Dodgers win on A.J. Ellis' HR in 9th
LOS ANGELES (AP)
The Houston Astros had Chad Billingsley on the ropes early and let him off. They left the bases loaded twice, including the eighth inning after scoring the tying run off closer Kenley Jansen, and A.J. Ellis made them pay dearly.
Wilton Lopez gave up a three-run homer to Ellis and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Astros 6-3 Saturday night, preventing them from getting back to the .500 mark for the first time since April 14, when they were 4-4.
Billingsley threw 73 of his 99 pitches during the first three innings and retired only eight of his first 16 batters, but all the Astros could scrape across was two runs.
The right-hander had three strikeouts in the first, but in between them were Jose Altuve's double and Carlos Lee's run-scoring single. A bases-loaded walk to Jordan Schafer forced in another run in the second, but Billingsley came back to strike out Altuve, and Gold Glove right fielder Andre Ethier helped minimize the damage with an inning-ending diving catch of J.D. Martinez's sinking line drive to right field.
''I felt like we had him for sure, especially in that inning when we had the bases loaded,'' Martinez said. ''The ball that I hit to Ethier that he made a nice play on — if that falls or gets by him, it's probably a different outcome to the game. Billingsley got away with one there. He was able to work through it and get out of jams.''
Houston stranded two more in the third when Jason Castro took a called third strike. Billingsley allowed two runs and five hits in five innings, striking out eight and walking three. He is 0-3 with a 5.01 ERA in eight starts since beating San Diego and Pittsburgh in his first two outings this season.
''I was locating pretty well and had pretty good off-speed stuff, which helped me escape with just a minimum amount of damage and keep the team in the game,'' Billingsley said. ''It was a great team win. What's great about this team is that it's somebody different every day and everybody's stepping up when their time comes. A.J.'s been stepping up a lot this year in big situations.''
Wesley Wright (0-1) opened the ninth by hitting Ethier with an 0-2 pitch. Scott Van Slyke batted for Jansen (4-0) and advanced Ethier with a sacrifice bunt. Lopez intentionally walked James Loney before Ellis drove a 1-1 pitch into the left-field pavilion for his fifth homer.
''I faced that guy a few times in Houston, and he likes to work the sinker,'' Ellis said. ''He's a tough pitcher, so you've just got to find a pitch up in the zone. I was just kind of looking for something elevated, and I was able to find a fastball to hit. I tried to put a good aggressive swing on it and drive it to the outfield.
''This is the greatest moment of my personal baseball career. It's really humbling, just to be a part of where this team is headed right now. It feels real special.''
The Dodgers' 11th victory in 15 games improved the best record in the majors to 31-15 and extended their NL West lead over San Francisco to a season-high 7 1/2 games — the largest margin in any division.
Jansen pitched 1 1/3 innings for the victory. The right-hander came in with two-out in the eighth, trying to protect a 3-2 lead for Billingsley after Ronald Belisario issued a pair of two-out walks.
Brian Bogusevic scored the tying run when Castro slapped a ground single off the glove of third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. and into foul territory, but Jansen retired Schafer on a flyball with the bases loaded.
Houston's Bud Norris threw 116 pitches over 4 2/3 innings, allowing three runs, eight hits and four walks. The right-hander's early departure snapped a string of 38 consecutive games by the Astros in which their starters lasted at least five innings. Norris ended May 4-0 in five starts with a 1.17 ERA.
Ethier got the Dodgers on the board in the third with a two-out run-scoring double that raised his NL-leading RBI total to 41.
One inning later, left fielder Martinez robbed Ellis of a potential RBI double with a running catch in the alley before slamming into the fence. Dee Gordon followed with a double that sent Loney to third, and Tony Gwynn Jr. put Los Angeles ahead 3-2 with a two-run, two-out single through the right side.
NOTES: Los Angeles Kings centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter attended the game in front-row seats adjacent to the owners' box while awaiting Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals next Wednesday at New Jersey. ... The previous time an Astros starter didn't go at least five innings was April 13, when Lucas Harrell was removed after four in a no-decision at Miami. ... Loney had three hits — two of them against Norris, making Loney 7 for 14 career against him.