Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Rookie Jerry Sands belted his first career grand slam, and the Los Angeles Dodgers held on to beat the Houston Astros, 5-4, in the middle test of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.
Jay Gibbons also homered for the Dodgers, who avoided their fourth straight loss. LA starter Chad Billingsley (3-4) gave up four runs, five hits and three walks while striking out nine in six innings to notch his first win since April 22.
Carlos Lee hit a two-run single and Hunter Pence added an RBI double for Houston, which was looking to match a season-high three-game winning streak. J.A. Happ (3-6) gave up just three hits — including both homers — over five frames, but a costly fielding error led to only one of the five runs being earned.
Gibbons’ first home run of the season put the visitors on the board in the second inning. Los Angeles extended its lead in its next at-bat.
Happ quickly retired the first two batters. Jamey Carroll then walked and, after Houston native James Loney lined a single to center field, Matt Kemp hit an innocuous-looking grounder that second baseman Bill Hall misplayed. Three pitches later, the Dodgers led 5-0 after Sands blasted the second home run of his young big-league career.
“Happ had that third inning that elevated his pitch count,” Houston manager Brad Mills said.
The Astros countered with a three-spot in the bottom of the third. Their rally also began with a two-out walk. After Clint Barmes singled, Pence plated Michael Bourn with a double to right. Lee then grounded a single up the middle, trimming Houston’s deficit to 5-3.
Houston had the bases loaded with no outs in the sixth, but Billingsley managed to limit the damage to a Chris Johnson sacrifice fly.
LA’s trio of Mike MacDougal, Rubby De La Rosa and Javy Guerra each tossed a scoreless inning of relief, with Guerra recording his first major-league save.
“Javy’s got great stuff. We have a lot of confidence in his stuff. It’s electric,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of the rookie.