Homers haunt Jennings in loss
Veteran starter allows four runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings
LOS ANGELES -- Jason Jennings is mild-mannered and soft-spoken, and he expressed himself in his usual quiet tones following the Astros' 6-3 loss to the Dodgers Wednesday night.
But his words were powerful. This season has been a terrible disappointment for him, having fallen grossly short of all of the hope and expectation he felt when he reported to Spring Training with his new -- and seemingly, winning -- team.
Jennings wore an expression of disbelief when Russell Martin took him deep in the sixth inning and put the Dodgers ahead, 4-3. But not because Jennings was surprised that Martin hit it out. Rather, Jennings called that moment a "microcosm" of all that has gone wrong with his season.
"The season's been a joke," Jennings said. "A microcosm of what's happened. Some people probably think differently, but I thought I threw the ball better than I have in a long time. It's just frustrating to come away with a loss."
Jennings yielded a solo shot to Martin in the second, but he had few difficulties over his next three innings of work. Only three Dodgers hitters reached base from the third through the fifth frames, until back-to-back singles from Juan Pierre and Matt Kemp opened a comeback sixth.
"That was one of the more frustrating outings I've had in a while," Jennings said. "One run through five and a real low pitch count -- I thought I could at least get into the seventh or so. A couple singles and I was almost out of it. There's one pitch I'd take back all night long."
That was a 2-0 slider to Martin, who entered this game with a .350 batting average (7-for-20) against Jennings, a former Colorado Rockie.
"It's not the first," Jennings said, referring to Martin's solo shot in the second frame. "That was the first pitch he saw all game and I was just trying to get ahead of him. That's not the pitch that beats you. It's the home run with guys on base."
Said Martin: "I was trying to stay on the ball, trying to use my hands. I just made up my mind that if I saw the ball up in the zone, I was going to attack it."
The loss prevented the Astros from gaining a game on the division-leading Brewers, who lost again to the surging Cardinals. It also translated into another disappointment for Jennings, who has won only twice this year and hasn't experienced victory since he beat this Dodgers club at home on July 24.
"He looks like he's right on the edge and that [sixth] inning could have been so big for him, to close it out and keep it right where it was," manager Phil Garner said. "And maybe he gets on a roll. Something like that can get you going. He'd been efficient, he got good outs, he got quick outs. He got his outs when he needed them."
"If there was one pitch he'd take back it was the second one to Martin," catcher Brad Ausmus said. "Other than that, he threw very well."
Still, Jennings is 2-8 on the year and has not been the No. 2 workhorse the Astros were hoping for when they traded three young players for him. To date, Jennings has made just 18 starts, having missed two months with an elbow ailment.
"[His frustration is] understandable," Ausmus said. "It's been a frustrating year for him, with the injury, with the ups and downs on the mound. I understand why he's frustrated."
Jennings wasn't the only one experiencing those emotions Wednesday night. The Astros didn't overpower Dodgers ace Brad Penny, but they slowly built a lead with single runs in the second, third and fourth innings. But on a night when Penny wasn't so great, the Astros still didn't win.
Carlos Lee led off the second with a double to center and scored on Ty Wigginton's base hit, and Jennings scored the second run on Lance Berkman's base hit to right in the third.
Wigginton led off the fourth with a double to left and scored on Jason Lane's sacrifice fly.
"You score three runs off the guy and get him out of the ballgame, you've done a pretty good job," Garner said. "Get him out by the sixth inning. What's he got, an ERA of 2 1/2, or something like that? We did a good job. We have to hold them right there."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.