Dodgers-Astros Preview

The Houston Astros have had trouble stringing together victories

all season.

They hope a thrilling comeback victory in the series opener

against the Los Angeles Dodgers can be the spark.

The Astros look to match a season high three-game winning streak

Tuesday night against a Dodgers team trying to avoid losing for the

ninth time in 11 games.

Houston (18-30) owns the NL’s worst record, and the team seemed

to be headed to another defeat Monday against Los Angeles, entering

the bottom of the ninth trailing 3-1.

Michael Bourn tied it with a two-out, full-count, two-run double

down the right-field line, and after Clint Barmes was hit with a

pitch, Hunter Pence drove in Bourn with a broken-bat looping line

drive to left field in the Astros’ 4-3 victory.

“That was one heck of a ninth inning,” said Pence, who recorded

his fifth straight two-hit game. “You know the saying, ‘you’d

rather be lucky than good.’ I shattered my bat and put it right

where they couldn’t get it. We’ll take it, and we got to keep it

going.”

It was the second straight win for Houston, which had lost 11 of

its previous 14. The Astros haven’t won three in a row since April

30-May 3, and prior to Monday, they were just 3-13 following

victories.

“We’ve been struggling all year long to back up wins,” said Bill

Hall, who went 4 for 4 with a pair of doubles. “Momentum like this

can turn your season around. We got to come out (Tuesday) and do

the same thing.”

The Astros will be facing Chad Billingsley (2-4, 3.47 ERA), who

is seeking his first victory since April 22, a span of five

starts.

Billingsley wasn’t particularly sharp Thursday against San

Francisco, allowing six hits and four walks while hitting two

batters in six innings. Although he was consistently working with

runners on base, he held the Giants to three runs in a 3-1

defeat.

It was the third straight loss for Billingsley, but it hasn’t

entirely been his fault.

Billingsley, who hasn’t lost four consecutive starts since April

8-24, 2008, has a 2.25 ERA in his four outings this month, but has

received just two total runs of support.

“Chad’s been pitching great, and he hasn’t gotten any runs,”

manager Don Mattingly said.

This has been an ongoing problem for the Dodgers (21-28), who

have lost eight of 10, plating 16 total runs in those defeats.

Andre Ethier is batting .065 in his last 10 games, but did have

an RBI pinch-hit single in the seventh inning Monday. Ethier, who

didn’t start after leaving Sunday’s game with various injuries

after crashing into a fence chasing a fly ball, is batting .356

with seven RBIs in 13 career games in Houston.

Billingsley is 3-3 with a 4.00 ERA in six career starts against

the Astros, and hasn’t faced them since permitting six runs in 1

2-3 innings of an 8-1 loss on July 17, 2009.

Houston counters with J.A. Happ (3-5, 5.30), who gave up three

runs, four hits and three walks while striking out a season-high

eight in six innings in Thursday’s 4-2 loss to St. Louis. The

left-hander is 1-1 with a 3.50 ERA in his last three starts after

going 1-3 with a 6.26 ERA in his previous four.

In his only career start against the Dodgers on Sept. 10, Happ

allowed one run and seven hits in five innings of a 4-2, 11-inning

loss.