off pitches and
making life miserable for opposing pitchers.
Although he failed to make it out of the fourth, Duckworth made 76 pitches.
"Our pitchers threw a lot of pitches," Williams said, "too many pitches."
Jackson, forced from his last start when he suffered a mild strain of his
right elbow last Saturday against the Anaheim Angels, settled down after
giving up Biggio's 13th homer of the season.
When Jackson left, the Dodger bullpen muzzled the Astros until there was
one out in the eighth inning. Darren Dreifort then suddenly lost his command
and walked the bases loaded.
Presented with a chance to get back into the game, and with clean-up hitter
Lance Berkman at the plate, the Astros got nothing. The Dodger bullpen
served up one more superb pitch, with Martin getting Berkman to hit into an
inning-ending double play.
"It was a chance to change the game with one swing of the bat," Williams
said. But all Berkman got against Martin was a slow roller toward Dodgers
second baseman Alex Cora, who started a 4-6-3 double play.
"We didn't do much after that (Biggio's homer in the third)," Astros first
baseman Jeff Bagwell said. "It's exactly that, we're losing games and we're
dropping in the standings. We've got to find a way. We've got Andy
(Pettitte) pitching tomorrow and Roger [Clemens] the day after that. We've
got to get some wins here before the first half ends."
The Astros must throw it, catch it and hit it better than they did Thursday
against the Dodgers. It's that simple.
Elliott Teaford is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.