Road trip opens with snapped win streak
Dodgers taste defeat for first time in nine games vs. Astros
HOUSTON -- The Dodgers knew it had to happen sooner or later.Turns out it, happened Tuesday night. After eight straight wins, the Dodgers finally found out what life was like on the other side of the scoreboard, dropping an 8-5 decision to the Astros before 26,360 at Minute Maid Park. While the loss may have ended their Major League-best win streak, afterward, the Dodgers simply shook it off. "That's part of it," said lefty Clayton Kershaw, who was tagged with the loss after allowing six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. "You don't want it to happen, but it happens sometimes." The odd part is that, for the Dodgers (10-4), Tuesday's game, the first of a nine-game road trip, started out pretty much the same way as most of their others this season -- with plenty of offense. They broke out of the gate quickly, working Russ Ortiz (1-0) for a pair of walks and 33 pitches while scoring three runs in the first. "We came in with a lot of confidence," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "We got three in the first inning, which is a good sign, especially after an off-day. You never really know after an off-day how your club is going to come out." But Kershaw (0-1, 4.41 ERA), who was so brilliant in his last outing, appeared to be out of rhythm against the Astros. Kershaw walked the first batter, Kazuo Matsui, who later scored on a Lance Berkman single. That was just the first of eight hits Kershaw would give up this night, the biggest of which was a two-run homer by Carlos Lee in the third inning that put the Astros ahead for good. "He just didn't look comfortable," said Torre. "It seemed like he started out all right, but I thought he battled. It just looked like he tried to overthrow it at times. He battled, but he obviously wasn't as sharp as last time." Kershaw, who allowed only one hit and racked up 13 strikeouts in his previous start, shrugged off the notion that he was somehow out of sorts on the mound Tuesday night. "I felt comfortable," he said. "I was getting ahead of the hitters for the most part, but it was just one of those nights. As far as getting ahead of hitters and throwing strikes with off-speed pitches, I probably had better command tonight than I had the other day against the Giants." It appeared to be just one of those nights for the bullpen, too. Other than Ramon Troncoso, who pitched 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, a bullpen that has been so solid lately couldn't keep the Astros from scoring. Guillermo Mota and Ronald Belisario both allowed runs, forcing the Dodgers to keep pushing the boulder uphill in their comeback attempt. "Other than Tron, we just couldn't get anybody in there just to shut it down and give us a chance to catch up," Torre said. "But in the last inning, I liked my chances with the heart of the batting order coming up." Indeed, after putting the first two batters on base to start the ninth, the Dodgers suddenly found themselves in range of yet another win. With Rafael Furcal on first and Orlando Hudson, who ricocheted a shot off Astros closer Jose Valverde's calf, on second, Manny Ramirez, who had homered in the seventh, came to the plate with no outs. But Valverde got Ramirez to fly out to right, which had the anxious Houston fans easing slowly back into their seats. But they were standing again after Andre Ethier walked for the third straight time to load the bases with one out. Valverde struck out James Loney and Russell Martin to end the game. It was a fitting end for a game in which the Dodgers stranded 10 runners and went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position. "They got runners in scoring position and got some key hits," said Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who went 2-for-4 to stretch his career-high hitting streak to 14 games. "Carlos Lee got us with a two-run home run, putting them back in the game. They got those key hits at key moments. "We'll get them tomorrow. We're going to lose games. We're going to face another good pitcher, so we have to come back with the same mentality we had at home and get a win."
Michael Murphy is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.