Gibbons doesn't start, but finishes for Dodgers
Delivers pinch-hit single, blasts game-winning homer in 11th
HOUSTON -- For a guy who didn't even start, it sure turned into a busy evening for Jay Gibbons.Gibbons' two-run homer in the 11th helped beat the Astros, 4-2, on Friday at Minute Maid Park and ended the Dodgers' six-game losing streak. Gibbons entered the game in the sixth as a pinch-hitter for Reed Johnson and singled in Matt Kemp, who had opened the inning with a triple, for a 2-1 lead. "I'm always ready to pinch-hit," said Gibbons, who is 4-for-15 this season in that role with three RBIs. "In that situation with nobody out, we wanted to put pressure on the right-handed pitcher [Wilton Lopez]," said Los Angeles manager Joe Torre. That was only the beginning for Gibbons. The Dodgers nearly lost it in the bottom of the 10th. Jason Michaels opened the inning with a drive to deep left-center that Gibbons caught in front of the Dodgers bullpen for the first out. The next batter, Michael Bourn, hit a ball to nearly the identical spot that Gibbons couldn't catch and Bourn wound up on third with a triple. "I totally lost it," Gibbons said. "It came over the edge of the stands [the Crawford boxes] in left field and might have nicked the wall." No damage done. Octavio Dotel, the former Houston reliever, merely struck out Jeff Keppinger and Hunter Pence to escape the inning and keep the Dodgers alive. After Kemp singled to lead off the 11th, Gibbons followed with his fourth homer of the season off loser Fernando Abad. "I hadn't faced a left-hander in a while," Gibbons said. "I was trying to keep my front shoulder on the ball." The fun wasn't over for Gibbons. With two out in the bottom of the 11th, Houston's Humberto Quintero hit a liner to left right at Gibbons that appeared would end the game. But Gibbons dropped the ball. "I lost it in the lights," Gibbons said. "I'm definitely an adventure out there. I had actually been working out in right field [pregame]." The play was originally called an error, but later changed to a hit. No problem for Dotel. He struck out Angel Sanchez for the final out. Torre said he could envision Gibbons being an everyday player in the Majors. "I think he could certainly hold his own," Torre said. "No question he has a plan when he goes [to the plate]. He can play first base, he can play the outfield." Well, sometimes. Dotel (3-3) pitched superbly, striking out three in two innings and allowed only the triple to Bourn that could have been caught. The 36-year-old right-hander pitched for the Astros from 2000-04. He formed a nearly unhittable eighth- and ninth-inning combination for a while with closer Billy Wagner. "It's nice to be on the field here," Dotel said of Minute Maid Park. "I have a lot of good memories of Houston. This is the place that made me a baseball player. I learned how to pitch here. When I think about Houston, it's a good feeling." Wagner left for Philadelphia and Dotel was traded in the middle of the '05 season, going to Oakland in a three-way trade that brought Carlos Beltran to Houston. "They didn't give me a chance to be what I wanted to be," Dotel said of the closer role. "I pitched three months and got traded. But Beltran did pretty good here." The Dodgers received another strong performance by a starting pitcher, when Hiroki Kuroda threw six innings, giving up one run and four hits -- all singles. "Kuroda did another good job," Torre said. "He pitched terrific. They had two, two-out RBIs by Bourn [the second off Ronald Belisario that tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the seventh]. When you're not winning ballgames, you just shake your head." Kuroda was pleased with his effort. "Every time you go out to the mound, you're trying to get a win," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "You give up a run, you're trying to keep the game close." Kuroda, who lowered his ERA to 3.32, has not had much offensive support the last couple of months. "I always tell myself this is the baseball god looking over me," he said. Former closer Jonathan Broxton pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning for the Dodgers. "Tonight was better," Torre said of Broxton, who has struggled the second half of the season. "He had a little force with the slider. That certainly makes me feel better."
Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.