Lucas Harrell isn't going to win any strikeout titles, the way
Clayton Kershaw did last season. On Friday night, though, the
Houston Astros' rookie demonstrated how successful he can be by
getting groundballs off that tantalizing sinker of his.
Harrell took a shutout into the eighth inning in his duel with the Dodgers' reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, J.D. Martinez homered, and the Astros used four relievers in the eighth to get out of a bases-loaded jam and help secure a 3-1 victory over Los Angeles.
''Getting ahead in the count definitely worked to my advantage,'' Harrell said. ''My sinker was working good, so I was trying to get early contact and a lot of ground balls and it worked out for me. I'm not a big strikeout guy, so when I get a lot of contact, I usually go deeper into the game. That was the goal, to get ahead in the count and then mix in the other stuff.''
Harrell (4-3) scattered five singles, walked three and did not strike out a batter during the longest of his 15 big league starts. The 26-year-old right-hander, facing the Dodgers for the first time, allowed only two runners as far as second base and got 17 of his outs on ground balls - including all three outs on comebackers to the mound in the seventh inning.
''He did his job. He's a sinkerballer and he kept the ball down for the most part. When you do that, you're going to get a lot of groundballs,'' said Tony Gwynn Jr., who hit three grounders in four at-bats against Harrell in the leadoff spot.
Harrell departed after giving up a one-out single to Elian Herrera. Wesley Wright gave up a walk to Bobby Abreu and a single to Andre Ethier before Wilton Lopez walked Jerry Hairston Jr. on four pitches to force in a run. But Ivan DeJesus struck out against lefty Fernando Abad as a pinch-hitter for James Loney, and Fernando Rodriguez retired A.J. Ellis on a flyball.
''Our bullpen's been so good. So when they go out there, I have full confidence in all of them,'' Harrell said. ''We got in a little jam and they worked out of it.''
Brett Myers pitched a scoreless ninth for his 12th save in 13 chances, nailing down the Astros' fourth straight victory.
Kershaw (4-2) was charged with three runs - two earned - and five hits over seven innings with six strikeouts on the fourth anniversary of his major league debut. The 24-year-old left-hander, who shut out St. Louis on six hits last Saturday, worked with runners on base in each of the first five innings and gave up five extra-base hits, equaling a career worst. On April 24, 2010, he gave up four doubles and a triple in a six-inning no-decision at Washington.
Kershaw came in with a streak of 22 scoreless innings before the Astros ended it with an unearned run in the first. Jose Altuve opened the game with one of Houston's four doubles and legged it home when second baseman Herrera made a wild relay throw trying to complete a potential inning-ending double-play on Carlos Lee's grounder to third base. Martinez made it 3-0 in the third with his fourth homer, following a double by Jed Lowrie.
''Martinez hit a good pitch. I shouldn't have been behind in the count, obviously,'' Kershaw said. ''I guess I just threw one too many of the same pitch. But he did a good job with it, hit it out and it cost us the game.''
The Dodgers came in with a 19-4 record at Chavez Ravine, which matched their best home start in franchise history. They also won 19 of their first 23 home games in 1980, when they beat the Astros in the final three games of the regular season at home to force a one-game playoff - which the Astros won.
NOTES: Dodgers CF Matt Kemp, sidelined since May 14 because of a left hamstring strain, is expected to begin a two-game rehabilitation assignment with at Triple-A Albuquerque on Sunday and is eligible to come off the disabled list on Tuesday. ... Dodgers 2B Mark Ellis, whose MRI on his left knee was delayed because of an infection that could have cost him his leg, has been diagnosed with a sprained MCL and a bone bruise. He is expected to miss six to eight weeks. ... Hairston, who missed 16 games with a left hamstring strain, was activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game. INF Justin Sellers was placed on the DL, retroactive to May 23, because of a bulging disc in his lower back. ... Kershaw, who led the NL with 248 strikeouts last season, fanned Harrell in the second inning for his 800th in the big leagues. ... Astros CF and leadoff hitter Jordan Schafer, who fouled a ball off the big toe on his right foot during their interleague series against Texas, did not play because of residual swelling from by a broken nail that caused an infection. ... A victory by the Astros on Saturday night would put them back at the .500 mark for the first time since April 14, when they were 4-4.