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LAD@HOU: Elbert works a scoreless seventh inning

HOUSTON -- Who were those guys?

The Dodgers, who entered Sunday as one of the best teams in baseball with a 12-3 record, were off their game in the series finale against Houston, as they fell to the Astros, 12-0, at Minute Maid Park.

It was Los Angeles' worst loss since a 13-1 defeat on Aug. 15, 2010, at Atlanta.

"We just got our butts kicked today," said Dodger left fielder Jerry Hairston. "It happens. You play 162, you're going to have games like this. We needed a couple of touchdowns to get back in it."

"It was just one of those days for us," manager Don Mattingly said. "You have games where the baseball gods say you're not going to win today. By the end of the game, it feels like Spring Training. What are you going to do?"

Right-hander Chad Billingsley took the worst of it. He brought a 2-0 record and 1.33 ERA into the game, but lasted only 3 1/3 innings, giving up four hits, four walks and nine runs, five earned. He yielded a two-run homer to Houston veteran Carlos Lee in the first inning and a grand slam to Jordan Schafer in the second. He also allowed a run to score on a wild pitch. By the end of the day, Billingsley's ERA had ballooned to 3.04.

"It's tough to pitch when you're not getting ahead of hitters and not throwing strikes," said Billingsley, who threw 33 balls during his 72-pitch outing. "One of those days you try to forget. You try to grind though it. I couldn't grind that long. I'm glad we got this game out of the way. It's a long season. In baseball, you have to have a short-term memory."

He didn't receive much help from his teammates. Juan Rivera, starting at first base, made a throwing error on a grounder by Jed Lowrie with one out in the first inning. Two batters later, Lee homered to give Houston two runs.

"You can't do anything about it," Billingsley said.

The Astros certainly appreciated it.

"When another big league team gives us four outs in an inning, it's nice to be able to take advantage of it," Houston manager Brad Mills said.

"It didn't turn over very good," Mattingly said of Billingsley, who had some groin soreness in his last start Tuesday in Milwaukee. "Obviously, he wasn't as sharp today as he's been the first three outings.

"Maybe going in [the groin] bothered him a little bit. He says it didn't bother him. He said he was ready. I thought he was ready. But sometimes when you've had to deal with something in between [starts] -- he changed his schedule just a little bit, threw his [bullpen session] a day later. We'll check again tonight and make sure he comes out of this OK. If there's something he's not telling us, we've got to find that out."

Houston left-hander Wandy Rodriguez had a much easier day, giving up only three hits, all singles, in seven innings.

"I felt very comfortable when I saw the score was 6-0," Rodriguez said. "I tried to make all my pitches on the corner."

Mattingly pulled Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, his two best hitters, after they batted in the top of the sixth with the Astros ahead, 10-0.

The manager tried to find a few positives, such as resting his key relievers, giving guys like Scott Elbert and Mike MacDougal a chance to work an inning and giving Kemp and Ethier a break for the final three innings.

Ethier did not enjoy the unscheduled rest.

"I was pretty steamed and heated," he said of sitting on the bench. "I'm not happy. I want to be out there trying to help get things going, being productive. I wasn't productive enough in three at-bats to warrant seeing anymore."

Kemp misjudged a liner to center by Houston catcher Jason Castro in the fourth that went over his head for a triple.

"He just came in on a line drive," Mattingly said. "That's one of those plays you come in and read it low and it just takes off on you."

The Dodgers split the six-game road trip, not a bad result considering they lost the first two games in Milwaukee.

"We came back and played .500 ball," Hairston said. "A good road trip. It's tough to sweep a team, especially on the road. [Games like today] are going to happen. I don't care who you are. I've played on championship clubs and you get drummed every once in a while. That's just how it is."

The Dodgers lost the first two in Milwaukee by one run each, the Brewers scoring the winner in their last at-bat.

"Those were pretty tough," Ethier said. "But sitting here today, this one's pretty tough. We had a chance to go out there and sweep this series and go back home with a real good feeling. It leaves a lot more bitter taste. That's the disappointing part."

Starting the season 12-4 still looked pretty good.

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