HOUSTON — The recurring ups and downs of James Loney at the plate are on the upswing again.
After going hitless in his first 16 at-bats this season, the left-handed Loney has gone 10 for 30 (.333) in his last 10 games.
The first baseman didn’t start Sunday against Houston Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, who has held Loney to two hits in 13 plate appearances.
But after Rodriguez left the game, Loney hit a pinch-hit single against reliever Fernando Rodriguez in the eighth inning.
Loney hit his first home run of the season Saturday, pulling the ball into the upper deck at Minute Maid Park. He also has four doubles but is still batting only .217.
“I feel fine” at bat, Loney said. “I’m not really too concerned with numbers all the time. It’s more of how I’m hitting the ball and how my timing is.”
Loney also started poorly last year, batting .170 in his first 24 games. He hit .314 with 11 home runs the rest of the season.
JANSEN’S TORRID PACE
Reliever Kenley Jansen did not pitch Sunday as the Dodgers lost and because “we’re going to have to slow him down a little,” Manager Don Mattingly said.
The hard-throwing Jansen, 24, already had made 10 appearances — the most in the big leagues — in the Dodgers’ first 15 games, during which he limited hitters to a .135 batting average with 17 strikeouts.
“We don’t feel like we’ve abused him,” Mattingly said, noting that Jansen’s heavy use reflected the Dodgers’ strong start.
“We’re not going to play .800 baseball all year,” meaning Jansen — who typically is used in the eighth inning to protect leads ahead of closer Javy Guerra — will get his rest when the Dodgers are losing.
The Dodgers open a six-game homestand Monday against the Atlanta Braves, followed by the Washington Nationals. Chris Capuano faces the Braves’ Jair Jurrjens in the opener.
It appeared the Dodgers would have a marquee pitching matchup between Clayton Kershaw and the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg on Friday night. But the Nationals’ game Sunday was rained out and Strasburg is expected to start on a different day.
Before the game Monday, Roxanna Green, wife of Dodgers scout John Green, is scheduled to sign copies of her book “As Good as She Imagined” about their late daughter Christina-Taylor, who was killed at age 9 in the 2011 shooting that wounded former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Matt Kemp hit .556 with seven home runs and 13 runs batted in during his 10-game hitting streak. … Left-handed reliever Scott Elbert made his first appearance in more than a week, giving up two hits but no runs in one inning. … Despite the loss, the Dodgers (12-4) still are off to their best 16-game start since 2005.