The Houston Astros found out Friday night how tough the Los Angeles Dodgers are to play.
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Astros starter J.A. Happ could not stop red-hot hitters Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, and Houston’s bats found it equally difficult to rattle left-hander Ted Lilly in a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers.
”He didn’t give you anything you could hit,” Astros left fielder J.D. Martinez said. ”They did a really good job of keeping us off balance and keeping us guessing.”
Martinez had a hit with two walks to reach safely in 13 consecutive games to start the season.
Extending that streak was one of the few highlights the Astros managed against the Dodgers, who at 11-3 have the best record in the National League.
After a 3-3 start at home, the Astros have gone 2-6, losing series at Miami and Washington.
Kemp, who is hitting .481 with a major league-high 20 RBIs, rattled Happ and the Astros early.
The center fielder hit his major league-leading eighth home run with one out in the first to score Justin Sellers, who had singled.
”For him, it was probably a bad pitch; for anybody else maybe (it is) not so bad,” Happ said. ”He’s a heck of a hitter, though. I missed my spot with the pitch I wanted.
”Normally, if it’s down in the zone it’s not going to hurt you too badly, but he’s able to do damage to a lot of different types of pitches, especially a ball down like that.”
The home run tied Kemp with Wally Moon for the team record for most homers through 14 games. Moon did it in 1961.
Kemp finished 3 for 3 with a walk for his ninth multi-hit game of the season.
Either got his 19th of the season in the third inning to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead with a two-out RBI single that scored Mark Ellis.
The Astros had their best chance at tying the game or taking the lead foiled by a close call that saw Martinez out at third base to end the fifth inning.
Trailing 3-1, the Astros had the bases loaded with two outs, but Jed Lowrie grounded into a forceout, with the Dodgers’ Jerry Hairston scrambling for the out at third as Martinez slid to base.
”I thought he was safe,” Astros manager Brad Mills said of the call. ”The umpire was coming in from behind and I don’t know if he had the same look. That’s what I was talking to him about … that was a huge play.”
Martinez praised Hairston for the effort.
”I think it was just a bang-bang play,” Martinez said. ”I felt it could have gone either way. Unfortunately it didn’t go our way, but it was a great play on his end. He did a great job. The ball just seemed to instead of deflecting off to the side, it deflected right back to third and he stayed on it.”
Happ (1-1) posted his third consecutive quality outing in the loss.
Happ allowed three runs and eight hits over six innings. He stuck out three and walked four.
Chris Snyder hit a two-out RBI single to left in the fourth inning to score Brian Bogusevic and make it 3-1.
It was all the Astros could muster against Lilly (2-0), who was making his second start after opening the season on the disabled list (neck strain).
”He was just nitpicking, just pick, pick, pick,” said Martinez, whose 16th hit of the year came in the fifth inning. ”He would hit it and there’s nothing you could do about it.”
Lilly stalled the Astros despite walking a season-high six, including one intentionally. He allowed one run and four hits in a six-inning outing.
”I guess their guy (Lilly) was a little bit better tonight on the mound,” Happ said.
Lilly improved to 8-3 in 16 career starts against the Astros.
Right-hander Javy Guerra pitched a scoreless inning for the save, his seventh of the season.
The Astros were coming off a nine-game road trip in which they went 2-5, which included losing three of four against the Washington Nationals, who lead the NL East.
NOTES: Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly said infielder Juan Uribe’s injured wrist was feeling better and he expects him to start Sunday. The manager said before the game that Uribe was available to pinch-hit Friday, but he didn’t use him. … Mattingly turned 51 on Friday. … Houston OF Travis Buck missed the game with a strained left hamstring. … The series continues Saturday when Los Angeles left-hander Clayton Kershaw faces Kyle Weiland.