Dodgers run out of gas vs. Astros
Manny's blast revs 'em up, but pitching sputters in big spots
HOUSTON -- The Dodgers, who hit the road for Houston with a Major League-best eight-game win streak under their belts, dropped their second straight game of the series Wednesday, a 6-5 decision before 26,725 at Minute Maid Park.
And while there were some obvious factors that could be pointed to for the loss, like a poor outing by rookie reliever Ronald Belisario and an 0-for-10 night at the plate with runners in scoring position, starter Randy Wolf figured he knew exactly where the finger of blame should be pointed.
Battling Astros' ace Roy Oswalt, Wolf was staked to a two-run lead courtesy of three sixth-inning homers -- solo shots Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier, followed by a two-run blast by Casey Blake. But Wolf promptly surrendered that lead in the bottom of the inning, allowing the Astros to tie the game on a two-run double by Jason Michaels.
And even though he wasn't officially tagged with the loss, Wolf took the hit in the clubhouse afterward.
"I fault myself for today," said Wolf, who allowed four runs and eight hits in seven innings. "We put up four runs against a really tough pitcher, but I give up that lead right away. You can't do that.
"In the bottom of the sixth I get Lance [Berkman] to lead off the inning, but I get behind in the count end up walking him. You just can't do that. It's a 4-2 game, so if he hits a solo home run, it's still 4-3.
"That's just bad pitching. That brought them right back in the game."
Belisario, who had been so effective out of the bullpen this season, opened the door even wider, and the Astros were more than happy to barge through.
Up, 5-4, and facing the meat of the Astros' order in the eighth, Belisario surrendered three hits and two earned runs, including a game-tying homer from Berkman. Perhaps even costlier was a wild pitch he threw while trying to intentionally walk Geoff Blum with two outs.
Belisario threw a pitch past Dodgers' catcher Russell Martin, allowing Hunter Pence, who had just delivered a ground-rule double to right field, to advance to third base. After Blum was walked, Ivan Rodriguez singled up the middle, bringing Pence home with the game-winning run.
"He has kind of one of those unique arms where it's tougher for some of those guys to not throw as hard as they can," said Pence of Belisario. "I was kind of anticipating and fortunately, it happened, and I was ready for it."
The Dodgers certainly weren't.
"I don't know [what happened]," said Belisario of his wild pitch. "I think I let it go a little bit to the side."
Ivan Rodriguez then shot the first pitch he saw from Belisario into center field for a 6-5 Astros' lead.
Belisario said he wasn't feeling any pressure because of the tight nature of the game.
"No, I was real comfortable," Belisario said. "I've pitched in situations like that back in Venezuela, so I felt all right. I wasn't nervous."
Dodgers manager Joe Torre had no regrets about inserting Belisario into the game to face a slice of the order that included bats like Miguel Tejada, Berkman, Carlos Lee and Pence.
"He's been so aggressive," Torre said. "He certainly has showed us that emotionally anyway, he can handle it. Today I don't think his ball looked like it was moving as much as it has before.
"But yeah, we like the aggressive nature with which he goes about his business, but that didn't work tonight. But he came in against the tough part of the batting order. That's a tough group to go through."
The Dodgers once appeared to be even tougher. But other than that supercharged sixth inning, they managed very little offensively. Even steady Matt Kemp, who took a 14-game hitting streak into Wednesday's game, couldn't muster a hit, taking an 0-for-4 collar.
LaTroy Hawkins came on in the ninth for the Astros and mowed down pinch-hitter Juan Pierre, Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson to nail down the save, his second.
Houston's Chris Sampson picked up the win, though Wolf thought he should have done more to make sure he got that honor.
"If you put up four runs in one inning against Roy, you've got to hang a zero there," he said. "I don't think I can emphasize enough how important it is for me to do that. That's disappointing, because that's a win for us that I let slip away."
Michael Murphy is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.